Your dog is part of your family. You share lots of things – walks, road trips, room on the bed, maybe even a midnight snack or two.
But one thing you don’t want to share: parasites.
Most dogs will become infected with some type of parasite at some point in their life, and unfortunately for dog lovers, your pet can transmit parasites – and parasitic diseases – to people. Roundworm and ringworm are among the most common parasites to be passed from a dog to a person.
Dogs can spread parasites and diseases to humans in two ways. Zoonotic diseases can spread directly from animals to people; zoonotic diseases in dogs include toxocariasis (an intestinal disease caused by roundworms), giardia (an intestinal disease caused by a single-celled parasite), and rabies. Vector-borne diseases are spread by fleas and ticks and include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
So how can you protect yourself and your family from zoonotic and vector-borne diseases?
The first step is protecting your pet from the parasites that cause them. Keep your dog on preventive flea and tick medication year-round and take him to the vet regularly for physical exams and annual shots and tests. If your dog starts showing any unusual symptoms – including diarrhea, vomiting, changes in activity level or appetite, itchiness, or rashes – take him to the vet immediately.
Make sure that you and your family practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after patting or playing with your dog, after picking up your dog’s feces, and before eating. Children are particularly prone to picking up parasites like roundworm and ringworm, so teach your kids proper hand-washing techniques and restrict their access to areas where your dog, or other animals, may defecate (including sandboxes) to prevent them from ingesting contaminated dirt or sand. Also, try to keep your dog from licking you on the face, particularly around the mouth.
Just a few simple steps can help keep your family – both humans and canines – safe from parasitic infections.