Worms are parasites that can live in the gut tract, heart or lungs in dogs and cats.
Intestinal worms include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. Heartworm is more of a problem abroad where they are transmitted by mosquitoes. Lungworm is a parasite that is present in pockets in the UK and for dogs is contracted by eating infected slugs or snails.
Roundworms look like pieces of string, Tapeworms are long and flat with segments, which look like grains of rice and are mobile. They can occasionally be seen on the hair around the bottom. Worm eggs remain infective in the environment for years.
How Do I Know If My Pet Has Worms?
Many infections are subclinical. That means that you may not even know if your pet has worms. However, with larger burdens, intestinal worms can cause diarrhoea and potentially weight loss.
Puppies and kittens may be born with worms or they may pick them up through their mother’s milk. Worm eggs are left behind on the ground when infected animals pass faeces, then picked up on the fur of the muzzle and paws. These eggs may then be swallowed while grooming. Pets that hunt can pick up worms by eating rats and mice. Some worms can get into the body through the skin. Tapeworms can be picked up when pets groom and swallow fleas that are infected with tapeworm eggs.
The intestinal roundworm Toxocara canis is always a concern as it can be transmitted from dogs to humans through ingestion of worm eggs often on hands etc. Although the incidence of larval migration in humans to organs such as the eye (causing blindness) or the brain is low, with 50-100 new cases in the British Isles currently reported yearly, regular worming is essential to reduce numbers of worm eggs in the environment.
Lungworm is always a big concern in dogs as this may cause a cough or exercise intolerance. However, in more severe disease clotting issues can also be seen which can be life threatening. Treatment is available but prevention is always better than cure for those pets who are at risk (those that eat slugs and snails).
Heavy infestations can result in vomiting and severe diarrhoea and cause a loss of blood, weight and condition.
Worms weaken the immune system, and by moving through major organs can cause other illnesses such as pneumonia. Whilst pets with less severe infestations may show no external signs, they are still a possible source of infection to others, including humans.
Preventing Worms And Controlling The Problem
You have to bear in mind that there is absolutely no tablet or injection you can give a pet which will prevent worm infection. The best you can do is to kill any worms which may be present on a regular basis, so it is best to choose a wormer that suits your needs and your pet’s lifestyle.
To avoid worms reaching maturity and affecting your pet's health, and to reduce public health risks, you should worm your pet regularly. Worming every three months will reduce this risk, but ask one of our vets who will be able to evaluate your pet's health and your family's requirements and advise you on a specific worming routine for your pet.
There are a number of different forms available so even if administering medication is difficult, there will be a solution for you.
Regular administration of worming treatments can help prevent worms in your pet. These can be in the form of spot-on treatments or tablets. Dosage will vary dependent on the weight of your cat or dog. Some are even available combined with flea preparations providing an all-in-one treatment!
We have found that some over-the-counter wormers simply lack the efficacy of the prescription wormers.
A worming consultation with your vet can help develop the best worming protocol for your pet (including frequency and dosage).
Pride Veterinary Centre can provide both over the counter and prescription flea and worm control medication. From worming tablets to flea and wormer combined spot-on treatments, we will discuss your pets needs and ensure that you take home the most appropriate treatment.