How you get rid of worms depends greatly upon what kind of worms you think you or your pet may have. Now is when the questions arises, can I get worms from my cat or dog? The answer is yes, but in most cases, it would take a bit of work to actually contract the same worm. For instance, in order to get tapeworm you would have to somehow digest a flea that had eaten tapeworm eggs that had come out of your dog or cat's feces. Similarly, in order to get roundworm, you have to come into contact with and digest some of your pet's fecal matter in order to get the eggs into your system. Hookworm infections are rare in the States because we wear shoes, and a great number of human infections by hookworm are caused by walking on the feces of an infected individual; this is quite common in developing countries.
Anyway, you've come here hoping to learn how to get rid of worms, otherwise known as intestinal parasites or intestinal worms. Below, I've described 5 of the most common "worms" that people and pets can get here in the United States, along with the most effective cure for worms, and a link to a more in depth article we've written about each worm--where you'll find more information about the worm's lifecycle and more detailed information about avoiding worm infection and getting rid of worms.
Type of Worms and Treatments
Pinworms are found only in humans and account for the largest percentage of intestinal worm infections in the U.S. Getting rid of pinworm isn't easy, but it can be done. To get rid of pinworms, you should wash your hands regularly to avoid ingesting pinworm eggs. If pinworm infection is detected by your doctor, or noticed in the stool, you should seek an over-the-counter treatment like Reese's Pinworm Medicine or get a prescription from your doctor for Vermox, the most common prescription given for pinworm infections.
Roundworms are large worms about as thick as a spaghetti noodle and roughly 4-13 inches long at maturity. Roundworm is an intestinal worm found in both dogs and cats. The life cycle is complicated, and in order to get rid of roundworm completely, one must interrupt this life cycle. Usually this is done with three to four treatments of a pyrantel pamoate based medicine over a month long period. It is repeated once every week to ensure that both mature and migrating adolescent roundworms are destroyed.
Hookworms are yet another worm that is most commonly found in pets in the U.S., but account for almost 800 million intestinal worm infections in the human population worldwide. To get rid of hookworms, mebendazole or albendazole are used the most often and require a prescription by a doctor to obtain. Hookworm medication in humans is usually taken twice a day for three days. In dogs and cats, hookworm anthelmintic is taken once every week for 2-3 weeks to ensure that the hookworm life cycle is disrupted.
While tapeworms are found in both humans and animals, it is rare for humans to get tapeworm. A tapeworm problem is synonymous with a flea problem, since ingestion of the tapeworm eggs by fleas and then ingestion of the fleas is required to become infected. To get rid of tapeworms, you must get rid of fleas. Usually treatment for both fleas and tapeworms are administered together. The tapeworm infested individual (be they human or pet) is given a dewormer, and their environment is treated with either Nylar or Methoprene to control fleas.
Ringworm isn't actually a worm at all. Ringworm is caused by a fungus and is given its name because of the ring-shaped rash it causes when a person is infected. Ringworm is similar to athlete's foot with regard to the family of fungus that causes it. To get rid of ringworm, many people suggest dabbing bleach on the skin and then wiping it clean to ensure you don't give yourself a chemical burn. Essentially, an astringent or topical antiseptic like those used to treat athletes foot may also be used to treat ringworms. Antifungal medications and topical treatments are similarly used to treat pets, but spores may persist and cause recurring infections.
Preventing Intestinal Worm Infections
Most intestinal worm infections (also known as helminthes) can be avoided by practicing good hygiene. The most effective way to avoid a pinworm infection is by washing your hands regularly throughout the day, especially if you are visiting, live with, or work with children, who are the most prone to becoming infected and spreading a pinworm infection to their family and friends. Washing your hands will also prevent ringworm infections, but the best way to avoid a ringworm infection is to avoid contact with other people's "personal" belongings, like towels, wash clothes, underwear, etc.
Since roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms require an intervention in the life cycle of these worms to get rid of them, it should be obvious that preventing a life cycle from being possible is the best way to prevent an intestinal worm infection. Preventing a flea infestation will help you control tapeworm infections. Avoiding other litter boxes and stopping your pet from eating other animals' feces will prevent roundworm and hookworm infections. If you have recently adopted a pet or are bringing a new pet into a home where pets are already present, it would be wise to enforce a quarantine period to ensure that the new pet doesn't introduce worms to the others until its deworming regiment is completed and stamped by your veterinarian.