2001-Thu Jan 19 14:22:15 EST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
As the number of pets in the United States increases, so does the likelihood that both pets and pet owners will be exposed to parasites. Recent national surveys indicate that the prevalence of major parasites in
dogs and cats remains surprisingly high. Some of these parasites can also infect people; these parasites are considered
zoonotic. Understanding parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms and how to control them is essential to preventing zoonotic diseases.
Roundworms of dogs and
cats are large worms that live as adults in the small intestine. Larvae usually migrate through the liver and lungs of their host before they mature in the small intestine. Adult
roundworms can produce up to 85,000 eggs per day. This rate of egg production combined with the long survival rate of the eggs can increase the risk of exposure and infection for both pets and people.
roundworms are important not only because they may cause diarrhea, lethargy and weight loss in dogs and cats, but also because the larvae can cause what is called larva migrans in people. When people ingest roundworm eggs, the migration of larvae and resulting damage to internal organs is referred to as visceral larva migrans (VLM). VLM occurs most often in children younger than 3 years of age. In children 3 to 13 years of age, the larvae often migrate to the eye. Inflammation of the retina is the hallmark of this syndrome, known as ocular larva migrans (OLM). OLM can result in retinal detachment and blindness. A recent article
from the CDC indicates that 14 percent of the U.S. population has been exposed to
roundworms from dogs and cats.
Canine and feline
hookworms are small, whitish or reddish-brown worms that are hooked at one end. As adults, they also live in the small intestine of dog and cats. Hookworm larvae either enter the pet through the skin or are swallowed. Those that penetrate the skin migrate through the lungs before ending up in the small intestine. Hookworms can also be transmitted to puppies during lactation.
Hookworms can cause skin, lung, and intestinal disease in dogs and cats, as well as acute, life-threatening anemia in puppies and kittens. Adult
hookworms produce up to 20,000 eggs per day, which can result in substantial numbers of eggs and larvae in the environment in rather short periods of time.
The larvae of some
hookworms can also penetrate human skin. Dermal infections appear as itchy, reddish, coiling lesions. This condition is referred to as cutaneous larva migrans or creeping eruption. Rarely, hookworm adults may also inhabit the intestines of people. Recurrent abdominal pain is a common symptom.
Tapeworms Tapeworms are thin, segmented
parasites that can grow up to several feet long. Current surveys suggest that intestinal tapeworms are underdiagnosed in pets. This may be partly because
tapeworm infections do not usually cause detectable disease in
dogs and cats.
One type of tapeworm is transmitted by consumption of infected
fleas, usually during a pet’s self-grooming. Tapeworm segments are long and thin and resemble grains of rice. Human infections occur when fleas are inadvertently swallowed, usually by small children. Although
tapeworms do not usually cause clinical signs of disease, infections in children are a cause of alarm among parents and caregivers when tapeworm segments are passed in feces or found in soiled diapers.
Acquiring and maintaining a healthy pet and practicing good hygiene — and encouraging children to do the same — can help minimize any risk of acquiring parasites from your pet:
More from Vetstreet:
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Want to choose the best food for your
pet? Here's why you shouldn't fear
preservatives or fall for marketing…
Electronic cigarettes may be growing in
popularity, but their higher concentrations
of nicotine can poison cats and…
Are you handling your pet the right way?
Our vet shares five things your pup wishes
you knew about picking him up.
We combed through 505,270 kitten
names to determine the hottest male
and female monikers of the year.
We scoured our database of 1.1 million
dogs to find out which male and female
monikers reigned supreme this past…
The laid-back American Wirehair’s crimped, coarse coat requires almost no brushing or combing.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.