Nearly all dogs and cats get worms and even animals which look in tip-top condition can carry them. A pet with worms can be quite difficult to diagnose as it may not show any outward signs of ill health. It is important to worm your animals regularly as some types can occasionally be dangerous to human health.
Ask your vet for the correct worm treatment.
Your pup should have been wormed from 2/3 weeks old at fortnightly intervals until he/she is 10/12 weeks old. After that every 3-5 months. Unwormed pups may appear pot-bellied with dry coat, possibly with a cough.
All adult dogs and cats should be wormed against roundworm every three months, or as advised by the vet, whether you think they have them or not.
Pregnant animals should only be wormed under the supervision of a vet.
The best way to stop tapeworms is to use an anti-flea preparation advised by your vet. Only worm against tapeworms if you think your pet is carrying one.
Is it worms?
If you see any worms on your animal wrap them up in damp cotton wool and take them to the vet who will be able to identify them and treat the animal accordingly.
If your dog or cat starts losing weight and its coat becomes coarse or harsh, this could be a sign that unwelcome visitors have arrived. Infected puppies and kittens often have a bloated stomach. A dog or cat dragging itself about on its rear or licking its bottom more than usual may also be infected.
It's a roundworm!
Roundworms are pinky-white and curled like a thin coiled rope. If your animal is infected, you will probably be able to see the roundworm in faeces or vomit. The eggs are so tiny they can't be seen. Most dogs carry toxocara canis - a common roundworm.
In adult dogs the roundworm has a complicated life cycle. It grows from larva to adult worm inside the body. Worms and eggs are passed out in the faeces where the eggs develop into larvae. Another dog eats the larvae and the life cycle begins all over again.
Roundworms can also lie dormant in the muscle tissue of bitches and queens and are activated during pregnancy. They can then pass across the placenta infecting unborn young. Puppies and kittens born with roundworms can become sick or even die if they are carrying lots of worms.
Roundworm eggs take about three weeks to become infectious - so only old dog mess can be risky. The eggs can remain infectious for up to two years.
It's a tapeworm!
Tapeworms look like long strips and are made up of flat segments filled with eggs which break off. The segments can come out one at a time and visibly twitch and move. You can sometimes see them moving on the skin near the animal's anus or on the floor.
Dogs and cats are never born with tapeworms. One of the most common ways they pick them up is through fleas. Tapeworms can live in fleas which feed on the cat or dog. The animal then eats the flea when it grooms itself and the tapeworm continues life inside its new host. Common tapeworms do not usually infect humans.
Sometimes humans can be at risk from worms, so regular worming of companion animals is important. Toxocara is an infection spread by roundworm eggs. This usually occurs in children who, by playing outside, can pick up infective stages of the parasite on their hands.
Sometimes these eggs develop into larvae which lodge behind the retina in the eye and cause damage or even blindness. To stop this happening, worm pets regularly, wash children's hands thoroughly before they eat and clean up after your dog with a poop scoop.