Controlling the worm burdens inside your dogs and cats is so important to ensure they remain happy and healthy. High worm burdens can have disastrous consequences – from suffering and illness, to even death. Even healthy-looking pets can be carrying worms so it is crucial to have a control program in place, which specifically targets roundworms and tapeworms.
The most common intestinal parasite found in both cats and dogs are roundworms. Able to grow up to 18cm in length, roundworms live on the partially digested food in the bowel. Tapeworms are longer, flatter and can reach up to 70cm in length.
Your pet can develop a worm burden after ingesting worms directly or via a carrier – such as eating an infected animal or its faeces – or even from eating the surrounding soil as some types of worm eggs can lay dormant for up to a year. Tapeworms can be caught from fleas when pets accidentally ingest them while grooming, leading to a tapeworm infestation developing in the gut. For those of you with pregnant pets, be aware that they can pass on a roundworm infection to their puppies before they are born, as well as via their milk after birth.
Worm infections can be hard to recognise so if you are at all concerned, get in touch with your vet. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite – a serious worm infection makes pets feel bloated and off their food
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- A dull coat
- Scooting (when a pet drags its bottom along the ground) – usually a sign of an advanced tapeworm infection
- Excessive bottom cleaning – usually brought on by intestinal worm infections that cause itching
- A pot-bellied appearance in puppies and kittens
Do remember that worms carry a risk to humans as well, especially roundworm, which can be directly passed on to humans. To prevent infection, make sure people wash their hands properly after handling a pet – especially before eating.
Deciding when to worm will depend on the product you use, the age of your pet and your lifestyle. A worming treatment removes the worms already present in the digestive tract but leaves the system after a few days, so it won’t prevent re-infection – hence the reasons to carry out worming on a regular basis. The frequency of treatment will vary slightly depending on your pets scavenging behaviour and whether or not it is treated regularly for fleas. For pets that live in households with young children, worming may need to be more frequent.
For those of you with puppies or kittens, advice is to treat them every two to three weeks from the age of two weeks until 12 weeks old in puppies and about six weeks to 16 weeks in kittens. After this, treat them monthly until they reach six months old, and then worming every third month is usually sufficient.
Wormers come in many different forms: tablets, pastes, granules, syrups, liquids, spot-ons and injections. Some are specific to certain types of parasite, while others are broad spectrum. Some are effective only against adults, while others will also deal with immature stages. Some may need to be administered on a more frequent basis than others. Although this seems like a lot to consider, simply look for the product that is effective against the worms you specifically want to target and comes in a form that is easy to administer for your pet.
If you need any further advice, either come in store to discuss your needs or schedule an appointment with your vet to help find the right worming solution.