Cleaning up after your pet is not only the tidy thing to do, it could prevent the spread of parasitic disease in your family. But if you are careless about wearing gloves, using a clean scooper or placing a thick plastic barrier between your skin and your pet's poop, you could become the host for dangerous zoonotic worms, placing your health at risk.
Approximately two weeks after being dispelled in your dog's waste, roundworms begin to contaminate the surrounding environment and become infectious to humans. Accidental ingestion of roundworms can have devastating health consequences, as they migrate through your body's organs and nest in the liver, eyes, lungs or brain. Because your body has no natural defense against a roundworm infestation, the parasite-caused diseases can progress rapidly, resulting in asthma, liver or brain disease, or blindness. Treatment for roundworm infestation in humans includes oral medications, such as medendazole (Vermox), ivermectin (Stromectol), albdendazole (Albenza), diethylcarbamazine (DEC, Hetrazan), as well as symptom relief medications, including Prednisone, aspirin, or iron supplements.
Hookworm eggs will hatch and become infectious to humans between 5 to 10 days after your pet expels the infected feces. The hookworm larvae eat their way into exposed skin and create itchy, swollen tunnels, called cutaneous larvae migrans, just underneath your skin. Left untreated, hookworms can migrate into your intestines and cause anemia. Speak to your doctor if you believe you may have hookworms. Oral medications, such as mebendazole, albendazole or pyrantel pamoate, and holistic remedies, including eating raw garlic, can eradicate a hookworm infestation.
Accidental ingestion of canine feces can transmit taenia and echinococcus tapeworms to humans. These worms can create hydatid cysts that resemble tumors in the liver, lungs and other organs. Because they can grow up to a foot in diameter if left untreated, surgical removal may be necessary to excise cysts caused by canine tapeworms.
Aside from protecting your skin when picking up your dog's feces, there are several other ways you can avoid getting worms while cleaning up dog waste. Wash your hands after handling your dog and after poop-scooping. Avoid dog kisses on the mouth or face. Have your dog's feces checked regularly during vet visits to ensure that your pet is not infected with parasites, use year-round broad-spectrum anthelmintics to prevent worm infestations, and use deworming medication promptly if worms are discovered in your dog. Control or prevent fleas and ticks in your pet by using oral or topical solutions. Consider hiring a pet waste removal company to keep your yard clean and parasite-free. Never allow your pet to defecate in children's play areas or near your garden.
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