Worms

It can be difficult to tell if your animal has worms as they live inside your pet. They shed eggs in your pet’s faeces but these are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. Cats who are hunters and dogs which scavenge are more at risk from becoming infected with worms. Their control is particularly important in houses with children as they can become easily infected with animal worms.

What are worms?

Basically worms are wormed-shaped parasites that live inside your pet. They are mainly found in the intestines but can also be found in the hearts and lung.

There are several types of worms but these can be split into 4 main categories:

  • Tapeworms
  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Whipworms

Worms can range in size from a few millimeters long to several meters!

worms in a pot

These are tapeworms.  You will only see them like this if you pet is very infected and passes them in their faeces or vomit.  This is quite unusual and generally only seen in puppies.

How can my pet catch worms?

  • Fleas and worms go together, fleas can pass on tapeworms to your pet, so if your pet has fleas, always treat them for worms as well.
  • Scavenging – some dogs are keen on eating more or less anything on walks! Worms and their eggs are often found in animal carcasses, such as sheep, and also on wet grasses.
  • Contaminated soil – Worms shed their eggs in the animals faeces and then these can survive in the environment for long periods of time. So, dogs especially are at risk when they rifle through the undergrowth!.
  • Hunting – cats which hunt are at a high risk from worms, as these can be passed to them from the mice and birds they catch and eat.
  • Suckling – some types of worms are passed in the mothers milk to puppies and kittens, so it is very important to regularly worm all pregnant bitches and queens, and also their babies

How can I tell if my pet has worms?

  • It can be very difficult to tell if your pet has worms as often there are no symptoms, Worm eggs will be shed in the faeces but these tend to be microscopic, and adult worms will only be seen if they are dead, which tends to be after you have wormed your pet!
  • Fleas and worms go together, fleas can transmit tapeworms, so if your pet has fleas, they are more than likely to have worms
  • Some types of worms will make you pets bottom itchy, if you see them scooting along the floor, or nibbling at their backends, it could be an indication they have worms
  • Sometimes you may see worm segments clinging to your pets bottom or in their basket, they look like small grains of rice.
  • There are some kinds of worms which live in the heart or lungs, but these tend to be rare in the UK. Sometimes animals suffering from lungworm or heartworm will have a soft cough and may be lethargic.
  • Young animals with worms will often have distended stomachs, and poor coats.
  • If you ask your vet, they may be able to perform a faecal egg count, on your pets faeces, which will diagnose if they have worms. However, this is not commonly done unless an animal is ill, as it is much easier and cheaper to just worm your pet!

Hunting will increase your pets chances of getting worms
Fleas and worms go together, always treat regularly for both
An itchy bottom can be a sign of worms

How do I treat for worms?

  • Wormers for pets are available from your vets, you can also buy them at supermarkets and pet shops.
  • It is always best to buy wormers from your vet as they will be guaranteed to work and also your vet will be able to advise you on the best type of treatment and how often you should worm
  • Wormers come in tablet, powered or liquid form, ask your vet for advice, but all can be given in food.
  • There is now a ‘spot on’ preparation against worms in cats, which can be a lot easier than giving tablets! It is only available from your vet.
  • Your pet should be treated every 3 months with a broad spectrum wormer, even indoor animals.
  • Pets which are at a higher risk of worms, those that hunt, or travel abroad regularly, should be wormed every month.

There are many different forms of wormer; tablets, granules, liquid, and spot-ons are all available from your vet.

Worms and people

  • The worms that infect our pets can spread to people, and children are at particular risk.
  • Pets that live with children should be wormed on a monthly basis to ensure they remain 100% worm free and that the children are safe.
  • They will mainly infect the gut, but under rare circumstances, some worms can gain access to the eye and cause blindness.
  • ALWAYS clean up after your dog
  • ALWAYS wash your hands after clearing up your pets faeces and before you eat.

Children are particularly at risk from catching worms from pets as they often have a very close relationship
Always remember to clean up after your dog, contaminated faeces is one of the most common ways worms spread.

Worms and travelling abroad.

  • There are several species of worms which are not present in the UK, but which animals who travel abroad can catch.
  • The most important of these is HEARTWORM, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.
  • You must always treat your animal for parasites before travelling to and from the UK, ask your vet for specific advice.

Heartworm is transmitted by flying insects, but it is easily prevented with veterinary standard wormers. Also, help prevent infection by keeping your animals inside at dawn and dusk when they are abroad.

Worms and young animals

  • Puppies and kittens are at particular risk from worms, they can catch them from their mother, from fleas and from the environment.
  • 80% of pups are already infected with worms when they are born, due to transmission via the uterus.
  • Worms in young animals can cause huge damage and even death, so treating them is very important.
  • Puppies and kittens should be treated;
    • Every 2 weeks from birth until 8 weeks old
    • Every month from 8 weeks to 6 months old
    • Then every 3 months as you would an adult
  • Always ask your vet for specific advice

Puppies can catch worms from their mother when suckling, and also because of their naturally curious nature, so it is really important to worm them correctly

Please note, this is an advice only website. If you have any specific queries or concerns about your pet, you should contact your vet.