Roundworms

Adult canine roundworms (Toxocara canis)     Roundworms (Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina) are found in the intestine of dogs and are a major hygienic concern because they are transmissible to people. Because people get infected by ingestion of dirt contaminated with the feces of infected dogs, roundworm elimination should be the concern on every responsible pet owner. An average-sized dog passes 136 grams of feces daily and it is known that a dog with a "light" roundworm infection may pass 10,000 eggs in every gram of stool. If 12% of the 80 million dogs in America have "light" infections, 1,300 metric tons of dog feces containing 13 trillion roundworm eggs are discharged in the streets and lands of America every day!! In different surveys, 0.3 - 15% of soil samples and 7 - 31% of house yards or children's sandboxes contained roundworm eggs.

      Your plan of attack to eradicate roundworm infection should be: to eliminate roundworm infection from dogs; to prevent dog defecation in areas frequented by people, and; to educate your family and friends about the risks and appropriate control measures.

      Concerned pet owners should collect their pets' feces every day and place them in the garbage or burn it. Flushing the feces down the toilet is inappropriate because many eggs survive sewage treatment. There is some fear that roundworms may be passed by a puppy licking the owner. While the transmission rate through this avenue of infection is probably very, very low it is still a good idea to observe good hygiene and wash hands and faces after playing with the puppy. Also, Humans should clean vegetables grown in the garden before eating them. For most people, these preventative measures are just normal procedures but it is good to know there is a reason for all this caution!

      Because pups may start passing eggs as early as day 21 of life, the first treatment must be administered before this age. Since reinfection is common from the environment as well as in the mother's milk, treatment must often be repeated every two weeks until the pups are 49 days old. In practical terms, this means treating pups at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. Bitches should be treated at the same time as the pups since they are most often the source of the pups infection. All bitches should be presumed to be carriers of roundworms even if they have had negative fecals prior to whelping since the worms often persist in her system in a resting stage. The following list discusses how bitches carry roundworms and infect pups before they are even born:

  • Roundworm larvae migrate to somatic tissue (liver and lungs), including skeletal muscle and remain there in a quiescent state
  • Only resume activity in pregnant bitches following the 42nd day gestation (third trimester)
  • May establish an infection of the small intestine by tracheal migration
  • Usually infect the fetus via the umbilical vessels; initially they attack the pups liver, then lungs at birth
  • This is the primary reason that bitches should be wormed before breeding, during the last week of gestation, and each time the pups are wormed.

            Once the initial infection is treated properly it is a good idea to occasionally check a stool sample for the presence of worms or to consider prophylactically administering deworming medications if the situation seems to warrant it. It is hoped that at some point in the future a vaccine will become available for roundworm control since current control measures seem to be only marginally effective. For the present however, routine treatment of pups and bitch, as well as environmental control are necessary and essential.

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