Spring is the season when a furry friend’s fancy turns to playing outdoors. The more dirt, the merrier. But my concern turns to dirt and some crawly things you don’t see without a little help: roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm. It sends a shiver down my spine just to write about them.
When a disease is able to be transmitted from non-human animals to humans it is called a zoonosis. The rabies virus is a good example of a zoonotic hazard — since your pet may come in contact with wild animals that may be infected with rabies, and then possibly transmit it to you. In some cases, the opposite route – from humans to animals – is also possible, sometimes referred to as reverse zoonosis.
But why worry about worms? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers reason enough: the closer we are to our pets, the more we chance sharing zoonotic critters like roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm.
The name roundworm might conjure up an image of a button-shaped parasite. To call them spaghetti worms would be more appropriate, since they look like short strings of cooked capellini. Would children want to eat that basic of all pastas if associated with this parasite? I think not!
Hookworm is equally unappealing. Imagine a roundworm-like body with a fanged mouth. No reference to vampires intended, but hookworms do suck blood from their victims. They’re just very internal – and not sexy at all – about it.
Tapeworm has nothing to do with wrapping paper accessories either. The segments of tapeworms that you might find on your pet’s fur can resemble grains of rice. But that’s not going to make them nutritious.
These parasitic organisms can cause illness in your pet, and, especially if your pet is not yet an adult, can even be fatal. They can also cause serious illness in humans, particularly children. Tell your pediatrician about the pets in your household, and tell your veterinarian about your human children too.
When children play outdoors, keep them away from areas that may have been contaminated by animal feces. And have your pet checked routinely for parasites by the veterinarian.
The CDC notes: “…Veterinarians can provide an important public service by recommending regular fecal examinations, providing … treatments, counseling clients on potential public health hazards, and advising them on any precautionary measures that may be undertaken.”
To find out how to keep your pet healthy, visit the CDC resources on the Internet at www.cdc.gov/healthypets/