Worms in dogs and cats

Both dogs and cats are quite likely to get worms in their lifetimes. Don’t worry, it’s no reflection on the care you give your pet. They’ll contract them just through being dogs and cats – wandering outside, digging, grooming themselves and one another, or eating insects and small animals. Besides, there’s a reason parasites like worms are so successful – they’re good at finding their way to where they want to be regardless of measures taken against them.

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What are the symptoms of worms in dogs and cats?

While some worm infections may show no giveaway signs at all, there are signs of worms in dogs and cats you can look out for:

  • Does your pet’s tummy look a little distended?
  • Do they seem lethargic?
  • Have you spotted blood in their stool, or do they have diarrhoea?
  • Have they lost their appetite or are they losing weight?
  • Does their fur feel dry and coarse?

You may also spot worms in their vomit, in their faeces, or little rice-like particles in their faeces or around their rear end. The latter are likely to be tapeworm segments, full of eggs. If you’re made of stern stuff, look closely and you may see them moving. 

What types of worm are there?

Tapeworms – a flat, segmented worm often transmitted by fleas. Flea larvae eat tapeworm eggs, your cat or dog eats the flea while grooming, the tapeworm is released and grows to maturity in the intestine of your pet. 

Roundworms – can reach up to 20cm in length and live on partially digested food in an animal’s intestine. Their eggs are passed out in faeces, where they can be picked up by another animal, sniffing at or ingesting the poop. They are particularly prevalent in kittens and puppies, where they’re passed on through mother’s milk. And, not that we want to worry you unduly, they also have the potential to spread to humans. 

Hookworms – microscopic intestinal bloodsuckers that live in soil and can enter your pet by ingesting them when they clean their paws, although they can also burrow through skin, or are picked up by young animals through their mother’s milk. 

Whipworms – found in dogs, whipworms live in the large intestine and, again, are passed from dog to dog through the poop of infected animals. 

Lungworms – a type of roundworm transmitted to dogs from snails and slugs that either your dog has eaten or nosed around, or from eating grass or drinking from puddles where an infected snail or slug has left a slime trail. The parasite will eventually settle in the lungs. Though not common in the UK, it is on the rise and can be fatal.

What’s the best treatment for worms in dogs and cats?

The good news is that it’s not too difficult to treat your pet for worms, with a regular worming routine. You should ask your vet for the right kind of deworming treatment for your pet, once it’s been diagnosed. Different kinds of worms may require different solutions, and cat worming tablets and dog worming tablets are not usually interchangeable. Though no wormer is a life-long solution – it will only rid your pet of worms currently living in its digestive tract. Prevention is also better than cure, so a regular programme of worming your pet to prevent worms should be maintained. The frequency will depend on where you live and the kind of life your pets lead, though your vet will be able to give advice. Puppies and kittens will usually need worming more frequently as they’re more prone to infection, and can even be born with worms.

How can I prevent worms in my cat or dog?

Unless your pet is going to be kept locked up and isolated at home, there’s no fool-proof way to prevent them getting worms, but you can do a lot to reduce the risk. 

Be sure to pick up your dog’s poop outside, as this will help prevent spreading any infection to other animals. Try to be quick, as any eggs left behind can live on the soil for two years or more, in some cases. 

Try to watch your dog when you’re out on walks, to stop them investigating poop. This is one of the more likely places they’ll pick up a worm infection. This is not so easy with cats, of course. 

Treat your dogs and cats for fleas very regularly. Fleas are a likely source for tapeworm infection, so keeping them in check should be a major part of any programme of worm avoidance. You can find out more about treating fleas here.  

In general, keep any areas or items used by your pets clean and disinfected, using a disinfectant that’s safe for animals. That includes their food and water bowls, toys, bedding and litter trays, as well as keeping your carpets and furnishings clean of fleas and their eggs. 

Pet Insurance could help with your vet’s bills

You should always consult your vet for expert advice on the treatment and prevention of worms. Vet bills can be expensive and add up fast, though, so you might want to consider pet insurance. While our Pet Insurance doesn’t cover routine veterinary visits or vaccinations, it can help you to cover the cost of unexpected bills when your pet needs treatment due to an accident or illness.

Find out more about our Pet Insurance.

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