Symptoms of Intestinal Worms in Dogs & Cats: The Facts

Cat and Dog

Intestinal 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 intestinal worms, which will affect the type of treatment that is given by your pet’s vet:

Hookworms– Are short and curved and hook onto the intestinal wall. Once they have developed in the gut, the worms feed on tissue and blood. This can be a serious threat to kittens and puppies as they can cause severe blood loss. Your pet will likely be exposed to the larvae through contaminated soil.

Roundworms- Are long, white and wiggly. Infection starts when your pet ingest eggs, which then develop into worms in your pet’s gut. The eggs can be found on contaminated surfaces, or through hosts such as birds or mice.

Whipworms- Are long and tiny with a thicker end. They are harder to detect as they are found in low numbers, so your pet may not show any symptoms. However, if left untreated they can cause bloody diarrhoea and damage the intestines.

Tapeworms- Are long and flat and are most commonly transmitted via fleas, but can also be transmitted if your pet has eaten a mouse or other small animals.

Lungworms- Are long and wiggly and affect dogs. The worms are transmitted through snails and slugs which carry the infected larvae. These eggs hatch in the infected dog’s intestine before the larvae make their way into the lungs, causing coughing, sneezing and breathing problems. This can be fatal, so if you suspect your dog has contracted lungworm it’s best to contact your vet straight away.


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.

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

Pets are likely to continue to pick up worms, so treating for intestinal worms at least four times a year (every 3 months) is usually recommended.

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 about worm treatments suitable for your individual pet.

[Photo Credit: jeffreyw]