Preventing and treating intestinal parasites or worms in pets

Worms are very common in the environment and are generally picked up by dogs and cats in social environments such as parks, roaming the neighbourhood and friend’s houses.

Worm eggs are generally shed in faeces and picked up by dogs and cats when they are sniffing about or licking their feet and coats after coming into contact with the eggs on the faeces or ground. Your dog or cat can also get worms by walking on ground with infective larvae penetrating through skin.

Worms mostly infect their natural host which is the dog or cat but sometimes we see “zoonotic” infections which means it has been transmitted to an “unnatural” host such as humans. The most susceptible people to infection are children. It is very important to teach children to practice good hygiene when playing with pets and when around the garden or if there is the potential to come in into contact with pet faeces.

It’s best to worm your dogs and cats regularly using worming tablets or chews, or the form of drops placed onto the back of the animal’s neck.

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At Vetaround mobile vet we recommend you worm puppies and kittens every 2 weeks from birth to around 3 months of age. Then monthly until 6 months of age and then 3 monthly for life in higher risk animals.

The more social your pet the higher the risk of getting intestinal worms. If your pet is strictly indoors then the likelihood of contracting intestinal parasites is significantly reduced. You can discuss the frequency of worming required for your pets circumstances with our house call vets.

Roundworms (Toxocara canis)

Roundworms are typically the largest worms and are cylindrical and long in shape. They live in your pet’s intestines. You may see these worms in the faeces or vomit of infected dogs or cats.

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The most common clinical sign is diarrhoea or vomiting, but extreme cases can cause life threatening intestinal obstruction. Roundworms also cause the serious zoonotic disease called “Visceral Larval Migrans” which mostly affects children.

The roundworm migrates around the body of the child causing damage wherever it goes and usually lands up in the eye where it can cause severe problems including blindness.

For this reason roundworm prevention in pets is vitally important.

Hookworms

Hookworm infection of dogs and cats is generally orally (via the mouth) or penetration of the larvae through the skin. The adults also live in the intestine but attach to the intestinal wall feeding off blood. The most important clinical sign of significant infection is weakness and anaemia often requiring blood transfusions when severe.

Hookworm can also cause a zoonotic illness in people called “Cutaneous Larval Migrans” when the larval penetrate and move around under the skin causing inflamed skin reactions.

Whipworms

Whipworms also live in the intestines where they also feed on blood. Whipworm infection can cause several different clinical signs in dogs including bloody diarrhoea but can also make your dog very sick, weak and dehydrated sometimes requiring extended stays in hospital.

Tapeworms

The common tapeworm infection in dogs causes itchy bottoms as it lives in the area around the anus causing irritation. It less commonly can cause mild diarrhoea. It is usually a small worm looking much like a grain of rice and is readily prevented by worming medication.

It is generally spread by fleas and so good flea control also helps prevent tapeworm infection.

There is a more serious tapeworm called “hydatids” which we generally don’t see in the city areas. The infection is much more common in country areas and dogs are the natural host thereby not usually showing any signs of infection.

Humans can become seriously ill if they ingest tissue cysts from improperly cooked meat or come into contact with eggs that may be spread by contact with dogs and other animals. If you live in a potential risk area simple good hygiene and proper cooking of meat will help to prevent infection.

To learn more about our worm prevention in pets contact us today.

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