It’s a common misconception that if a child gets pinworms, it’s all the fault of the dog of the cat. These pets are innocent, because pinworms can only live in the guts of primates, not in the digestive tracts of dogs and cats. The many types of worms that dogs and cats can get include tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, roundworms and heartworms. Neither dogs nor cats can even transmit the worms to a person or to other dogs and cats. But how did this misconception come about?
Also called threadworms, pinworms in humans look like little moving grains of white rice that crawl out from the person’s anus. Tapeworms in dogs look particularly like little moving grains of white rice that crawls out of the dog’s anus. From the perspective of an exasperated caretaker of both people with pinworms and dogs with tapeworms, it would seem like one little white worm is the same as another little white worm.
In order to tell the difference between pinworms (Enterobius vermiculars) and tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum), you have to really get up close and personal with them. This is something that the average person is probably not going to want to do unless you have a strong stomach, a powerful microscope and an encyclopedic knowledge of worm species.
One main difference between the two species is overall body length. According to the Centers for Diseace Control, an adult pinworm is the length of a staple. But the length of an adult tapeworm is six inches. Those little grains or rice are little segments shed off from the adult tapeworm still in the dog’s gut. These segments can move a bit, but they are not independent worms they are generally pouches filled with eggs.
Human Pinworm Medicine
In the mistaken belief that the dog has pinworms, a person may dose the dog with human pinworm medicine. Do not give human pinworm medicine to dogs, since they do not acquire nor can they carry pinworms. According to “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” (Howell Book House; 2007), human medications to kill worms can potentially kill a dog.
The human main pinworm pesticide is albendazole (brand name Albenza). This is also given to dogs for their particular kinds of worms, but in a much smaller dose. You also want to keep any human pinworm medicine or any human medication, for that matter away from curious, ever-hungry dogs. Dogs are like babies in the sense that they tend to stick everything in their mouths.
Signs of albendazole or other pesticide poisoning in dogs includes loss of coordination, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and fainting. Contact the vet or The ASPCA’s poison center immediately.
“Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, Fourth Edition.” Debra M. Eldredge, DVM, et al. Howell Book House; 2007
CDC. “Dipylidium Infection: Dog and Cat Flea Tapeworm.” http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/dipylidium/factsht_dipylidium.htm
Medicine Plus. “Pinworms.” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pinworms.html
GlaxoSmithKlien.com “Albenza Perscribing Information.” http://us.gsk.com/products/assets/us_albenza.pdf