Whether we like it or not, all dogs and cat will have worms - they are born with them. Heavy infestations of worms can cause ill health and in some cases can be fatal. The roundworm Toxacara canis can be transmitted to humans, especially children and can cause blindness and brain damage. Just because you can't see worms doesn't mean your pets haven't got them.
Roundworms (Toxacara and Toxascaris)
Roundworm eggs are passed in faeces and picked up when your dog or cat sniffs around where another animal has been. They will remain active in the environment for many months. The eggs develop into larvae which migrate round the body eventually returning to the intestine to continue the lifecycle. In females some larvae remain in the tissue and migrate to the uterus and mammary glands during pregnancy, and are then transmitted directly to the unborn litter and/or through the mother's milk. Symptoms will include unthriftiness, weight loss, coughing due to worm migration through the lungs, vomiting and diarrhoea. Roundworm infestations can be fatal in young puppies and kittens. Up to 50 children a year are blinded and many thousands suffer visual impairment and varying degrees of brain damage because Toxocara is easily picked up by children in parks and areas where dogs have been, long after the faeces have gone.
Tapeworms (Taenia spp., Dipylidium caninum, Echinococcus)
Tapeworms release segments via the faeces that have to pass through an intermediate host, which is in turn then eaten by a dog or cat. The intermediate hosts are rodents and birds for Taenia, fleas for Dipylidium and sheep for Echinococcus. Cats that hunt and dogs that scavenge are obviously more at risk. Symptoms will include loss of condition and diarrhoea. Heavy infestations in puppies and kittens can be fatal. Echinococcus is transmissable to man and can cause the fatal Hydatid disease. Tapeworm segments can often be seen in faeces or around the anus and resemble rice grains when dry.
Hookworm can be transmitted directly from eggs voided in faeces or by penetration of the skin of the paws by larvae. It is common in foxes and in dogs kept in crowded conditions. Symptoms include sore skin, diarrhoea, loss of condition and anaemia and in rare cases can be fatal. It is uncommon in cats.
Whipworm is transmitted directly by eggs voided in the faeces. Symptoms may include loss of condition and diarrhoea.
Lungworm and Heartworm (Aleurostrongylus, Angiostrongylus, Filaroides)
These worms usually require intermediate hosts. In the UK these are mainly slugs and snails in dogs, and rodents, reptiles and birds in cats. The intermediate hosts eat the eggs after they have been coughed up and swallowed and passed in the faeces. Dogs and cats then eat the intermediate host. Symptoms will include coughing, internal haemorrhage and heart failure. Treatment can be very difficult especially with heart worm and prevention is very important. Lungworm is common in dogs and cats, and heart worm is becoming more common especially in the southeast. These worms will increase with global warming.
It is important to worm puppies and kittens several times and adult animals regularly throughout their lives. We recommend worming puppies every two weeks from weaning until they are 14-16 weeks of age. Kittens often only need a single effective dose at 6-8 weeks of age but it is advisable to repeat this 2 weeks later. Adult dogs should be wormed monthly and cats at least every 3 months but this depends on your pet's habits. It is also important to pick-up dog faeces to reduce worm eggs in the environment. Flea control is important to prevent tapeworm. Most worm treatments bought from pet shops are ineffective and no single product is effective against all worms.
For advice on worming your pet please call the clinic. We have a wide range of effective products from palatable tablets to spot-on products which de-flea your pet at the same time.
St Martins Veterinary Clinic
126 Station Road
Tel.: 01895 444400
Fax: 01895 431520
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