Understanding Common Zoonotic Intestinal Parasites

zoonotic disease is one that can be transferred from pets to people. There are a few intestinal parasites that are zoonotic and can potentially infect you and your family.

  • Giardia: In the U.S., this is a very common cause of diarrhea in both our pets and us. Giardia is a protozoan found mainly in fecal material, and sometimes in water. So be mindful what water sources your pets are drinking from, especially while out on a hike!
  • Hookworms: In dogs and cats, this intestinal worm is contracted by consumption of hookworm eggs (often found in feces). For humans, hookworm larvae can burrow into our skin and cause skin irritation. Be sure to wear shoes and gloves while working or walking through moist soil, to prevent infection.
  • Roundworms: Similar to hookworms, roundworms are passed by consumption of a roundworm egg and live in the small intestine. When people consume roundworm eggs, the larvae will burrow through the body, possibly causing cysts. Be sure to avoid areas where any feces could have contaminated the dirt.
  • Tapeworms: Unlike the other parasites, tapeworm cannot be directly transmitted to you from your dog or cat. However, you can be infected by accidentally ingesting a flea. Another reason to be sure your pet is on flea prevention.
  • Toxoplasmosis: Cats can be an infective carrier for this parasite, and carriers are a risk toward pregnant and immunocompromised people. Another, more common, route of infection for people is through consumption of undercooked meat or improperly washed vegetables. Just make sure to either use gloves when cleaning the litter box or wash your hands and produce frequently to prevent infection.

It’s integral to keep your pets on a routine parasite prevention schedule – even if they’re indoor pets. Heartworm preventions typically also contain intestinal de-worming medication. Most of these parasites are easily diagnosed by a fecal examination – which you can call to set up anytime. If your pet experiences vomiting or diarrhea, let your veterinarian know!