CHEYENNE – According to a recent study from the Companion Animal Parasite Council, Cheyenne is ranked No. 5 in the top 10 cities across the country with the highest increase in positive roundworm test results in household pets within the past month.
Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite that can infect household pets. These parasites are most prevalent in the upcoming winter months.
According to a news release from the CAPC, Cheyenne is experiencing an increase in positive roundworm tests and, thus, an increased risk for roundworm infection, which is “a zoonotic, parasitic disease threatening the health of both pets and people.”
These worms lay eggs that can live in the ground for several years, contaminating the environment and endangering animals and people who come into contact with the parasite-infested soil.
Dr. Craig Prior, BVSC, CVJ and CAPC board member, said, “animals can ingest the eggs by contaminated soil” in places like parks, dog parks and other common areas.
Once they are ingested, roundworms pass through the pet’s system and into the pet’s fecal matter. Thus, if a pet that is infected with these parasites defecates and the owner neglects to clean up after the pet, the eggs are shed back into the environment, contaminating it.
While pets who are boarded must be tested for parasites prior to their stay, places like dog parks lack these kinds of rules. Any dog, with or without parasites, is allowed to visit. As a result, dog parks often test positive for parasites.
“Dog parks are an equal opportunity infector,” Prior said.
Roundworms can also be transmitted through adult animals to their offspring in utero or through their milk. Pets are also at risk of becoming infected by hunting animals like rodents or birds, which can also carry the parasite.
“Any age animal can be infected. We tend to find that puppies and kittens are the ones that have more problems with it than anything else,” Prior said.
Once infected, the pet shows visible symptoms like weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and a pot-bellied appearance. Extremely severe cases of roundworms can lead to the death of the infected pet, if left untreated.
Roundworms are zoonotic, which means that they can be transmitted from animals to humans, much like COVID-19.
Humans can become infected by coming into contact with contaminated soil and then accidentally touching their faces. Prior explained that a person can become infected with roundworms simply by not using gardening gloves while dealing with soil.
He continued by discussing the increasing number of parasites.
“Roundworms tend to be hardy parasites, and we tend to find they’re more prevalent in the winter months: November, December and January,” he said.
In order to protect both pets and people from roundworms during the winter months, Prior urged pet owners to pick up after their pets outside and to take their pets to the veterinarian on a regular basis, at least several times a year.
“Your veterinarian is the local expert. They know the local risks, they know you, they know your pet, they know your family. They are the best ones to advise you on how best to protect your pet,” he said.
Although Black Dog Animal Rescue staff member Emilee Intlekofer and Cheyenne Animal Shelter Medical Director Tessha Winsch said they haven’t noticed a rise in roundworm cases, they both said that all pets surrendered to their respective shelters receive a dose of dewormer upon arrival as part of the protocol.
“We treat everybody that walks in the door preventatively anyway,” Winsch said.
Local veterinarian Dr. Benjamin Kraemer of Broadmoor East Veterinary Clinic said treatment of roundworms, often in the form of an oral medication, is affordable and readily available.
To prevent pets from becoming infected with roundworms, Kraemer recommended watching your pet closely to ensure that it does not ingest soil or feces outside. He also urged pet owners to make regular trips to the vet in order to keep their pets up to date on shots.
“Regular vet checkups are probably the most important thing,” he said.