Roundworms can appear like elastic bands, up to several inches in length. These are the most commonly seen worms, particularly in puppies. Tapeworms can appear like white grains of rice, which are joined together to form a tape. These are most commonly found in adult dogs and very rarely in puppies.
There are many ways in which our pets can pick up worms, it can be as easy as licking the ground or drinking contaminated water, ingesting infected fleas which can transmit tapeworms, through the placenta before birth from the mother to the puppies, through the milk of the mother to the un-weaned kittens and puppies, from scavenging or hunting and eating raw offal, which could be infected with tapeworm cysts.
Worms can be transmitted to humans by their pets and in some cases can cause serious health problems for both pets and humans. It is important that you and your family members follow some of the below points to help prevent infestation.
- Always wash your hands after working or playing with your pets.
- Never allow dogs or cats to lick your face.
- Fence off vegetable gardens to prevent dogs or cats defecating in these areas.
- Wash all vegetables thoroughly before eating
- Never share cooking utensils with pets.
- Never feed raw offal to your pets – make sure it is well cooked
- Deworm your pets and family regularly.
Pets with worms may not show signs of illness, except when the worms are present in large volumes. Puppies are most at risk from worm infections because worms are passed from the mother before birth, and after through the milk. The symptoms of a worm infestation can be one of the following:
- Bloody stools
- Loss of appetite
- Anaemia (pale gums and eye membranes)
- Weight loss
- Poor growth
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Loss of vision in one or both eyes
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is essential you take your pet to see your vet for a check-up to ensure there is no health emergencies that need immediate attention. Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are most easily identified with a simple diagnostic test called a faecal floatation. A small amount of stool is mixed with a solution that allows the eggs to float. The eggs can then be directly visualized with a microscope. Tapeworm eggs tend to be very heavy and do not readily float. They are most commonly diagnosed by finding tapeworm segments in the stool or on the hair around the rectum.
Every adult dog or cat should be given a de-wormer every 3-4 months and puppies and kittens every three months, but always remember that your vet should be the one to recommend the correct medication for the pet you are treating. Puppies and kittens will not receive the same medication or dosage as your adult pets, weight is usually the deciding factor when decisions are made for dosage. It is also very important to deworm family members at least twice a year. Remember, if your pet has tapeworm you must also treat him for fleas.
Your TAH vet will give you the best advice on the correct product and dosage for your pet as well as demonstrate the easiest and safest way to administer the medication. Keeping up to date with the deworming and de-flea/ tick treatments will ensure a happy and healthy pet.