Keep your pet safe from intestinal worms

Worm your pets regularly!

Worms are a very common parasite found amongst pets. Even if you cannot see worms, your pet may be infected. This article will give you a great overview of worms in pets and how you can prevent your pet from being infected.

Worms

Here are some key facts about worms that you may not know:

  • Worms are parasites. Even if you don’t see any worms, your pet may be infected and carry worms without you noticing.
  • Worm eggs can be found almost anywhere, both inside as outside. We can carry them inside, under our shoes, and when cats or dogs clean themselves they can infect themselves.
  • Dog walking areas in particular are high risk areas, even gardens and sand pits can be potentially infected with eggs.
  • Some worms are transferred via prey animals like mice or rats and even fleas can carry eggs of tape worm.
  • Round worm can infect pups inside the uterus and via milk of their mother.
  • Kittens can first be infected via milk of their mother.
  • Most infections of worms are without symptoms.
  • Worms are potentially harmful to both animals and humans and can cause severe health issues.

Type of worms

There are a number of worms that can infect our cats and dogs, these are:

Roundworms

These are some key facts about roundworms:

  • These are the most common endoparasites in both cats and dogs. There are several species but the Toxocara species are the most important.
  • Adult worms live in the intestines of our pets and produce a lot of eggs: 200,000 per day!
  • The eggs are expelled via the faeces. The eggs will remain infectious in our environment for years.
  • Young children and adults that are immune compromised can develop a so called ‘larva migrans syndrome’: larvae can end up in several organs and cause inflammation in the brain and even eyes. Also chronic abdominal pain or liver problems have been described.
  • In cats and dogs the larvae can develop a resting phase in several organs and stay dormant for years at times. Most dogs and cats will have these dormant larvae somewhere in their bodies.
  • When pets are pregnant their hormonal changes will trigger the larvae ‘back to life’ and the roundworms can start migrating again. Their larvae can infect puppies in the uterus and after via milk. Kittens can get infected via milk. This is the reason why puppies need to be wormed from 2 weeks of age and kittens from 4 weeks of age. As the mother will also be cleaning the pups and kittens they too need to be wormed frequently.

Symptoms of roundworm infection in pups and kittens are:

  • Rapid breathing, nasal discharge and cough, sometimes pneumonia
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Poor overall condition, weight loss and a poor coat
  • Faeces with spaghetti like worms up to 18 cm

Whipworms (Trichuris Vulpis)

These are worms 4 – 7.5 cm in length and they can live for 1 to 1.5 years. Their eggs are also very resistant and can remain infectious 3-5 years in the environment. Whipworms usually only infect dogs and cause problems especially in kennels. Most infections are without symptoms but sometimes can lead to slimy diarrhoea and fresh blood.

Hookworms (Uncinaria stenocephala, Uncinaria caninum, Ancylostoma tubaeforme)

These worms live in the small intestine and eat the lining of the intestines. Heavy infections can lead to diarrhoea and poor resorption.

Tapeworms

There are several different species of tapeworm and the most common one is Dipylidium Caninum. This tapeworm is largely harmless and is transmitted via fleas and sometimes lice. Here are some key facts about tapeworms:

  • Cats and dogs can catch a flea and eat it and so infect itself with the eggs of the tapeworm that are inside the flea.
  • This type of tapeworm can grow to up to about 50 cm but will only give symptoms when there are many of them and usually because the egg sacs cause itch and may cause your cat or dog to scoot. The egg sacs look like rice grains and can be found around the anus or in the bedding of your animal.
  • Heavy infections may cause diarrhoea.
  • Other tape worms include Taenia species and Echinococcus.
  • Taenia tapeworm is contracted via eating offal and these tapeworms can grow up to several meters. Heavy infections will also result in diarrhoea.
  • The real danger with tapeworm is the possibility of serious infection in humans.
  • If we ingest the eggs of tapeworm (not including Dipylidium) the larvae can result in serious problems that can be caused by cysts that form in several organs (Hydatids).
  • The Echinococcus tapeworm is particularly notorious for growing cysts in several organs and even the brain that can be difficult to treat.
  • Tasmania is considered Hydatid free and free of Echinococcus tapeworm. To maintain this status we need to be vigilant in worming our pets regularly, to avoid feeding offal and to keep our quarantine status optimal (compulsory worming against tapeworm). 

Prevention

  • Follow the worming protocol
  • Remove faecal material from cats and dogs as soon as possible and dispose off this via regular garbage not composting (eggs will survive!)
  • Children should not play near where dog and or cats defecate
  • Keep children’s nails short
  • Wear gloves when working in the garden and wash hands well after
  • Wash vegetables and fruits well before eating
  • Clean areas where cats and dogs have been resting on a regular basis
  • Do not feed your animal offal

Worming protocol

  • Worm according to weight
  • Adult cats and dogs need a minimal worming of 4 times
  • Worm pups at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 weeks then monthly until 6 months and then 4 times a year
  • Worm kittens at 4, 6, 8, 10 weeks then monthly until 6 months then 4 times yearly
  • Worm all animals together in one household
  • Flea treatment is also tapeworm treatment

Your vet can work with you to create a prevention or treatment plan against worms for your pet. Please contact our clinic on (03) 6424 888 to book an appointment today.

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