Many people ask their veterinarian, “Can humans get worms from dogs?”
The answer is yes — we can certainly get intestinal parasites from our dogs or cats.
In this article, we’ll look at 3 common parasites: roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms.
Roundworm eggs are shed constantly by the infected dog (or, most commonly, puppy). If the dog licks their butt and then licks you, the contamination begins.
When you touch your mouth, you allow the eggs (unseen by your eyes) to enter your body. You or your children can also pick them up from infected dog poop in the backyard.
Once these worms get in, they make their way into your intestines and grow.
Occasionally, the worms will form a ball within the body and cause an intestinal blockage. This is when roundworms (Toxocara canis) stop being a minor issue and become a major problem.
Usually, the person will notice the long, spaghetti-like parasites in their stools.
Roundworms are pretty nasty, gross and, well, definitely scary.
- Your doctor will prescribe roundworm medicine to clear up the problem.
- If the worms ball up and create a blockage, surgery may be required to “unblock and remove” the worms. Oral treatment will need to follow that operation.
Here’s a veterinarian who will explain the basics of how dogs can transmit worms to people:
These worms enter the human host usually through the skin.
More often than not, the infestation occurs from the person walking through contaminated soil with bare feet.
A rash with incredible itching will be noticed at the site of entry. The person can experience diarrhea, weight loss and anemia.
Hookworms are not to be taken lightly. People have died from untreated hookworm infections. If you suspect an internal parasite infection, seek medical help — regardless of how embarrassed you feel.
It’s rare, but transmission of the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm may occur if you were to swallow an infected flea (which is exactly how pets get tapeworms).
Proper sanitation will help decrease your risk of getting parasites from dogs.
- Do not walk barefoot where your dog poops.
- Wash your hands after petting a pet who has been diagnosed with parasites.
- Never let a puppy with worms sleep with you. The eggs can get into the bedding and invade your body.
Can humans get worms from dogs? Yes. You can get worms from a cat, too.
Can it be cured? Yes. Treatment is usually simple.
Can a worm infection from a dog be fatal? Possibly. If you suspect you have parasites, please seek medical advice.
- PetEducation: Can people get worms from their pets?
- UGA College of Veterinary Medicine: How do dogs get worms?
- WebMD: Heartworms in dogs: facts and myths
This pet health content was reviewed for accuracy by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed and updated Feb. 4, 2019.
What to read next:
So many dog myths to debunk, so little time! How many of these did YOU know were myths? See the article