Infectious Diseases, Parasites, worm infections

Worm Infections: 3 Parasite Infections You Can Get From Your Pets

Author Chandana Balasubramanian , 03-Jan-2024

Some of the most common infections in the world are spread by worms found in soil. The term ‘helminth’ is another word for worm, and soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections affect 1.5 billion people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


These infections affect poverty-stricken areas and are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and South America.


While these infections are less common in the United States, UK, and other developed countries, you can get worm infections from your pets, particularly dogs and cats. 


Let’s look at three common parasitic infections you can get from your pets, transmitted by worms. 


1. Roundworm Infections

What are roundworms?

Roundworms are parasites that need the human body in order to survive. They get the name roundworm from their long, smooth, cylindrical shape. 

They belong to a group of parasitic worms called helminths, particularly soil-transmitted helminths (STH). 

Ascariasis, the most prevalent roundworm infection in humans, is named after the roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides (A. lumbricoides). Other roundworm infections include pinworm infections and trichinellosis.

How do humans get roundworm infections from pets?

When pets eat soil with roundworm eggs or larvae, they can get infected. The worm eggs and larvae then end up in their feces, contaminating the soil and plants. 

You could get a roundworm infection from your dog or cat if you accidentally swallow these eggs without washing your hands thoroughly after gardening, handling dirty soil, or pet poop.

Who is at risk of getting a roundworm infection?

Children and pregnant women are most at risk of getting infected with roundworms. People who live in, or visit a tropical country may also be at a higher risk of a roundworm infection. 

Roundworm symptoms

Usually, a roundworm infection does cause any symptoms in humans. However, when there are large numbers of worms in the intestine, roundworm symptoms may include: 

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Finding worms in feces
  • Blood in the feces
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Pain in the abdomen.


How to treat a roundworm infection?

In many cases, roundworms travel through various organs like the liver but may not cause much damage. However, in severe cases, the worms can damage the eye, which could lead to permanent blindness. 

Roundworm infections are often treated by anthelmintic medications like albendazole and mebendazole. 

How to prevent a roundworm infection? 

Prevention really is the cure with worm infections. 

Here are some ways to protect yourself and loved ones from roundworm infections: 

  • Take household pets like puppies and kittens to regular visits to the vet
  • Avoid touching soil, dirt, and pet waste with your bare hands
  • Practice washing your hands thoroughly before you touch food or eat. This is especially important for children, who may be at a higher risk of getting infected.


2. Hookworm infections

What are hookworms?

Hookworms are small, parasitic worms that live in the intestines of animals. They can infect humans as well.

Common hookworm infections are from the worms Ancylostoma duodenale (A.duodenale) and Necator americanus (N.americanus)

Sometimes, hookworms are grouped together with roundworms but there are differences. Hookworms, in particular, are characterized by hook-like mouths that allow them to attach to the intestinal lining and feed on blood.

How do humans get hookworm infections from pets?

Hookworm infections from animals are known as animal hookworm infections or zoonotic hookworm infections.

People can get hookworm infections indirectly from animals like dogs and cats. Animals that are infected with a hookworm pass the worm’s eggs in their feces. These eggs hatch into larvae which can be picked up by people if they walk barefoot on contaminated soil.

The most common animal hookworm infections are a skin reaction called cutaneous larva migrans (CLM). Here, the infected person may find red, raised tracks on their skin that change based on the hookworm’s movements in the body. 

Who is at risk of getting a hookworm infection?

Children and pregnant women are at risk of getting hookworm infections. Children, in particular, are susceptible if they play in areas contaminated by infected cats or dogs. 

Hookworm symptoms

Hookworm symptoms include:

  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia (because the hookworm ingests blood through the intestinal lining).  


How to treat a hookworm infection?

Hookworm infections are treated with anti-parasitic medications like albendazole and mebendazole. These medications are quite effective and recovery can occur in 1-3 days.

How to prevent a hookworm infection? 

Protecting yourself from hookworm infections includes:

  • Walking with slippers or shoes in areas that may be contaminated with hookworms
  • Wearing gloves while gardening or handling soil
  • Taking your pets to the vet regularly for checkups. 


3. Tapeworm infections

What are tapeworms?

Tapeworms are flatworms that live in the stomachs of animals and humans. The worms look like long ribbons made up of sections, and rarely, the worms can be transmitted from dogs to humans.

A common tapeworm infection in humans is caused by the species Taenia saginata (T.saginata) and Taenia solium (T.solium).

How do humans get tapeworm infections from pets?

There is a low risk of people getting tapeworms from their pets. However, you can get a tapeworm infection from eating contaminated meat. You could also get infected by swallowing tapeworm eggs or larvae present in dog feces.

Who is at risk of getting a tapeworm infection?

You are most at risk of getting a tapeworm infection if you eat raw or uncooked meat, practice poor hand hygiene, work with soil, or travel to the tropics or subtropical countries. 

Tapeworm symptoms

Many people may not know they have a tapeworm infection because they have little to no symptoms. While signs of an infection may even take years to appear, tapeworm symptoms include: 

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss.


Note: Without timely treatment, T.solium infections can cause cysticercosis, an infection that causes seizures in adults.  

Sometimes, infected individuals may even pass pieces of the worm in their feces. A stool sample is the most common way to diagnose a tapeworm infection. 

How to treat a tapeworm infection?

Anti-parasitic drugs like albendazole and praziquantel are used to treat a tapeworm infection. Praziquantel, in particular, paralyzes the worm and makes it unlatch from the intestinal wall. 

How to prevent a tapeworm infection? 

  • Practice safe hand hygiene practices
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat
  • Take your pets to the vet if you suspect a tapeworm infection
  • Talk to your healthcare provider to learn if you need a deworming pill like mebendazole. 



Staying vigilant about potential worm infections from our pets is crucial for their well-being and ours. Regular vet visits, deworming, and practicing good hygiene are key preventive measures.

Responsible pet ownership, including proper waste disposal, handwashing, and wearing shoes when walking in potentially contaminated areas is important to minimize the risk of transmission. 

By staying informed and proactive, we can create a healthier living environment for both our pets and ourselves.


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Chandana Balasubramanian

Chandana Balasubramanian is an experienced healthcare executive who writes on the intersection of healthcare and technology. She is the President of Global Insight Advisory Network, and has a Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

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