Worms usually evolve to fulfill their life cycle in one specific organism. This means that a worm specific to birds shouldn’t be able to infest a cat or a dog because it’s not prepared for that organism. This also applies from dogs, cats, or birds to humans.
Yet there are some worms that are called zoonotic, which are a type of parasites that can be transmitted between species. Unfortunately, some dogs’ worms are zoonotic and, although it rarely happens, can be transmitted.
Which Worms Can Be Transmitted From Dog to Human
Please note that we’re going to discuss only the potentially zoonotic candidates, but those aren’t the only types of dog worms that exist.
These worms are easy to distinguish since they seem like spaghetti, and frequently grow from 1 to 7 inches, that’s pretty big.
Adult roundworms live in the affected dog's intestines. Many dogs do not have signs of infection. However, dogs with major roundworm infections and puppies, show diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and a potbellied appearance.
It is spread by the eggs that are expelled in the dog’s feces, but they don’t become infectious until 30 days after. This means that dog poop isn't the mean of transmission, but the soil. It can also be passed by a nursing mom to her puppies.
Perhaps this is the most dangerous worm for humans because if you got infected, it can cause eye, lung, and heart problems.
Way smaller than roundworms, hookworms barely reach from 5 to 15 millimeters. Their name is given by their 6 sharp teeth, which they use to attach to the intestine wall. Once attached, it feeds on your dog's blood.
Its eggs pass into the environment through your dog's feces, but they aren’t ready to infect a new host yet. Hookworms larvae need to go through 3 stages of maturity before they can enter into a new organism.
When the hookworm has reached stage 3, it can get inside its new host by penetrating the skin or by infected soil.
In humans, it can cause a disease called “cutaneous larva migrans”. This infection affects the skin, and it’s intensely itchy but treatable. We can also be infected by improperly washed vegetables that have been in contact with infected soil. This will cause an intestinal hookworm infection.
They are long flat worms, reaching up to 11 inches. Yet we can’t recognize a tapeworm infestation by its size, but by its eggs. These are part of the worm tail, but normally break off and get excreted. Showing up in feces as white segments, resembling grains of rice.
Once the eggs are in the environment, they need time to dry off and release the larvae of tapeworm. These aren’t infectious to mammals, since the only way a mammal can get this type of worm is by eating an infected flea.
When the tapeworm larvae are released, they will wait until flea larvae ingest them. At the moment that the flea is fully developed, so is the tapeworm, ready to infect a mammal host. If the dog eats the infected flea, its body is digested, releasing the tiny tapeworm.
Humans can get tapeworms too, but just like other mammals, swallowing a flea that is carrying one.
Can Worms Be Transmitted By Licking?
The short answer is no, all worms that can be passed between species reside in the intestine. Plus, they require long maturation periods outside the host. Because of this, the tongue isn’t a means of transmission for worms, therefore, neither is licking.
Can I Get Worms From My Dog By Sleeping with Him?
The chances of this happening are very, very low. But it’s possible if your dog has fleas since they can be infected by tapeworms, and if you swallow one, you’ll get infected. Also, if he stepped on the dirt, he can have infected soil in his paws. This soil can carry roundworms and hookworms eggs.
Using flea control products, keeping your dog dewormed and his paws clean will eliminate the odds of getting worms from him.
How to Prevent Getting Worms From Dogs
The odds are really low of you getting worms from your dog, yet they’re not zero. To minimize the chances even more, a couple of extra cares would help immensely.
Keep the Yard Clean
All the worms that are potentially zoonotic need a long period of development when they are expelled. It can’t be stopped, but removing the feces from the common areas will avoid soil infestation in places we usually concur.
Either you use it for compost, dispose of it, or burn it. Keeping the area where your dog typically poops, transit, or plays, is a great way to avoid contagions.
For both fleas and worms, internal and external parasites should be removed every 3 to 4 months in adults.
While cleaning will help a lot, you can never be sure that no eggs remain waiting to evolve and infect. Moreover, fleas are unpredictable, it’s impossible to know if it is infected by tapeworms or not. To avoid any little chance of infection, regular deworming is mandatory.
If you're wondering what the are the chances of getting worms from your dog, the odds are low. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take precautions to avoid getting worms.