Toxocariasis (Roundworm Infection)

posted: by: W.A.H. Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Our next parasite up for discussion is roundworm, a common one.  Dogs and cats can carry roundworms that are specific to their species, but that can also be transmitted to humans.  Roundworms shed eggs in the feces, which have to make their way into a person's mouth.  This can happen by not properly washing your hands and touching them to your mouth or accidentally ingesting soil that has been infected with dog or cat feces that contains the eggs.  Children have a higher risk of being infected due to poorer hygiene.

Identifying roundworms in pets can be done one of two ways: by analyzing a stool sample (which should be done initially with all new puppies and kittens, and annually for adult pets), or if the infestation is strong enough, by finding roundworms in your pet's stool or vomit.  Roundworms will have a spaghetti-like appearance to them, and may even be alive and moving if you see them right away.

Identifying roundworms in people can be done by going to your doctor and having a blood test performed.  If you have roundworms in your system, you may experience clinical symptoms.  If roundworm larvae migrate to the eye, a person might experience vision loss, eye inflammation, or damage to the retina.  Children can be more susceptible to the symptoms, leading to more serious consequences, such as permanent loss of vision.  Roundworm larvae can also migrate to various organs and cause fever, fatigue, coughing, wheezing or abdominal pain.

The CDC states, "In most cases, [roundworm] infections are not serious, and many people, especially adults infected by a small number of larvae (immature worms), may not notice any symptoms. The most severe cases are rare, but are more likely to occur in young children, who often play in dirt, or eat dirt contaminated by dog or cat feces."

Pets can be easily treated by your veterinarian if they expel or test positive for roundworms.  Your personal doctor can help treat you as well if you test positive.  If you want to go on the defensive, then there are medications you can give your pets every month to prevent various parasitic infections.  There are several brands of canine heartworm preventive that, in addition to preventing heartworm infection, also have a component that kills roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and/or fleas. If you would like to protect your feline friend, there's a product called Revolution that kills fleas, heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, and ear mites with a monthly application to the skin. Please speak with a doctor or veterinarian before taking steps to treat hookworms in your pet or yourself.