What Are the Chances of Getting Worms from Your Dog?

What Are the Chances of Getting Worms from Your Dog

It’s a question that might have crossed your mind in the past: can you get worms from your dog? The answer, you can, because worms are zoonotic, meaning they can pass from dog to human… but what are the odds of you getting worms… here’s what I found out.

The chances of you getting worms from your dog are statistically low, but it depends on how cautious you are about hygiene. Dog-to-human worm transmission can occur if you’re not careful, with parasites such as hookworm, roundworm, and tapeworm being transferable.

But the odds are low of you getting worms from a dog or pet. Think of how many dog and cat owners there are in the United States. It’s something like 110 million. Then consider the reported cases of worms in children each year, which is 10,000.

If you crunch these numbers, this means the chances of getting worms from a dog is about a 0.01% chance. 

Dogs and worms, and your odds of getting worms

Most dogs get infected with worms at some point in their lives. It’s no surprise, though. Dogs encounter countless opportunities for worm infection in their day-to-day lives. Puppies are born with worms believe it or not!

From eating other pets’ poop to snacking on raw meat, licking the butts of other worm-infested dogs at the park, playing on contaminated soils then grooming their fur afterwards, your dog can catch worms in different ways.

As if the thought of worms living inside your dog isn’t nauseating enough, the sad part is that you might also end up with the same worm infection. Yes, your dog can put you at risk of catching worms.

The chances of you getting worms from your dog are greater if you aren’t keen on maintaining high basic hygiene standards. But if you observe good hygiene, you should have nothing to worry about.

The most common intestinal parasites transmitted from dogs to humans (zoonotic parasites) are roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms.

These worms have one thing in common: they all lay eggs inside your dog’s body.

Your dog will poop out these microscopic eggs when defecating. Most eggs will stay in the soil and hatch into larvae (immature worms) after a few weeks. Some eggs may get stuck on your dog’s anal hairs as they poop.   

The worm larvae from the hatched eggs can survive on the ground for several months if the environment is favorable (they thrive in warm, moist grounds).

If your dog has hookworm, roundworm, or tapeworm, you can get infected by picking up the microscopic eggs or larvae through any of the following means:

  • Stepping barefoot in places where your dog normally defecates.
  • Handling your dog’s dried poop with bare hands and not cleaning up afterwards.
  • Touching the soil where your dog normally poops with bare hands.
  • Tending to your lawn without gloves. If your dog has worm eggs trapped in their anal hairs, they may scoot on your grass to relieve their itchy bum, spreading the eggs all over your lawn.
  • Petting your dog. If they’ve been rolling on contaminated soil or grass, the microscopic eggs present on the ground can remain trapped on your dog’s coat. You might ingest them if you pet your dog and then accidentally touch your mouth.                  
  • If your dog licks your mouth after grooming their bum. They can transfer the eggs to your mouth, which you may end up ingesting.

Hookworms: Dog-to-human transmission

Hookworm infections often involve hookworm larvae and skin penetration. 

If your dog has hookworm, they will poop the eggs, which will then hatch into larvae while on the ground. The larvae only need to get into contact with your skin to enter your body, and this can happen quite easily. 

A simple act like stepping on or touching larvae-carrying dirt is enough for the microscopic larvae to get inside your body through your skin pores.  

The hookworm larvae will first travel into your lungs through your bloodstream, where they’ll stay for some time. And because of their presence in your lungs, you will start to cough a lot. 

You will eventually cough out the larvae from your lungs and swallow them. That’s how they enter your small intestines.

Apart from coughing, you’ll likely develop these symptoms if you get hookworms from your dog:

  • Itchiness or a small rash on a specific spot on your body (the itchy sensation or rash will occur where the larvae have penetrated your skin).
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Blood in your stool.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Appetite loss.

Hookworms are dangerous, as they survive by sucking blood from your intestinal lining. They do the same thing when living in your dog’s gut. These worms can make you anemic.

Roundworms: Dog-to-human transmission

Your dog can infect you with roundworm if you touch the larvae or ingest the microscopic roundworm eggs unknowingly.

The eggs will travel to your intestines and hatch into larvae. And since roundworm larvae don’t find the human’s gastrointestinal tract as “homely” as a dog’s GI, some will move to other organs where they shouldn’t be. 

It’s not unusual for roundworms to migrate to nerve tissues and the eyes. In severe cases, these worms can cause blindness. 

There’s a medical name for this roundworm-triggered blindness — Ocular Larva Migrans. Experts say the condition affects about 700 people each year. 

The worst thing about roundworm infection is it can take a while before some symptoms appear (though you might spot live roundworms in your poop). 

When the symptoms finally show up, they may be severe since the roundworms will have already caused a lot of harm to your body.

Some of the common signs of roundworm infection in humans include:

  • Frequent diarrhea.
  • Coughing or wheezing.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Disturbed sleep.

Tapeworms: Dog-to-human transmission

Similar to hookworms and roundworms, you can get tapeworms from your dog if you touch the tapeworm larvae or swallow the eggs accidentally. 

While in your intestines, this worm will feed on the food you consume. Some of the symptoms you’ll experience if your dog infects you with tapeworm are:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Body weakness.
  • Loss of weight.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Tips to deal with worm infection in your dog

It’s best to take your dog to the vet once you spot any signs of worm infection — for instance, excessive scooting, diarrhea,  lethargy, vomiting, and bloody stool, among others. 

Seeking early treatment will ensure your dog receives effective deworming medications that will kill the worms and speed up their recovery. 

Early treatment is also a good thing because your dog won’t contaminate your home environment with worm eggs that put you at risk of catching worms. 

You should also observe proper hygiene when your dog is diagnosed with a worm infection. Simple things like wearing gloves before touching dirt, washing your hands, and not walking barefoot will eliminate your chances of getting worms from your dog. 

Most importantly, speak to your vet about a worm prevention plan to protect your dog from regular worm infections. When your dog is protected from worms, so will you and your family.

How long does it take for a human to get worms from a dog?

There isn’t an exact time frame since this mainly depends on when you’ll accidentally pick up the microscopic worm eggs or larvae from the ground your dog has contaminated.

How do I know if my dog gave me worms?

You can know so if you start exhibiting the typical symptoms of worm infection — vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, coughing, and abdominal pain, among others.

It’s important to seek professional help if any symptoms appear. This will ensure you get an accurate diagnosis and get started on deworming treatment.

Can humans easily get worms from dogs?

Yes, that’s right. As mentioned earlier, humans can get worms from your dog through seemingly harmless actions like touching contaminated dirt with bare hands and walking barefoot on the contaminated ground.   

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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