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Can humans get worms from dogs?

Updated on February 18, 2012

Intestinal parasite infestation is very common in dogs. Different types of worms that live in the intestines and in the bloodstream can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Infected dogs will be lethargic, pot bellied and have unattractive rough coat. Severe infestation can be the cause of the pet’s death. Did you know that humans can get worms from their pets too? In US, thousands of people get infected every year by these tiny parasites. What is more alarming is the fact that these worms can have more serious effects on humans than in dogs.

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Types of canine worms

Your dog can have flatworms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and heartworms. Roundworms can be seen excreted with the feces. The other can only be seen through a microscope. The presence of heartworm can only be detected through a blood test.

How do dogs get worms?

Worms that infest puppies may have been inherited from the mother. Adult dogs can get infected through insect bites. Dogs have the obnoxious habit of eating their own or other dog’s feces. Worms will be transmitted if the feces of infected dogs are eaten. Feces may have been removed but the larvae on the grass and dirt can still infect the dogs.

How do humans get worms from the dog?

Hookworm is one of the intestinal parasites that infest dogs. The hook-like mouth will attach on the walls of the dog’s intestine and feed on the blood. The eggs of the hookworm, similar to the larvae of other worms will be excreted with the feces and infect other dogs when the poop is eaten. It is highly unlikely for humans to eat dog poop but just the same, the worm’s larvae that is deposited on the soil will infest humans by penetrating through the skin. The sticky eggs can collect on the feet and hands of humans that came in contact with the contaminated soil. The hookworm larvae will eat their way through the skin by making snake-like strips. These itchy creeping blisters are called cutaneous larva migrans. Worms that travel under the skin will not find its way to the intestines. However, ingested larvae will travel through the bloodstream. Worms that have migrated to the eyes can cause permanent loss of vision. This condition is known as ocular larva migrans. Small children that play with dirt and put contaminated objects in their mouth are more susceptible to catching worms. Adults too can inadvertently ingest foods contaminated with dog poop. The larvae migrating through the blood stream will reach and infect other organs and tissues. This condition is known as visceral larva migrans.

Serious effects of canine intestinal parasites to humans

Humans are abnormal hosts for these canine intestinal parasites. The puzzled worms will not stop in the intestines. These worms will try to head to other parts of the human body. Although the immune system of the human body will try to trap the worms to stop its movements, others will escape and travel to other organs. The parasite can move to the liver, get into the lungs, brain, eyes and in other tissues. As mentioned, humans infected with worms can lose their vision completely. Worms that have migrated to the lungs would result to coughing and asthma-like symptoms. Children are at higher risk due to their immature immune systems.

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