How to Care for Six Horrifying Parasites

Pork Tapeworm Mania
© Carolina Biological/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Chances are, your father probably ingested tape worms to help him keep that girlish figure while still putting it away at the dinner table. Wasn't that huge in the 70's and 80's? That particular tapeworm was a mere cestoda, however, not a pork tapeworm or Taenia solium.

The point is, T. solium isn't your father's tapeworm. Pet ownership isn't about simply letting a parasite leach off your meals while you reap the slimming effects. When you open your body cavity for a T. solium infection, you're letting in a creature that really wants to get to know you. Not just your bowels, but also your muscles, eyes, spinal cord and maybe even your brain.

If your pet pork tapeworms do make it into your eyeballs, you might experience a detached retina. If they make it into your brain or spine, you also might have to put up with a case of neurocysticercosis. Depending on how many lesions take up inside your skull, you might experience symptoms such as confusion, headaches, attention problems, vertigo, swelling of the brain and sudden death.

Other selections: While you should never choose a pet parasite solely for the neurological side effects, you can also cloud your brain with a nice Malaria fog. If you're a cat person already, consider rooting around in the litter box for a little toxoplasmosis.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.