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When the doctor diagnoses a pinworm infection, you are horrified. How did the child pick up the infection? They always wash their hands-- so perhaps they picked up pinworms from the dog?
Sometimes the truth is stark and straightforward. Pinworm infections are the result of poor personal hygiene. These worms live in the human intestine and lay their eggs around the anus. When the person gets eggs on their hands, they can transfer them onto the toilet seat or other objects, or directly into their own mouth. Thus, the person who doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom is at risk of infection.
But what about the dog: Could they play a part in a family infection?
Can Dogs Get Pinworms?
No, dogs cannot get pinworms. Thankfully for everyone involved, pinworms is a 'species-specific' parasite. Their hosts are humans and they can't live in the dog gut. However, dogs do suffer from their own unique intestinal parasites. The closest equivalent to the human pinworm is the dog whipworm - but don't worry, you aren't going to pick this up from your pet either, as it's a dog-only parasite.
Does My Dog Have Whipworms?
While your dog won't have pinworms, the signs below can indicate a whipworm infection.
Stomach cramps and abdominal pain
These are quite general signs, which is why it's important to see the vet. Other possible causes include:
A heavy worm burden (generalized)
As well as examining the dog and feeling their abdomen, the vet will send a fecal sample for analysis. This identifies if worm eggs or larvae are present and of what species.
For more information on each of the conditions above, follow the links. If you have concerns, contact your vet as well.
How Do I Treat my Dog's Whipworms?
Treatment is a simple course of oral dewormer that is licensed to kill whipworm. Those most commonly prescribed contain fenbendazole, milbemycin, or oxantel. Typically an initial dose is given, which is repeated 2 to 4 weeks later.
Most dogs show signs of improvement within a few days, depending on the severity of their infection.
In addition, it's important to clean the dog's bedding and any soft furnishings they lie on, plus shampoo the dog to remove eggs clinging to the coat. This helps prevent accidental reinfection.
How Are Whipworms in Dogs Similar to Pinworms in Humans?
Pinworms and whipworms are both intestinal worms. They are also caught in a similar way, by contact with the respective eggs. Thus, children become infected when they don't wash their hands after visiting the bathroom, while dogs can ingest whipworm eggs when they groom fur with eggs clinging to it.
How Are Whipworms in Dogs Different from Pinworms in Humans?
These are two species-specific infections, caused by different worms that favor either people or dogs.
The human pinworm is Enterobius
The dog whipworm is Trichuris
In addition, these worms cause subtly different symptoms and outcomes. For example, pinworms cause an itchy bottom in people and is rarely a serious condition, while the dog whipworm causes bloody diarrhea and can be extremely debilitating.
Dexter, the dog has a bad habit of eating other animals' poop, and isn't above snaffling the odd dog offering. Dexter develops a runny tummy and, at first, his owner isn't too concerned. The dog's scavenging often causes a loose stool, which usually clears up after a day or two. However, the problem persists and now Dexter is passing bloody diarrhea. Aware that Dexter is overdue his regular deworming, his owner takes a fecal sample to the vet. The analysis shows the presence of whipworm eggs. The owner's first thought was if this was a risk to her children, but the vet reassured her not. And after a course of fenbendazole granules, Dexter's tummy is soon back to its usual sturdy self.