Yes, humans can get heartworms from their dogs. Although the risk of transmission varies depending on the type of worm and the dog’s behavior, it is important for owners to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection.
Some parasites are what we call zoonotic, meaning they can jump between species. An example here would be tapeworms. You had your pet ingest an affected flea. They shed segments of themselves at regular intervals and are usually excreted by the dog during defecation. If you don’t practice regular hygiene methods and eat something without washing your hands after handling the feces (picking up dog poo/cleaning the litter box), you can contract this parasite.
Types of worms
There are several types of worms that can affect dogs and potentially be transmitted to humans. These include:
- Roundworms (Toxocara canis): These are one of the most common types of worms found in dogs. They can grow to several inches in length and are often found in the intestines. Infected dogs can shed roundworm eggs in their stool, which can contaminate soil and be ingested by humans.
- Hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum): These are small, thin worms that attach to the intestinal wall and feed on blood. Hookworms can cause anemia and other health problems in dogs. They can also be transmitted to humans through skin contact with contaminated soil or feces.
- Trichuris (Trichuris vulpis): These are long, thin worms that live in the large intestine. Whipworms can cause diarrhea and weight loss in dogs. They are less commonly transmitted to humans than other types of worms.
- Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum): These are flat, segmented worms that can grow to several centimeters in length. They adhere to the intestinal wall and feed on nutrients. Tapeworms can be transmitted to humans by eating infected fleas or lice, which can be found in dogs.
Humans can become infected with worms through various routes of transmission. The most common way is through ingestion of worm eggs that have been shed in a dog’s feces and contaminated soil. If a person comes in contact with contaminated soil and then touches their mouth or food without washing their hands, they can ingest the eggs and become infected.
In addition to ingestion, some worms can also be transmitted by skin contact with contaminated soil or feces. Hookworms, for example, can penetrate a person’s skin and cause a condition known as cutaneous larva migrans.
Tapeworms are a bit different in that they are transmitted to humans by eating infected fleas or lice, which can be found in dogs. If a person accidentally ingests an infected flea or louse, the tapeworm can grow and mature in their intestines.
To reduce the risk of transmission, it is important for dog owners to take precautions to prevent their dogs from becoming infected with worms in the first place. This may include regular veterinary checkups and deworming treatments.
Additionally, dog owners should practice good hygiene and sanitation measures. That includes:
- Collect dog feces immediately and dispose of them properly.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling dogs, cleaning them, or coming into contact with the ground.
- Keep dogs on a leash when in public areas to prevent them from ingesting contaminated soil or feces.
- Prevent dogs from hunting and eating wild animals or their feces, which can be a source of infection.
In summary, although the risk of transmission varies depending on the type of worm and the behavior of the dog, it is possible for humans to contract worms from their dogs. Dog owners should take precautions to reduce the risk of infection, including regular veterinary checkups and deworming treatments, as well as good hygiene and sanitation practices. By following these steps, dog owners can help keep themselves and their families healthy and free from worm infections.