Worms are a very common parasite in the UK, and many of our dogs and cats are affected. Even indoor cats can pick them up, from something as simple as a little soil on shoes. Fleas can also carry worms that infect our pets, these worms are also a human health risk.
Keeping our pets worm-free is a critical part of having a happy, healthy household. There are several different types of worm that can affect your dog or cat.
Tapeworms - these worms match their name, and look like long ribbons or pieces of tape. They are Itchy, unpleasant, and common. Adult tapeworms live in the small intestine, and attach to the lining with specialised mouthparts. Here, they sit and absorb nutrients from the gut. Tapeworms reproduce when some of their segments break off. These segments are full of tapeworm eggs, and are passed out in the faeces of your dog or cat. They are often described as looking like moving grains of rice.
Roundworms - white, round-bodied worms, and can get up to 18cm long! These worms spend most of their life within the gut of dogs and cats, feeding on intestinal contents. Roundworms reproduce by laying eggs within the intestine. These eggs are passed out with faeces, mature for up to seven weeks, and then become infectious. Dogs and Cats then ingest these infectious eggs, which hatch into larvae. Importantly, larval roundworms can travel out of the gut to a wider range of tissues, including multiple organs such as the liver and lungs, skeletal muscle and the gut wall, where they may form cysts. This allows dogs and cats to maintain a level of infection, and infections can be passed on to puppies and kittens via the placenta or milk. Sadly, these roundworms can also infect humans and, while usually harmless in adults, can cause serious damage to children’s eyesight.
Lungworm - a parasite that can be deadly to dogs if ingested. Cat lungworm and dog lungworm are not the same parasite, and feline lungworm is usually less severe than its canine counterpart.
The Lungworm uses multiple animals to help complete its lifecycle, with dogs and foxes as the primary hosts, and slugs, snails and even frogs as the intermediate hosts.
Lungworms are short worms, only reaching 2.5cm in length as adults, which live within the chambers of the heart, and in the artery that connects the heart to the lungs. Despite their main home being in the heart, these worms are called lungworms as they cause mainly lung-related signs such as coughing.Canine lungworm reproduce by producing eggs which hatch into larvae. These larvae are coughed up from the lungs, swallowed, and passed out in faeces. Once in the faeces, larvae are picked up by slugs and snails, and mature until they are old enough to be infective to dogs and foxes.
Although you can’t stop your dog or cat being exposed to these worms, there are lots of options for preventing an infestation developing.
Regular worming treatments. Worming treatments usually come in the form of tablets or spot-ons,and may manage a range of parasites including tapeworms. The best parasite protocol for your dog or cat will depend on you, your pet, your lifestyle and even the season, and we can help you decide which regime works best for you. However you choose to manage worms in your dog and cat, make sure to speak to a vet about the best anti-parasitics on offer, as many over the counter treatments have poor efficacy.
Keeping your dogs and cats up to date with flea treatments. This will also reduce the risk of fleas infecting your dog with a tapeworm.