Worms are one thing you don’t want to share with your pet.
Worm infestations in our pets are more common than you may think, even the most cared for cat or dog is likely to be affected by worms at some stage of their lives. Most pets will show few signs, but a large burden of worms can cause serious health problems to your pet e.g. diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss and anaemia. This is particularly true for young animals- hence worming frequently is important in puppies and kittens.
Some worms, in particular Toxocara canis (the dog roundworm), can also pose a human health risk and can lead to serious illnesses e.g. blindness in children.
Where do worms come from?
Pets can pick up worms in a variety of ways:
- From eating infected prey species or raw meat
- From infected animals
- From eating the larvae or eggs of worms in faeces or even grass where faeces have previously been
These live in your pet's intestines and survive by feeding off the intestinal contents. Most infections are acquired by swallowing worm eggs which are passed in the faeces of infected animals. Kittens and puppies can acquire worms from their mother during pregnancy or nursing. Worm eggs can survive in soil for long periods of time. These worms most commonly cause weight loss, failure to thrive and can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
These are long flat worms that attach to the intestines, and need an intermediate host such as fleas and rodents to complete their lifecycle. Fleas are infected with tapeworm larvae, then the pet swallows the fleas while grooming and the larvae develop into adult worms in your pet's gut.
When mature, the worms shed egg filled body segments. These resemble grains of rice and are often seen on the pets bedding or at the rear end.
The tapeworm eggs are eaten by flea larvae in the environment and the cycle begins again.
Clinical signs are as with roundworms, however, if your dog is also rubbing it's bottom on the ground or if your cat is licking it's bottom excessively tapeworms could be the cause.
These are blood sucking worms that often affect puppies especially when they are kept in large numbers. It is a common problem in rescue centres and retired race greyhounds. They can cause anaemia which may cause your dog to be lethargic.
Lungworm has been a problem in Southern England and South Wales, but it is important to be aware of these parasites as cases have been reported elsewhere in the UK.
Lungworm use slugs and snails as their intermediate host, this means they need them as part of their life cycle to develop into adult worms. Hence, if your dog eats infected slugs or snails, or even licks or eats grass where they have been, they are at risk of lungworm infection which can be very serious and life threatening.
The adult worms live in the heart, and the eggs hatch and develop in the lungs. This can cause signs such as coughing, exercise intolerance and lethargy. They can also prevent the blood from clotting correctly, leaving these pets at risk of bleeding inappropriately.
This can be prevented with appropriate worming.
Protecting your pet from worms
There are a variety of products available to protect your dog or cat from worms, so please discuss prevention with one of our very helpful vets, nurses or reception staff and we will be pleased to help you decide on the most appropriate treatment option available for your pet.
You cannot always see evidence of worm infections so routine worming is necessary to prevent problems. It is also important to remember that even the best product cannot prevent re-infection in adult animals and your pet can be re-infected shortly after worming treatments so regularly worming your pet is advisable.
- Worm adult pets every 3 months (more regularly for hunting cats)
- Treat for fleas regularly, as they are a crucial part of the tapeworm life cycle
- Wash your hands before eating to prevent human infection
- Disinfect food and water bowls
- Remove faeces from the garden regularly and pick up faeces when on walks