Can Dogs Catch Worms From Cats?
There are several types of worms that dogs can become infected with including tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and heartworms. Dog owners might assume that as long as their dog is kept indoors or in a fenced yard away from other dogs, their dog cannot catch worms. This is a common misconception, especially if there are cats wandering the neighborhood.
As all of these worms can also infect cats, your dog may be at a bigger risk than you are aware of from worm infestations. Consider the cats that live in your neighborhood. Fences do not keep them out, and they are more likely to leave hidden feces that you don't see but that your dog will quickly find.
A worm-infected cat can easily contaminate your property or any area that your dog walks through. Even for an indoor dog, taking him out to potty can put your dog in contact with worms which are left behind by cats. Worms are spread in a variety of ways.
Tapeworms are spread by fleas and by contaminated feces. Your dog can catch fleas that are carrying tapeworms from an infected cat who drops a few fleas as he passes through your property. If your dog eats or comes into contact with feces from a cat with tapeworms, he will likely catch tapeworms.
Hookworms are even easier to transmit from animal to animal. Both dogs and cats can catch hookworms through the pads of their feet and then contaminate the soil and grass with their feces. There are three species of hookworms that infect dogs and they can live in the soil even after you've removed any infected feces. Your dog can catch hookworms by eating, walking on, or laying on contaminated dirt or grass.
To compound the worm problem even more, you cannot count on cold weather to wipe out the worm eggs. Both whipworm and roundworm eggs are transmitted by feces and can live in the soil. Whipworm eggs can survive for up to seven years in the soil, even in freezing temperatures. By eating dirt with eggs in it, your dog can catch hookworms and whipworms.
Heartworms are not transmitted in the same way as the other worms. They are transmitted by infected mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites an infected dog or cat and then bites your dog, he can catch heartworms from the infected mosquito unless he is on heartworm prevention. Thus, if any dogs or cats in your neighborhood are infected with heartworms, it is possible for mosquitoes to carry the heartworms from the infected animal to your dog.
Not only can dogs catch worms from cats, they can transmit worms to cats, which in turn can spread the worms to other dogs that live nearby. A single wandering cat can spread worms from one dog to another, even if the dogs have no direct contact with each other.
While you cannot fully protect your dog from exposure to worms, you can take steps to minimize exposure.
1. Promptly scoop all poop on your property including that left behind by cats and other dogs.
2. Avoid walking your dog through areas where other dogs and cats have deposited feces.
3. Keep your dog on heartworm prevention.
4. Control the mosquito population by not leaving standing water for mosquitoes to breed in.
As some worms can also be transmitted to humans, you'll want to ensure that your dog is treated for worms if he does become infected. Have your dog's feces checked by a veterinarian at least once a year. While this won't catch all worm infections, it will increase your odds of catching an infestation in the early stages.