Each year, millions of people are treated in doctor’s offices and even emergency departments due to animal bites and scratches. From rabies to bacterial infections including Pasteurella, we know these can be serious events that can even be life-threatening to humans. But even if you’re not bitten or scratched, there are still parasites that can be transmitted to humans from their pets.


Toxoplasmosis is caused by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Typically, cats pick up this parasite by eating an infected rodent, bird or other small animal. Once infected, a cat’s feces then carries the parasite, and humans who come into contact with those feces can accidentally ingest the parasite.

Although most cats infected with Toxoplasmosis do not show symptoms, some cats have symptoms including fever, loss of appetite, mild diarrhea and lethargy. In humans, the symptoms can mimic the flu.

In addition to washing your hands after cleaning your cat’s litter box, it’s also important to wash fresh produce before eating it because Toxoplasma gondii can live in the soil.

If your indoor cat has recently hunted, it’s a good idea to bring them to your veterinarian for a simple test. If they’re infected, your vet will probably prescribe a course of antibiotics.

Hookworms and Roundworms

These intestinal parasites are most commonly found in kittens and puppies, but can also infect grown cats and dogs. Pets pick up these parasites by sniffing or ingesting infected feces or recently contaminated areas. They can also pick them up from their mother during nursing. The parasites are transmitted to humans from contact with infected feces, or by walking barefoot and stepping on larvae.

Pets with hookworm or roundworm can experience diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal swelling, itchy paws, vomiting or weight loss. These can be serious infections, and your pet needs to be examined by your vet immediately.

The most common result of hookworm infection in humans is a skin condition called cutaneous larva migrans, which is an itchy, raised, red rash that appears where the larvae move. Humans with roundworm can experience symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea and fever.

All puppies and kittens should be tested for hookworm and roundworm from their vet, who can treat these parasites with medication, and suggest appropriate treatment and prevention strategies to keep you and your pets healthy.


Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection within the top layer of the skin. While it’s a fungus and not technically a worm, it is highly contagious. Pets and humans can pick up this fungus through direct contact with an infected animal, or via contact with a contaminated object, such as bedding or toys.

Symptoms in pets include circular areas of hair loss, brittle nails and hair, and scabby or inflamed skin. In humans, it causes a ring-shaped, reddish rash that may be dry and scaly or wet and crusty. It may also be itchy.

Your veterinarian can diagnose ringworm with a simple physical examination or a blood test in some cases. Treatment depends on the case, but it could be done either topically or with a prescription antifungal medication.

Serving more than 20,000 pets throughout the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, PetWow has offered top-notch animal care since 1998. Our fully mobile home veterinary care service can help you prevent parasites from spreading among your pets and family. Call or schedule an appointment with Pet Wow today at 513-738-9691 or email [email protected].

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