Do you really need to worm your cat or dog?
It’s easy to forget to worm our pets. Worms live inside your dog or cat so can’t be seen, however although they might not be as obvious a problem as fleas and ticks, they can still lead to health problems in your pet, and even disease in you and your family.
Why so serious?
Intestinal worms are common, and adult cats and dogs may not show any obvious outward signs of a worm infestation. However symptoms can occur, especially in puppies and kittens, and can include vomiting and diarrhoea, weight loss, lethargy, and in younger animals a pot-belly, poor coat and slow growth. The other really important thing to know about worms, is that some of them can pose a risk to our health too. So worming our pets helps to protect not just their health, but that of ourselves and families too.
Know your enemy
So, what exactly are you up against? There are a number of different species of worm that can affect our dogs and cats. The main intestinal worms of concern in dogs are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms. In UK cats, roundworms and tapeworms are the main culprits.
These are the most common intestinal parasite found in both cats and dogs. Several inches in length, they look like thin white strands of spaghetti. The chances are that you’ll never actually see one though, as they live, feed and breed inside the intestine of your pet. Infected pets pass microscopic roundworm eggs out in their poo, which enter the soil, and other animals can become infected with roundworm if they eat these eggs while rummaging around outside. Animals can also become infected with roundworm through hunting and by eating raw or undercooked meat. If people accidentally eat roundworm eggs (eggs can get onto our hands if we’re gardening, can get onto food grown outside, or even be present in our pet’s fur), the larvae of this parasite can travel in our bodies and cause serious disease.
Cats and dogs can get tapeworms in a few different ways, but the most common way is by swallowing infected fleas when they groom themselves. Fleas can contain the larval stage of the flea tapeworm, and once inside your pet, this develops into a new adult tapeworm. Just as with roundworms, it’s not always easy to tell if your pet has a tapeworm, but you might sometimes notice tiny segments of the worm crawling in your pet’s poo (resembling crawling rice grains). Tapeworms can also lead to disease in people.
Dogs can pick up hookworms if they eat hookworm larvae from the environment. The parasite may cause no symptoms, but in puppies or dogs with high numbers of worms, they can cause diarrhoea, low grade anaemia and lethargy. Hookworm larvae can also burrow into your dog’s skin, usually between his toes, causing intense skin irritation. And worryingly if we walk barefoot in areas where this parasite is found, larvae can burrow into our feet too.
Dogs can pick up whipworms by eating whipworm eggs from the environment when they’re snuffling around outside. Dogs with low worm numbers may not show symptoms, but in heavy burdens or in young animals, dogs may show signs including diarrhoea containing blood, weight loss, anaemia and lethargy.
The best defence
It’s all too easy to forget about worming your pet, but maintaining a schedule of regular worming treatments is an essential part of pet healthcare.
Speak to your vet today about the best worming treatment for your pet.