BY CLIFF FAVER, DVM | SEPTEMBER 15, 2010
Some of you may have watched the specials on Animal Planet or the local news about the ‘Monsters within’ or animal parasites that can affect humans. What you may not have realized when watching is that your pet may be the most obvious source of many of these parasites. The best way to prevent these parasites from affecting our health is, of course, through good hygiene, but also by eliminating these parasites from your pet.
The basic problem is that most internal parasites are what we consider “host specific.” This means if a parasite normally lives in the dog, then this parasite becomes used to the dog’s body composition and physiology. If this parasite is then introduced to a human body, the parasite becomes confused and doesn’t function normally. Luckily this often means that the parasite becomes too confused to survive and often dies. However, some parasites do survive and adapt to the human body, and this can lead to severe, and even fatal, consequences.
For example, the roundworm that dogs and cats commonly get is an intestinal parasite in these animals. However, when the worm gets inside a human body, it doesn’t migrate to the intestines as it would in a dog. Instead the worm gets lost in the human and often migrates to the blood vessels of the brain or eye. As the worm grows, it will cut off the blood supply to these structures and can lead to blindness, mental retardation, or stroke-like problems in people.
The spread of animal parasites to people is not just limited to internal parasites, but can also include many of our external parasites like ticks, fleas, and mites. Many times over the years, I could have saved my clients many hours of itching and thousands of dollars with their dermatologist if they had brought their “itchy” dog in to see me before they went to see their doctor for their own itch.
Because of good human hygiene a lot of these parasites are hard to find on humans, which can lead to a long, drawn out, and expensive set of unrewarding tests. Some of these parasites can also be hard to find in our pets, but we usually have more success because the itchy pet is often the source. In many cases, when we treated the pet, the problem went away for the pet owner as well.
So the next time your veterinarian recommends a stool/fecal sample or a skin scraping for your pet, look at it as your vet trying to do your family a favor to prevent a severe problem. Consider these tests less of an expense than a very cheap insurance policy designed to keep your family (both two and four-legged) healthy.
For more information visit our Parasite Center at www.ahsvet.com.
This article is courtesy of Animal Health Services, 37555 N. Cave Creek Rd.