10 facts about worms and why you should worm your cat or dog
Updated: Jun 22, 2022
Regular worming of your cat and dog is important for both their health and yours. Worms can be zoonotic which means they can pass between pets and humans, this can be particularly serious in young children.
Dogs and cats in the UK can get 3 main types of worms, roundworm, tapeworm and lungworm.
Tapeworm is transmitted though consumption of fleas during grooming so regular flea treatment also helps minimise tapeworm. They can also be spread to your dog or cat if eating raw meat and faeces containing the eggs. Tapeworm look like long ribbons/ tape and can be itchy and unpleasant. Tapeworm usually reach up to 50cm in length, but some have been recorded in whales over 100ft!!!! Tapeworm are made up of small sections, they live in the small intestine. The sections can break off and are full of eggs and these pass out in the poo and can look like moving grains of rice. Though relatively uncommon, humans can also get tapeworm.
Roundworm are transmitted through contact with worm larvae and are common in puppies and kittens as they can be passed via the mothers milk.. They can become infected at the park, on walks or when consuming infected soil, faeces or infected prey animal like a mouse. It is thought nearly a quarter of cats in the UK are infected with roundworm. They can cause diarrhoea and can be passed to humans. Roundworms lay eggs in the intestine which are passed in the faeces. The eggs are so small they are not visible to the naked eye. The worms are therefore transmitted via faeces as the eggs are released. Although they rarely cause serious problems in older animals they can cause very serious illness in young animals like dehydration, anaemia and gut blockages which left untreated can cause death.
Lung worm in dogs and cats is slightly different. Lungworm can be picked up in the slimy coating of snails and slugs or via items carried in your pets mouth that a slug/ snail has traveled across like a toy or water bowl. Young animals can be infected in the womb or through milk. Lung worm can cause a cough and problems with the cardiovascular system, in some cases can be very serious and even cause death.
Tapeworms and roundworms can move through the pets system, they can latch on to the intestine and feed on blood and nutrients. If left untreated this can cause weight loss, anaemia, poor appearance, vomiting and the animal may itch or scoot their anus. Pets can appear pot bellied as their guts are full of worms.
A puppy infected with worms can shed more than 10 million eggs in one week!
Treating worms with a worming medication from your vet reduces health problems associated with parasites to your pet and helps reduce the spread. Clearing up dog faeces is also an important step in minimising infection. High pet traffic areas are likely to have large numbers of eggs in the environment so if your visit these places like the park then a regular worming regime is advised. Discuss the best worming medication with your vet for your particular requirements. Good personal hygiene is also very important to minimise zoonotic spread.
To diagnose worms they maybe seen in the faeces but often they need diagnosed by looking for eggs via microscopic examination of a stool sample.
Intestinal parasites can be a real problem, they can stunt puppies and kittens growth and they can cause inflammation and immune issues. If your pet has other conditions such as diabetes the parasites can cause complications. Ultimately these parasites can shut down major body systems if the infestations are not treated and become life threatening.
Signs of a worm infestation in a human are quite similar to those in your pets. Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating, tiredness and weight loss are the main signs. If your are concerned you may have caught worms from a pet contact your GP. Worms from your pet can cause damage to humans by lodging in organs such as the liver, heart, brain and eyes.