An important aspect of a responsible dog owner is to be able to prevent the spread of disease from pets to humans. The most effective way of preventing this type of disease is proper hygiene, careful sanitation practices, and keeping your dog healthy by avoiding scratches and bites. There are two common parasites that transmit disease through their waste: roundworm and hookworm.
Roundworm is a parasite that is commonly found in dogs. The infectious form of roundworms are their eggs. The eggs of this parasite incubate for several weeks in the ground which is found in the dog's feces. If a child plays in the area close to the feces and puts her hands in her mouth, she can accidentally swallow the eggs and thus become infected. This is the reason why migrating roundworms most likely occur in children, specifically toddlers. The illness is usually mild and long lasting but rarely fatal.
When children swallow the roundworm that is mostly carried by dogs and cats, the worms often migrate through the body tissues and cause damage such as fever and liver enlargement. These symptoms may last as long as a year. In some children the larvae may enter the eye and cause inflammation. This is a very serious case because instead of detecting the presence of roundworms, surgeons have been known to make the mistake of identifying eye lesions as an early stage of cancer. They may make the mistake of unnecessarily removing the child's eye because of the wrong diagnosis.
Another type of parasite that is very similar to a roundworm is hookworm. This type of worm enters its host in a different way. Infectious larvae of the hookworm directly penetrate the skin where it comes in contact with soil or sand contaminated with feces. Unlike roundworms, hookworms are not suited to live inside the human body and eventually die after moving a few inches under the skin. The inflammation is usually called creeping eruption and eventually disappears after a few weeks or sometimes months. In the United States, this problem most often occurs in the South.
Aside from cleaning up after your pet, here are some suggestions you should take and teach your children to prevent contamination from roundworms and hookworms:
1. Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with soil where your dog went to relieve himself.
2. Always remind children to wash their hands before eating and not to put their hands in their mouths. This is especially important while playing with dogs or other animals and grounds that may be contaminated with roundworms and hookworms.
3. Do not go barefoot in areas where a dog may have relieved himself, especially in warm climates.
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