By Dr. Dan Meakin
It is thought that 30 percent to 50 percent of dogs and cats carry parasites and that 1 to 3 million people in the U.S. have infections from parasites carried by pets.
Children, the elderly, and immunocompromised (cancer patients, organ transplant recipients) people are at high risk.
Hookworms and roundworms can be harbored by your pet and transmitted to children. In some cases, these parasites can cause blindness in humans.
Pets get infected with hookworms and roundworms by walking in places where other infected pets have defecated. The microscopic roundworm eggs and hookworm larvae end up on your pet’s feet.
Your pet then licks his feet and infects himself with these parasites. Three weeks later, your pet will be shedding hookworm eggs and larvae from his GI tract. As the infected pet has contact with your child, parasites are transmitted to the child.
Pets can get ticks that spread Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other diseases if the ticks detach from the pet and attach themselves to your child. This could be a risk factor for your children if the family pet sleeps in their bed.
By swallowing a flea infected with a tapeworm larvae while grooming, your pet can contract tapeworms. Pets get infected with hookworms and tapeworms by hunting prey. Even if your pet lives indoors, the ingestion of one house mouse can expose your pet to GI parasites.
How can you prevent the risk of spreading parasites to your children? Prevention of internal parasites is preferred over treatment because it reduces the risk of infectious disease being transmitted from pets, is less expensive and more convenient, and is obviously much better for the pet.
Give your dog heartworm preventative once per month, all year long. This affordable medication helps to prevent hookworms and roundworms in your dog as well as being a heartworm preventative.
Keep your dog on a safe, veterinary approved flea and tick preventative to protect against flea and tick infestation.
Scoop the yard where your dog defecates at least weekly; ideally daily, as worm eggs and larvae are found in stool and can contaminate the environment.
Bring a stool sample from your pet to your veterinarian at least once per year. You do not have to bring your pet into the vet’s office for this. The stool should be fresh and in most cases can be dropped off at your convenience for the veterinary staff to analyze.
Keep your cat on Revolution once per month, all year. This medication eliminates hookworms that could potentially be spread to humans in the household. It also kills fleas, which can be culprits in the spread of cat scratch disease and tapeworm.
Don’t let small children play in uncovered sandboxes that might be used as litter boxes by neighborhood cats, and teach your children to wash their hands before eating, especially if they have recently handled their pet.
Watch your pet for signs of internal parasite infection. Parasites can be observed in pet’s feces or in bedding, among other places.
Usually, internal parasite infections are marked by decrease in appetite, bloody stools, diarrhea and a decrease in activity level. Many internal parasite infections do not show any symptoms, so regular veterinarian visits are important.
Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call (513) 797-PETS.