Worms are parasites that live in the intestines of cats and dogs. They do not always cause obvious illness, but can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and weight loss. Some worms can also cause problems in humans, so it is important we prevent our pets becoming infected.
Roundworms are also known as nematodes or ascarids. They are called roundworms due to their shape and are often described as looking like pieces of spaghetti. Roundworms can grow to 3-6 inches in length. They live within the intestines and feed off digested food.
Roundworms can cause:
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Poor growth
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Discomfort in the abdomen (tummy)
- Reduced appetite
- Dull coat
Symptoms are worse in young puppies and kittens, and severe infestations can even be fatal. In adult dogs and cats roundworms will not always cause symptoms, so a healthy appearance does not mean there is no infection.
How do pets get roundworm?
Roundworm infections are commonly caught by ingesting faeces from an infected animal, such as licking themselves after walking through soil containing faeces or sniffing another dogs' faeces. They can also be spread to puppies and kittens through milk if the mum is infected. Some animals can carry roundworm eggs without being ill, such as birds, rodents and rabbits, but will infect a cat or dog if they themselves are eaten.
Roundworms can also cause disease in humans, especially the dog roundworm called Toxocara Canis. People are usually infected by ingesting tiny amounts of animal faeces. It is most common in small children, who may play in contaminated soil then put their hands in their mouth. Eggs are not infectious until 10-21 days after the animal passes them, so fresh faeces are less of a concern. Symptoms of roundworm infection in humans include cough, fever, stomach pain, weight loss, rashes and tiredness. Occasionally the worms can affect the liver, brain or eyes, causing blindness or seizures.
Preventing and treating roundworm
Roundworms can be prevented by regular worming of cats and dogs, using an appropriate product. Adult animals should be wormed every 1-3 months, and females should be wormed during pregnancy (usually in the third trimester). Young puppies and kittens should be wormed frequently in the first few months of their life. Your vet or nurse can advise on the best product and frequency for your pet.
Tapeworms are also known as cestodes. They are flat, segmented and can grow up to 30cm in length! Eventually the segments break off and are passed in faeces; they are about 1cm in size and are often described as looking like grains of rice. Tapeworms live within the intestines where they attach to the wall of the gut.
Tapeworms can cause:
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Weight loss
- Stunted growth
- Intestinal blockage
- Irritation around the back end
Symptoms are worse in young puppies and kittens, and severe infestations can even be fatal. In adult dogs and cats tapeworms will not always cause symptoms, so a healthy appearance does not mean there is no infection.
How do pets get tapeworm?
Tapeworm infections are not passed directly between animals but instead through contact with an infected animal that doesn’t have symptoms. The most common tapeworm affecting pet dogs and cats is spread by fleas, which are swallowed during grooming. Less common tapeworms can be spread by rodents, rabbits and birds so are seen more in cats that hunt.
Preventing and treating tapeworm
Tapeworms can be prevented by regular worming of cats and dogs, using an appropriate product. Adult animals should be wormed every 3-6 months. Your vet or nurse can advise on the best product and frequency for your pet.