Worms are parasites that live inside your pets - usually in their intestines but sometimes in their organs. If left untreated, as well as causing considerable harm to your pet some worms can be transferred to you or your children. It's not always possible to tell if your dog or cat has worms so it's crucial to make sure they're treated regularly with a suitable worming product. The most common types of parasitic worms found in cats and dogs in the UK are tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.
How do cats and dogs catch worms?
- From their mum - puppies and kittens are often born with roundworms, which is why they may need to be wormed on their first trip to the vet
- By coming into contact with other dog and cat faeces
- From fleas - the larval stages of tapeworm are carried in fleas
- Eating vermin
- Eating offal or scavenging from vermin carcasses in woods etc.
- Living in an unclean environment where faeces is not cleaned up regularly
What signs should I look for?
As worms live inside your pets, it's not always easy to tell if they're infected, which is another good reason to keep on top of worming. However, some general signs of worms can include:
- Dragging their bottom on the floor
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Eating lots yet losing weight
- A dull coat
- Pot belly
- Worms in their stools
- Rice-like bits in their stools
How can I treat worms?
The most effective to way to ensure your pets stay worm free is to worm them regularly. Worming programmes vary with age and the individual animal, but generally adult cats and dogs should be treated at least four times a year (once every three months), and puppies and kittens every two weeks until they are 12 weeks old, then monthly until six months old, then once every three months as for an adult. Don't forget, wormers aren't immunisers and won't stop your pets getting worms in the first place, so you must stick to a tight worming schedule!
There are lots of different types of wormers available so check the product information carefully before you buy, you'll soon find out which one works for you and your pet. They come in liquid and tablet form and many are cleverly disguised as treats so your pet will be none the wiser. Consult your vet if you have any questions.
Is there anything else I can do to prevent my pet catching worms?
Aside from making sure you regularly worm your dog, there are several other things you can do to minimise their chance of catching worms:
- Regularly treat your pets for fleas, as fleas can transmit the tapeworm larvae
- Make sure your home is free from mice and rats
- Always clean up their stools
- Keep your home and garden clean
- Don't encourage them to hunt for vermin
- Groom your pets regularly