Dogs get it. Cats get it, too. Parasitic worms are dangerous for your pets so you need to be able to identify the signs and symptoms and get them the treatment they need.
There are four types of worms that can live in your pets intestines, these are:
- Roundworms: These can grow up to six inches long. They live in the intestines ad appear like noodle-like bits in feces. They cause swollen bellies and can cause major problems in puppies.
- Hookworms: These are thin, small worms that are not always visible without a microscope. They hook themselves in the intestinal wall and can cause internal bleeding. The first sign of a hookworm is a bloody stool.
- Tapeworms: These are long and flat worms. They can be seen as rice-like grains when they leave the body.
- Whipworms: These are thin and thread-like worms that live in the large intestines. They do not tend to appear in fecal samples so several tests may be needed to detect them.
Other types of worms that do not live in the intestines:
- Heartworm: They are hard to detect and spread through mosquito bites. They are difficult to detect when the worms are still in the larvae stage, but they can cause significant heart damage that can be fatal to pets. Signs of infection include weakness, coughing, severe weight loss, fainting, coughing up blood and congestive heart failure.
- Lungworms: This can be fatal to cats. They usually become infected after eating slugs, rodents, birds or reptiles that carry the parasite. Symptoms include breathing difficulties and coughing.
Watch out for signs:
The symptoms vary depending on the type of worm that has infected your pet. Some do not even show symptoms until your pet’s health is at risk. Here are some things you can watch out for to detect a worm infestation:
- Scratching or rubbing of the rear – This unusual behaviour is a sign that the worms may be causing itchiness.
- Bloated belly – Some worms, particularly roundworms, can cause swelling of the stomach. This is most often seen in younger dogs that get the worms from their mother.
- Bloody stool – Diarrhoea and bloody stool are common symptoms of a worm infestation. The hookworm is the most common type that causes this symptom.
- Weakness, increased appetite, weight loss – Worms take the nutrition from your pets so they don’t get enough. They will get hungry and but you may notice that they are constantly weak and do not gain weight no matter how much they eat.
- Visible worms in stool – Some types of worms can be seen but others are only visible under the microscope, so it’s best to take your pet to the vet to get this checked.
How they get it:
Worms spread through different means. For roundworms, it is almost always through the mother. A mother milk can pass roundworm through puppies and kittens. Some newborn dogs already have dormant eggs that do not become active until the dog gets pregnant.
Infected dirt and feces can have roundworm eggs and hookworm larvae that can be transferred to your pet. Fleas and other animals are another carrier, which can transmit tapeworms. Cats that hunt and eat other animals like lizards, mice and birds are at a higher risk of contracting worms.
To prevent spread of worms, it is important to clean yards and litter boxes regularly, properly disposing of animal fecal matter that may be infected.
If you suspect that your pet may be infected, take them to the vet immediately so testing and treatment can be done. The vet may need a fecal sample and may prescribe a week-long course of deworming medication.
It is important that your pet is de-wormed regularly for their health and yours. On rare occasions, these parasites can even be passed onto humans, particularly to children.
At Abbotts Way we recommend the following worming regimen for both cats and dogs.
- Every two weeks until twelve weeks of age.
- Every month from twelve weeks to six months of age.
- Every three months thereafter.