Almost all pets will be affected by worms at some point. Worms are among the most common and nasty parasites of cats and dogs, and can cause serious health problems in our pets. There are lots of different types of worms that can affect pets, roundworm, heartworm, hookworm, lungworm and tapeworm. Most of us worm our pets because we want to save them from any discomfort – but it’s also an essential part of reducing the risk to us as well. Some of the parasites that affect our pets can also cause disease in you and your family. Learn how to spot the symptoms of worms, and how to help keep your pet’s health protected.
Long, white and spaghetti-like, they live in the small intestines of infected pets. Adult dogs and cats may show no obvious signs, but puppies and kittens can be more severely affected, symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, poor coat condition, and young animals may have a pot-belly and slow growth. Infected pets pass roundworm eggs out into their faeces, which find their way into the soil and mature to the infective stage. If people accidentally swallow these infective eggs, the larvae of this parasite can travel in our bodies causing disease. If the larvae travel to the eyes, they can potentially cause blindness.
How serious is a heartworm infection in dogs?
Heartworms are one of the most dangerous parasites that your dog might ever have to face. Canine heartworm disease occurs all over the world in warmer climatic zones and is transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquito bites the dog, opening a door for the larvae, which migrate through the dog’s body until they reach the heart and major blood vessels. If this isn't bad enough, the worms also reproduce and release young heartworms into the dog’s blood, increasing the chance of them spreading the infection, via mosquitoes, to other dogs. It can cause serious disease - worms live in the heart and can grow up to 30cms in length. One dog may have as many as 300 worms present when diagnosed. Adult heartworms may live up to five years. Symptoms can include coughing, tiring easily and even heart failure.
What is lungworm and why is it so dangerous for my dog?
Did you know lungworm can be life threatening in dogs if it isn't diagnosed and treated quickly? Slugs and snails can carry lungworm larvae, and dogs become infected when they eat these infected molluscs. The adult worms lives in the heart and major vessels of infected dogs, and their larvae hatch in the lung tissue; where they can cause breathing problems such as coughing. Lungworm can also result in some more unusual symptoms such as blood clotting issues and neurological problems, as well as more general symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. Untreated, lungworm can be fatal. Lungworm is prevelant in almost all European countries. Recent reports from Denmark, Switzerland and Germany also point to a steady increase in the importance of the parasite, which is reflected in an increasing number of infections in areas where it was not previously considered widespread.
How to protect your pet against worms
Prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to worms. There are several different ways you can protect your pup from getting disease caused by worms, from keeping his area clean to regularly administering worming treatments.
It is not always possible to spot a worm infestation, as your pet may not show any obvious outward signs, but it’s worth remembering that some worms can also cause disease in people. So, the most effective way to combat these unwelcome passengers in your dog is by sticking to a regular worming schedule throughout your dog’s life. A one-off treatment will kill any worms inside your dog at the time, but most of our pets are at risk of re-exposure to worms, so it's a good idea to keep up with regular parasite control to help keep your pet healthy.
Regularly worming of your pet at least every three month is advisable. However, when it comes to heartworm or lungworm in dogs, prevention must be monthly and can only be prescribed by your vet.
So, always speak to your vet. Some people find it useful to set a monthly reminder to stay on top of this - sometimes it is certainly better to be safe and know that my beloved dog is healthy and protected.