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Prim Care. 1991 Mar;18(1):153-65.

Parasites, pets, and people.

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University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Department of Family Practice, Lexington.


It is important for the family physician to understand that patients' relationships with their pets play an important role in helping maintain mental and physical health yet provide the potential for causing illness in the patient. Toxocara canis (dog roundworm) and Toxocara cati (cat roundworm) are the ascarids most commonly responsible for VLM and ocular larva migrans in humans. These roundworms live in their adult stage in the small intestine of the dog and cat where their eggs are passed in the feces. The eggs containing the infective larva are very sticky, thus an infant crawling around on the floor can easily pick these up on fingers that almost invariably end up in the mouth. Infections are usually mild and asymptomatic but with a persistent eosinophilia. Ocular larva migrans is the form usually occurring in older children and adults. Some public health veterinarians recommend that a puppy or kitten should not be obtained as a companion for a child who is not old enough to read, thus bypassing the crawling and toddler stages. Hookworm eggs, shed in the feces of infected dogs or cats, develop into the infective second stage within a week. Humans are usually infected when bare areas of skin such as bare feet or the torso come in contact with soil contaminated with the larvae. The second-stage larvae are able to penetrate the intact skin of humans and the foot pads of dogs and cats. In the United States, the common dog hookworm, A. caninum, is a widespread parasite. Human intestinal ancylostomiasis caused by this species is rare, with only six cases recorded in the literature. Infection in humans or animals by the common tapeworm of dogs and cats (Dipylidium caninum) requires ingestion of the intermediate host, the dog or cat flea containing the larva (cysticercoids) of the agent. Many cases in humans are asymptomatic. Dipylidiasis affects mainly infants and young children who may swallow a flea that hops up while the infant is crawling on the floor or fondling the family pet. Humans appear to be highly resistant to the infection, given the high frequency of flea infestation on dogs and cats and the relative rarity of human disease. Pinworms of animal hosts are not transmissible to humans. Humans become an accidental host of dirofilaria when bitten by an infected mosquito, although the microfilaria will not mature to the adult form in humans. Radio-opaque coin-type lung lesions can be noted on radiographs.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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