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Dear Christopher Cat

We are hand-raising a litter of kittens whose mother was killed by a car.  My vet insists on giving each kitten several doses of worm medicine because she says the kittens could give worms to my children.  This sounds outlandish to me.

Christopher Responds

Your veterinarian is protecting your children's health by following the recommendations of veterinary parasitologists and other authorities.

Any kitten, especially feral (wild) kittens, may harbor roundworms and/or hookworms.  In kittens, their presence may not be apparent, or the kitten may have a potbelly, diarrhea, or even anemia.  Puppies are similarly affected.

Since the worm's life cycle is repeated every few weeks, the best way to kill the worms is to de-worm each kitten every 2 weeks until 3 months of age, then monthly until 6 months of age.

Roundworms and hookworms can indeed infect humans.  Young children are especially vulnerable, perhaps because they put things into their mouths without washing their hands.  The microscopic eggs of these worms may be ingested without the child knowing it.  Also, hookworm larvae may penetrate intact skin.

The worms' immature larval stages migrate through the human body, leaving organ damage, itchy skin, seizures, and blindness in their wake.

Since eggs of these worms survive for years in the soil, every pet's annual physical exam should include a fecal check for parasites.  I had intestinal worms once.  If it can happen to someone as cute as I am, it can happen to anyone.

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