How do I know if my pet has worms?

No pet owner likes to think of their dog or cat having worms but the reality is that no matter how much you pamper your pet their chances of harbouring worms are highly likely. Unfortunately only two are commonly seen with the unaided eye. Some infestations cause few or no symptoms. This is why veterinarians recommend deworming every three months.

Pets can harbour several kinds of worms, some of them deadly, and deworming regularly is as important as annual vaccinations and good nutrition.

These worms or parasites include the parasitic tapeworm, the roundworm, the hookworm, the whipworm, and the heartworm.

The only two commonly seen in the stool with the unaided eye are roundworms and tapeworms. Some worm eggs or larvae can be dormant in the pet’s body and activated only in times of stress, or in the case of roundworms and hookworms, until the later stages of pregnancy when they activate and infest the soon-to-be-born puppies and kittens.

 

Worms to look out for

Tapeworms

This parasitic flatworm lives in the intestines.  It has a long ribbon like body with many segments that can become independent, and a small head bearing hooks and suckers. You may notice dried, white, grain-like segments in faeces or under your pet’s tail. Tapeworm must be first pass through an intermediate host (a flea) before they can infect your dog and cat.

Symptoms

– biting

– licking

– dragging of the hindquarters.

Roundworms

This round-bodied, unsegmented worm hatches in the intestines and lives there. The eggs of the roundworm usually enter the body through contaminated water or food.

Symptoms

– general weakness

– a swollen belly

– a dull coat

– vomiting

Hookworms

This parasitic worm attaches to the wall of the gut, puncturing the blood vessels and feeding on the animal’s blood. A severe hookworm infestation can kill puppies, often making them severely anaemic from the loss of blood.

Symptoms

– diarrhoea

– bloody diarrhoea

– weight loss

– anaemia

Whipworm

These look like whips with wider ‘handles’ at the end.  They are generally transmitted through ingestion of contaminated matter. Although they seldom cause a dog’s death, whipworms are a real nuisance for the dog and can be a problem for the veterinarian to diagnose.

Symptoms

– bloody diarrhoea

– faecal incontinence

– weight loss

– malnutrition

Heartworm

Heartworm disease is a serious, often fatal, disease. It is caused by worms living in the heart and the pulmonary arteries. Heartworm prevention is essential for pets travelling to endemic areas.

Symptoms

– coughing

– reduced exercise tolerance

– heart failure

Giardia

Giardia is a single-celled parasite that resides in the small intestine. Before passing in stools, they become encased within hard shells called cysts which allows them to survive outside the intestines for months. Once inside the host, the cysts dissolve and the parasites are released.

Symptoms

– dehydration

– upset stomach or nausea

– abdominal discomfort

– flatulence

Spirocerca lupi

A potentially lethal disease. Sudden death can occur.

Symptoms

– oesophageal obstructions

– regurgitation

– coughing

– weight loss

– loss of appetite

– salivation

– anaemia

– fever

– cancer

– painful swallowing

How do I prevent worms?

Remove faeces from your lawn, street, or kennel daily.

Exercise your pets in grassy areas not frequented by other animals.

Prevent your pet from eating rodents and earthworms

Control fleas

Deworm pregnant pets before breeding, and again before whelping to help prevent infecting newborn pets.

Worm medication

There are several anti-worm medications available from EberVet Vetshops:

DRONTAL for dogs and cats

REVOLUTION is a tick and flea drop but also a dewormer and is safe to use on puppies from 6 weeks of age and is safe for pregnant and lactating bitches

PROFENDER is a topical drop for cats. It covers roundworm, hookworm and adult tapeworm

ANTEZOLE paste for cats and dogs covers ascarids, hookworm and tapeworm 

ADVOCATE is a topical treatment for cats and dogs

MEDIWORM for dogs only

MILBEMAX is a chewable tablet for both dogs and cats that is also safe for pregnant and lactating bitches. Covers hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm in cats.

When must I deworm?

Puppies and kittens every 2 weeks until the age of 3 months then once a month until the age of 6 months

For pets 6 months and older, every 3 months.