If there is one subject that is guaranteed to make everyone squirm it is worms. No one wants to talk about them, much less see them, however keeping on top of worm management is a vital part of pet ownership. Animals that are not wormed regularly run the risk of contracting potentially devastating infestations, not to mention the risk of passing them on to other members of the household – both animal and human. As well as helping to keep their pet healthy and happy, owners who carry out regular parasite control through their trusted vets can even benefit from lower pet insurance premiums, so here we get to grips with why worming is a must for our four legged friends.
What are worms?
Worms, also known as helminths, are essentially parasites that live in the intestine of your cat or dog. The most common worms are roundworm (Toxocara cati and Toxocara cani respectively), and Tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum and Taenia taeniaeformis). As the name suggests, roundworms are smooth, slim and rounded, whereas Tapeworms are long flat worms that consist of composed of many segments.
Where do worms come from?
Roundworms are usually transmitted through ingesting infective larvae in the environment, specifically animal faeces, which is one reason why poop scooping is incredibly important to prevent worm infestations. Roundworms can even be transmitted in utero and via the mother’s milk, so kittens and puppies and nursing mothers need to be regularly wormed in the first few week’s post birth.
Dipylidium tapeworms are transmitted to animals through flea larvae that ingest worm eggs when feeding, and in turn, grooming cats and dogs ingest these eggs, resulting in infestation. For this reason, any animal that has been infested with fleas should be wormed as the likelihood is that they will have also been infected with tapeworm. The Taenia tapeworm is passed on to animals by eating small rodents.
How will worms affect my pet?
Many worm infestations go completely unnoticed, and it is only when a massive infestation has been established that signs of illness, such as vomiting, weight loss, distended abdomen and poor condition begin to show. You may see tell-tale worms or worm segments on or around your pet’s anus, coat or bedding. If you notice any symptoms or see any worms/eggs consult your local vets straight away. Roundworms can also be passed on to humans, therefore it is vital to regularly wash the animals bedding, remove and dispose of all faeces carefully and carry out strict hand washing after handling animals or soil in an outdoor space that is shared with an animal.
How do I prevent worms?
When treating your pet for worms, both as a response to infestation and as prevention, it is vital that you use an anthelmintic that kills the worm at every life stage. Dogs and cats should be wormed once every 6-8 weeks with a professional veterinary grade wormer, combined with regular flea treatment, to ensure that you stop all parasites in their tracks.