Pet’s like cats and dogs are particularly susceptible to certain types of parasites if they regularly go outside (and in some cases even when they stay in!), where they are exposed to sources of them. Parasitic worms can have potentially serious effects on your pet’s health, particularly young animals like puppies and kittens if preventative measures aren’t taken. There are also certain types of worms that can infect humans, which are usually passed on through your furry friend, so to keep all your family safe, here’s a quick run through of what you need to know about worms and preventing them.
Common Types of Worms
These are the most common type of internal parasites in both cats and dogs. Your cat can acquire them by ingesting an infected rodent, whereas your dog is more likely to get them by sniffing or licking infected faeces. Kittens can also get these worms from an infected mother’s milk.
- Abdominal swelling
- Abnormal faeces
Hookworm is more common in dogs and they can become infected when they accidentally swallow hookworm larvae, usually by grooming their feet or sniffing contaminated faeces or soil. Cats usually become infected through ingestion or skin contact.
- Poor appetite
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- General coat appearance will be poor
Both cats and dogs can acquire tapeworms by ingesting an intermediate host, like an infected flea or rodent.
- Weight loss
- Presence of worm (which look like grains of rice) in the fur around the hind end
- Dogs specifically may display scooting (rubbing his rear end across the ground)
Cats and dogs can become infected with lungworm when they drink water or eat infected prey including snails, slugs, and frogs.
- A persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss and poor appetite
This parasite is spread to hosts by mosquitoes, although most common in dogs, cats can also be infected by being bitten by a mosquito that has bitten an infected dog.
- A persistent cough
- Poor appetite or weight loss
- Swollen abdomen
Regularly treating your pet with a high-quality and effective flea and worming treatment is one of the best ways to make sure that your beloved pets and you and your family stay in optimum health.
Your local veterinary practice will usually supply ‘vet grade’ treatments which cover all the worms that could affect your pet. Some flea treatments cover certain types of worms, but not necessarily all of them. You can of course also buy some treatments in supermarkets and pets stores. However, bear in mind these may not be as effective and that each brand varies in what worms they treat so it’s important to check the packet if you are unsure or ideally speak to an expert like your vet.
While all worming treatments don’t prevent your pet getting worms, they do kill the worms before your pet has enough in its body to cause disease.
To ensure you and your family is safe, practice cleanliness and basic hygiene by washing your hands before eating. Picking up dog mess in the garden can also help avoid contamination.
When to worm
When to worm your pet depends on how old it is. Puppies and kittens are more susceptible to infection so it’s important to ensure they get this treatment. Deworming a puppy or kitten should be top of your priority list when you first get them, some breeders and rescue centers often do the first treatment, so it’s good to ask this before you leave to take your new pet home. Consult your vet if you are concerned about when to start treating your pet for parasites, they will always be the best and most trusted source of information.
What to do if you think your pet is already infected
If you suspect your pet may already be infected with a type of worm, it is extremely important that you take them to see a vet as soon as possible. To clear an infection, you may have to give more frequent and higher doses based specifically on the size and weight of your pet, so trying to guess this yourself is risking and may cause further problems. In the case of heartworm, simply giving flea and worming treatment to your already infected pet can cause even more damage and worsening symptoms such as inflammation.