What parasites can I catch from my pets?

09 March 2015
Presented by Danielle Blackwell.

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From worms to fleas and even microscopic single celled organisms, our pets can transfer a world of parasites to us if we are not careful. Prof Susan Little, a Veternary Parasitologist tells us what parasites we might catch and how we might prevent them.

In this episode

00:00 - What parasites can I catch from my pets?

From worms to fleas and even single celled organisms, we find out what parasites we can catch from our pets.

What parasites can I catch from my pets?

Pets are a potential source of parasites to people. Fleas, ticks, even mange mites are common on pets that don't receive preventives. So routine flea and tick control is a key part of responsible pet ownership.

Some intestinal parasites of pets also infect people including parasitic worms like Toxocara which can cause inflammation in the eye or in internal organs from migrating larvae that have been ingested or pet hookworms which induce an itchy rash after a larvae penetrate the skin from contaminated soil.

Pets might also be infected with protozoa like toxoplasma gondii in cats which can cause human disease and is of particular concern to pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Most of these intestinal parasites are acquired from egg or larval stages in faecal contaminated soil or water rather than directly from the pets. But because dogs and cats often clean themselves with their tongue, pet kisses are usually not advisable. Not to be unduly disgusting here but we have likely all seen dogs and cats clean themselves or drink out of the toilet or practice similar behaviours.

Overall pet ownership has not been shown to post a direct risk of parasitic infection to people, but keeping pets parasite-free reduces environmental contamination with parasites. And so, limits infections in the overall community. With proper veterinary care, pets are safe and wonderful member of the family.

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