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Toxocara - Your Pets and You

Kids with catMost pet owners do not realise that Toxocara, the most prevalent roundworm in UK pets, is the most likely to infect humans.  In worst-case scenarios, Toxocara infection in humans can lead to blindness with estimates of around 50 to 60 cases of eye damage or blindness per year.

An estimated 1.5 million dogs have undetected or untreated parasitic worms at any one time.

The recommendation for treatment of worms is monthly.

Every cat and dog is potentially at risk of infection and puppies, kittens and strays are more likely to be infected.

A single Toxocara female worm can lay thousands of eggs every day everywhere in the environment where pets frequent.  The eggs are sticky and tend to stick to fur.  The pet, through licking, then swallows these when it grooms itself. 

Puppies and kittens can also be infected through their mother’s milk.

The eggs are not visible to the naked eye but your vet can do some tests to check for Toxocara eggs in your pet’s faeces.  The toxocara worms can sometimes be seen in your pet’s faeces.  They look like thin strands of spaghetti and can be up to 4 or 5cm long.  However, it is the invisible eggs that are potentially infectious.

Two of the main ways in which humans can be infected is through dropping food in areas where eggs have been laid ie a lollipop, which a child will then put into his/her mouth, or through stroking a dog/cat’s fur where eggs can sometimes stick.  Thus the reason for ensuring that hands are always washed after handling pets. 

If you suspect that your pet may have worms, arrange an appointment with your vet who will be able to check your pet over thoroughly and recommend appropriate treatment.

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