We had a call from a concerned parent the other day that brings up one of companion-animal veterinarians’ pet peeves with human physicians. We probably field about 2 or 3 dozen of these a year, and always during the winter. The parent wanted to know how she could get rid of the pinworms that their family doctor told them their pet had given to their child. The logic being that if they eliminate the pinworms from their pet the child cannot be re-exposed after treatment. The problem here is that neither cats nor dogs can have, carry nor transmit the human pinworm. For some reason physicians continue to accuse house pets of being responsible for pinworm in children. Kind of drives us a bit nuts actually (well me anyway).
The only domesticated animal species that are even remotely capable of this are rabbits and horses. By far the most common route of exposure to pinworms for children is… other children.
Enterobius vermicularis is the scientific name for the human pinworm. This parasite goes through its entire life cycle within a single human host and is transmitted to other hosts in a rather unsavory way. The female worms will exit the body through the rectum and lay their eggs in the rectal area of the host. This causes quite severe itching that children of course will scratch. The eggs end up on their hands which then are used to re-infest themselves as well as to spread the parasite to other children. The most common source for this is public drinking fountains, particularly in school environments. Although obviously anything that children touch can be used to transmit the parasite (plastic toys, furniture, linens, pets…). The eggs are extremely hardy and can persist for up to 3 weeks in the environment.
So please, give “Fluffikins” and “Rover-Boy” a break. For once, they really didn’t do it!
Luckily this parasite is easy to treat but it can be very difficult to eliminate from the environment. The major factor for reducing re-infestation is to emphasize hand-washing and hygiene to reduce the number of eggs that end up in the environment of the children. If you would like to read a little bit more about Enterobius, follow this link Pinworm