The Dangers of
pet intestinal worms
to people... especially children

Intestinal Worms

Here's something most lay people don't know.  Most puppies and kittens are infested with intestinal worm larvae while in the uterus or from nursing.  A percentage of these larvae will go through their life cycle and end up as adult worms in the intestines of the puppy or kitten.  It's important to kill these adult worms and luckily it's fairly easy to do.

But here's the part that most people don't know.... most of the larvae that puppies and kittens get from their mom DON'T continue their life cycle to become adult worms in the intestine right away... instead they make encyst themselves into protective,microscopic cocoons in the tissues of the body and hide from their host's immune system.
As long as these larvae are dormant and hidden in their cocoons, they are protected from the host immune system and not affected by deworming poisons.

What signals these dormant larvae to come out of hiding is when they sense that their host's immune system is suppressed.  This happens during periods of stress, sickness, and pregnancy.  Certain medications can also suppress the immune system.

That's why even pets without exposure to other pets can turn up positive for worms after previously being tested as negative on a fecal exam. Isn't that interesting?

In addition to the worms that can emerge from their cocoons at a time of their choosing, pets continuously pick up microscopic worm eggs in the environment. The worms go through their life cycle in the dog or cat, causing various degrees of trouble to the pet and end up spreading more worm eggs via the stool around the yard.

People can also pick up these worm eggs, remember they are microscopic, and transmit them accidentally to their mouth.

Luckily, most of us have a healthy immune system and the worm eggs and larvae are usually successfully killed soon after entering our bodies...but not without a little immune system battle.

The little immune system battle that occurs every time we are exposed to germs and microscopic larvae may be one of the causes of unexplained fevers, aches and pains that people suffer for a couple of days and we often call "a touch of flu".

But occasionally worms can cause much more serious trouble in humans, especially to a developing fetus or children. 

A more serious way that people get worm diseases from pets is from eggs in the yard or sandbox that hatch into larvae that can bore into skin and travel around in your blood, lymph, or neural system causing anything from mild rashes to blindness and other terrible disease.

This is a problem with barefoot children, especially if the ground is damp which favors larval hatching. This disease is known as larval migrans .

This problem is controlled by keeping pet stool picked up and more importantly, from regularly deworming your pets. Get your worm control products from a vet...many products sold elsewhere don't work very well... and have your pet's stool checked once a year for resistant worms. (Just like fleas keep getting resistant to flea products, worms keep getting resistant to deworming products)

The worms carried by raccoons can also cause serious larval diseases in humans so don't encourage these animals into your yard.

Remember that raccoons are a major reservoir of rabies too. (Don't feed them or leave garbage out where they can get in it)

Tape Worms (Cestodes)
Tapeworms are intestinal worms too, but are cestodes, (unlike round worms, hook worms, and whipworms, which are nematodes) and require a different type of deworming medicine.  Tapeworms are resistant to the dewormers we use for nematodes (and vice versa).

Tapeworms have to go through a flea or rodent as part of their life cycle before infesting you or your pet, so we control them by using high quality flea products as well as cestode specific dewormers. For cats and those dogs that are regular mousers we monitor their stool for presence of the worms (they're fairly easy to see). It's not common for people to pick up these worms, but when we do, they can cause terrible damage including brain dysfunctions which just might explain a few people I know.

If you see rice size worms in your pet's stool, tell your vet; they're easy to get rid of IF you use the right medicine. The two medicines that are working well are both prescription drugs so don't expect to do a good job with over the counter dewormers. And take advantage of the new flea products (also prescription) that are working so well.

Normal Cat Chest X-Ray
Cat with Feline Asthma
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The larvae from worms common in puppies and kittens can cause blindness and other extremely serious diseases in developing children.
Ingestion of microscopic eggs from common pet intestinal worms can grow into larvae that crawl around under your skin.  This can be cured.  But if the larvae get into the nervous system ... young children seem to be suspectible to this... the result can be devastating.  Make sure you keep your pets dewormed.