Pets :: Just One More Reason to Tell Your Kids to Wash Their Hands!

Disclosure :: Do you have pets in your home? If so, you’ll want to read this informative post, sponsored by Metairie Small Animal Hospital, on the risks associated with your pets’ parasites and exposure to your children. 

Pets :: Just One More Reason to Tell Your Kids to Wash Their Hands!

Parents often acquire new puppies or kittens while their children are young and are unaware of zoonotic disease threats. A zoonotic disease is one that can be spread from animals to humans.  Many people are aware of rabies, anthrax and ringworm but are very unfamiliar with the risks associated with internal parasites in their pets.

As many as 4 – 20% of U.S. children contract roundworms from their pet each year, with the highest exposure in the Southeast.  Children are often at highest risk of infection because they stick their hands in their mouths without regard to cleanliness. We have all seen how much children enjoPets-why kids should wash their hands I New Orleans Moms Blog (1)y sharing their Cheerios or their favorite snack with dogs, often feeding them, petting them … and then sticking their hands in their mouths. I have also heard stories of parents finding their young ones exploring the litter box. Since kids are not the normal host for these parasites, once in the body via their mouth or through their skin (feet), the parasite becomes confused or “lost,” often migrating throughout the body trying to complete its life cycle anyway. In the case of roundworms, they often get lost in the eye, where they eventually die, and generate an extreme inflammatory response which can cause permanent partial blindness. We have actually had two employees contract roundworms in the last ten years; one had even experienced temporary vision problems.

As a mother and a veterinarian, I am aware of the ubiquitous nature of parasite eggs in the soil and have often wondered why they don’t routinely test children’s stool for exposure (leave it to a veterinarian to ask their pediatrician to do a stool check on their child!). I have never received a good answer as to why not, but the good news is this exposure is easily preventable. Your pets are most commonly exposed to intestinal parasites simply by walking in contaminated grass or eating feces of other infected animals. Bringing your dog to the dog park in particular can expose them to contaminated grass and feces. They can carry parasite eggs on their fur and tongue and can easily deposit them onto the human skin.

What YOU Need to Know as a Mom and Pet Owner

  • Clean environment :: Assure a clean environment by picking up your pet’s feces from your yard and covering sand boxes when your children are not playing in them
  • Wash your hands :: Always encourage your children to wash their hands after playing with pets, after playing outdoors and before eating
  • Protect your pet :: Besides protecting against heartworm disease, most monthly preventatives also contain an intestinal dewormer. It’s the pets not on monthly heartworm preventative that most frequently test positive for intestinal worms. I could write pages about the importance of having your pets on monthly heartworm (and intestinal worm) preventative, but I’m here today to share why it’s important for your kids’ safety as well
  • Stay up to date on vet visits :: You wouldn’t skip your 3 month old’s well visit, would you? Regular vet visits to ensure your pet is healthy and parasite free can go a long way. This is especially important because most parasites cause little to no symptoms in your pet

This information is not to scare people or discourage anyone from owning a dog or a cat; that is certainly not the objective! Just be educated and responsible parents and pet owners.

Metairie Small Animal Hospital has been committed to providing the highest quality medical and surgical care for over 65 years in the New Orleans metropolitan area. Metairie Small Animal Hospital provides comprehensive medical care including Health Wellness Exams, Exotic Pet Care, Dentistry, Surgery and Diagnostic Procedures.


For more information about Metairie Small Animal Hopsital :: MSAH Website | Facebook | Twitter

For 24 hour emergency care call (504) 835-4266

Dr. WegmannDr. Wegmann was born in Minnesota and came to live in New Orleans at the age of nine. She is Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with a B.S. in Zoology from North Carolina State University. She graduated with honors from LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, and served as president of the Student Chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and representative of the Student Chapter of the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA). She is currently a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, LVMA, the Southeast Louisiana Veterinary Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Allison enjoys all aspects of small animal medicine and surgery with special interest in internal medicine, oncology and ultrasound. She enjoys riding horses and spending time with her daughter and husband.


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