Wriggly worms – whilst they may do our garden beds the world of good, the parasitic variety that afflict our cats and dogs are ones we would like to avoid. Worryingly, some of these worms can pass onto humans and cause health issues, so prevention and treatment is very important.
There are four parasites (commonly referred to as worms) that afflict cats and dogs – Roundworms, Hookworms, Tapeworms and Whipworms. Infestation mainly occurs when a cat or dog eats worm eggs from faeces, contaminated meat or offal, or even from grass. Worms can also pass through the womb or through mother’s milk and can burrow through the skin. In this article, we look at these four parasites in more detail:
Roundworms are long white worms, common in puppies & kittens. Infestation occurs through the womb or milk from the mother. Many puppies and kittens are infected by Roundworms and it is important to treat your animals early on, so speak with your Vet about when is the best time to do this. Adult worms live in the digestive tract, stealing nutrients and irritating the tract lining. Common symptoms are potbellies, poor coat condition, diarrhoea, vomiting and trouble gaining weight.
Hookworms are small parasites that chew their way into the intestinal wall. They attach to the wall and feed on blood. Infection can occur from mother to puppies and kittens or through eating infested soil or skin contact with infested soil. Hookworms are very small and only detectable by microscope. Black or tarry faeces may alert you to the occurrence of Hookworms. Other symptoms include weakness, lethargy and dull coat.
Tapeworms are long white worms that live within the digestive tract. There are two common types – Dipylidium caninum andTaenia. Pets become infected from eating fleas infested with tapeworm when grooming, or by eating infested rodents or other prey (common in cats). Often there are no symptoms, but occasionally diarrhoea and vomiting may present in infected animals.
Whipworms have long, slender bodies with a small club like end, thus their name. They live within the lining of the large intestine. Infection normally occurs by animals eating or coming into contact with faeces that contain Whipworm eggs. Like tapeworm, there are often no symptoms but diarrhoea can occur with heavier infestations.
Some general symptoms to be on alert for which may indicate parasite infestation – licking at anal area, scooting, weight loss, increased or decreased appetite, poor hair coat, poor skin condition, abdominal distension, diarrhoea, lethargy, irritability and abdominal pain.
So how do we determine if our pets have got worms? Whilst some worms can be seen in faeces or vomit, the most thorough and definitive way of testing is by having your Vet analyse a stool sample. This should be done regularly to rule out worm problems – twice a year if possible.
There are many worming treatments to both prevent and treat an active case. Your Vet will be able to help you with decide the best treatment for your pet.
Want to try and prevent a case of the wriggly critters? Follow these useful tips:
- Regular worming (pregnant animals should only be wormed under Veterinary supervision)
- Disinfect water and food bowls regularly
- Regularly clean kennels and beds
- Remove faeces in the yard at least once a week
- Hand washing is very important to prevent the contamination of worms in humans