What do YOU share with your pets? Love, companionship and……worms?!
This blog has been sponsored by Elanco as part of their WormWise campaign
We share many things with our pets but something we do not want is their parasites! Many of the pesky passengers they can carry have the ability to also infect people and could make us very sick, with children, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.
And this is why ALL pet owners need to be responsible and regularly treat their pets for parasites. Not only are you protecting their health, but also the health of the people around them. Even if you don’t have vulnerable humans in your family, it is still absolutely vital.
Let me explain…..
Roundworms (which aren’t actually round but spaghetti shaped) are a common parasite, particularly in puppies and young dogs. They live in the intestines and lay millions of eggs, which are passed in the faeces. These are microscopic so you can’t see them and often the poo is very normal and your pet can appear very healthy.
If these worms get into people, they can survive but the problem is they get confused! As they are primarily a pet parasite, they aren’t good at navigating the human body and will work their way around, through organs and tissue, rather than congregating in the gut like they would in an animal.
This condition is called ‘Visceral Larval Migrans’ and although it is rare it can have significant consequences. In adults, our mature immune systems are pretty good at hunting down and killing the worms but children’s can struggle. Tragically, in the UK about several children every year suffer sight problems when the Roundworm finds it’s way to the eye (Occular Larval Migrans) and damages the the retina
Hookworms are another potential parasite that can pass from our pets to us. Again, in animals they live in the guts and the eggs are passed in the poo and develop into larvae in the soil. If we walk barefoot over areas where animals have defecated (remember even if you are a diligent pooper scooper some, some traces will always be left behind) it is possible for the larvae to burrow under our skin and cause painful, red lines. Although it it is an unusual problem in the UK, being more often diagnosed in warmer climates, we still should be vigilant for it.
Tapeworms are common in pets (particularly if they also have fleas!) but infections in people are rare because we would have to eat an infected flea, which is fairly unlikely. Although, if anyone is going to eat one, it will be a child. Who hasn’t seen kids giving their pets full face plant cuddles?!
There is a particular kind of tapeworm called ‘Echinococcus’, which, although rare, can cause extremely serious cysts to form internally, so we need to protect ourselves and our pets against it. It is a frequently found in Europe and one reason why worming pets who travel abroad is part of the official regulations. In the UK, it is most often found in farm dogs who have lots of contact with sheep but all dogs are potentially vulnerable.
At some point every pet will have had fleas. (Even if you’ve never spotted them I absolutely guarantee they have been there!) And I think most owners consider them creepy and annoying but don’t believe they are vulnerable to anything more than the odd itchy bite.
However, around 10% of fleas in the UK carry an infection called Bartonella. This can cause significant illness in some people, with again children and the immunocompromised most at risk.
In addition to protecting our pets again parasites, we should also take sensible measures to protect ourselves. Always ensuring we wash our hands after being with our animals and before we eat is very important. Particularly for children but they aren’t that great at remembering and enjoy putting their hands in their mouths and their faces in their best friends fur!
Cleaning up after our pets should be a given but the amount of poo I see out on walks tells me it isn’t that way for everyone! It is also important to respect dog free areas in parks because even if you do clear up after them, those microscopic eggs will be left behind.
At home, consider using an indoor spray to stop fleas from developing (it’s only a once-a-year job, so not too onerous!), cover over outdoor sandpits, otherwise the neighbourhood cats will see it as a giant litter tray and discourage your dog from pooing in the garden.
We love our pets and having a close relationship with them is what makes having them in our family so wonderful. And by protecting them against parasites, we all can have that closeness without any concerns!
To find out more about which worms your pet might be vulnerable to and how you can best protect them, check out the WormWise checker from Elanco.