Pinworms are a common problem for people, particularly for children. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), pinworms are the most common worm infection in the United States1. However, often there is confusion about where this worm came from and how it is transmitted.
Pinworms in People - Enterobiasis
The type of pinworm that people are susceptible to is known as Enterobius vermicularis. The infection is sometimes referred to as enterobiasis. Only humans (and possibly other primates) can transmit this type of infection.
Pinworms are transmitted between humans using a fecal to oral route (contaminated hands, bedding).
From the CDC Pinworm FAQ:
"People become infected, usually unknowingly, by swallowing (ingesting) infective pinworm eggs that are on fingers, under fingernails, or on clothing, bedding, and other contaminated objects and surfaces. Because of their small size, pinworm eggs sometimes can become airborne and ingested while breathing."
Do Dogs and Cats Get Pinworms and Can They Pass Them to People?
Dogs and cats do not get pinworms. As a result, they are not a potential reservoir for infection of people either. In other words, your child cannot get pinworms from your dog or cat.
Pinworms in Other Animals
There are other species of animals that are susceptible to pinworms. However, the types of pinworms these animals are susceptible to are different than the Enterobius vermicularis pinworm that normally infects people.
For example, horses are susceptible to a form of pinworm known as Oxyuris equi and another known as Probstmayria vivipara. Rabbits can become infested with Passalurus ambiguus and hamsters and mice may get Syphacia obvelata.