Symptoms of Worms in Dogs & Cats: The Facts

Cat and Dog

Worms can cause illness in affected cats and dogs, and in severe cases, this can lead to serious complications. Thankfully, it is simple to protect your pet against this via a regular worming routine. Here’s what you need to know about worms, and how to safeguard your pet against them.

Types of Worms

There are various worms, which will affect the type of treatment that is given by your pet’s vet:

Roundworm: This type of worm commonly affects both cats and dogs and can potentially be spread to humans. If you come across spaghetti-like strands in your pet’s faeces or vomit, it is likely to indicate a roundworm infestation.

Tapeworm: This type of worm is also common amongst both cats and dogs and will often go hand-in-hand with a flea infestation. This is because tapeworms are often picked up by ingesting eggs laid by ingested fleas. If you spot small, rice-like ‘grains’ in your pet’s faeces, they may have picked up tapeworms.

The Symptoms of Worms

You may spot worms in your pet’s faeces and/or vomit, and around your pet’s anus, depending on the type of worm that has been picked up.

There will not always be obvious symptoms though and those that do occur can be mistaken for other health problems. This includes weight loss, dry and coarse fur, diarrhoea, lethargy and weakness and an increased appetite. However, some affected pets may look perfectly healthy and show no outward signs that anything is wrong.

In kittens and puppies, a serious worm infestation may be indicated by a distended abdomen.

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Causes of Worms

Depending on the life cycle of the worm involved, pets can pick up worms from mother to nursing puppy or kitten, through infected faeces or ingesting infected wildlife or fleas.  Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors are therefore more likely to pick up worms but they can still affect indoor pets as well.

Prevention of Worms

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to protect your pet through a regular worming routine.

Year-round flea prevention is also recommended to prevent tapeworm infestations. As well as guarding against flea infestations, this will also significantly reduce the possibility that your pet will come into contact with tapeworm eggs (which can be carried by fleas).

It is also a good idea to sterilise your pet’s food and water bowls on a regular basis to protect against the risk of infection. Use a pet-friendly disinfectant to do this as many ‘human’ disinfectants are not safe for use around pets.

Treatment of Worms

Speak to your vet if you suspect that your pet may be experiencing a worm infestation. They will be able to determine which type of worm is the culprit so that the right treatment can be given. De-worming products will typically be prescribed to treat a worm infestation. For tapeworms, flea treatments will also be necessary to avoid a recurring issue.

[Photo Credit: jeffreyw]

  • Gremlin

    Dogs that are in contact with areas where sheep graze need more frequent worming than the average pet as sheep are an intermediate host of 4 species of tapeworm that can infect dogs. Dogs that catch Monezia granulosus can then spread the tapeworm to humans, through faeces, which can cause serious diseases.

  • Rosa Baker

    Hi my 13 week old great Dane puppy has worms . She has had all dewormings
    except the 12 week one which was a little late. We got her from a
    breeder and were told that she was the runt. She weighed 17 pounds at 10
    weeks. Now at 13 weeks she weighs 25. We feed her a home cooked diet
    since she has a grain allergy, which the breeder did not notice since
    she would run after she ate then get sick. I’m pretty sure its a
    tapeworm. We just picked up a dewormer from Walmart. I have 2 other dogs
    — an almost 10 year old black lab service dog and a shih tzuh who is
    about 11. We don’t have the money right now to take the puppy to the vet
    because my service dog just got over ear hematomas. What can I do to
    help my puppy and keepy other dogs safe and can people get them?