A regular worming program is essential for puppies, kittens, dogs and cats in order to control intestinal worms. Generally, pets should be wormed at least every 3 months, more often for puppies and kittens.
Worming is one of the first health care issues pet owners need to address as puppies and kittens are the most susceptible.
Your pets can become infected with worms from contact with other animals’ faeces (droppings), from eating certain kinds of offal or from hunting and eating rats, mice and even certain insects. Some worms can also be acquired by skin contact with infected surfaces.
If left untreated, intestinal worms can lead to serious health problems in your pets, such as diarrhoea, vomiting and weight loss. Pets with intestinal worms are also a potential health hazard to humans, especially children. Some serious human diseases including vision loss can be caused by infection from pets that have worms.
What types of worms can affect my pet?
Common intestinal worms in Australian pets are roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms and hookworms. They are parasites that live inside your pet’s intestines.
Intestinal worms can range in size from small to 18cm or longer. Regardless of their size they all have negative, and potentially deadly, effects.
How will my pet be affected?
If your pet has a large number of worms it may lose body condition and lose weight. In some cases the worms can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even anaemia (a low red blood cell level). Occasionally, heavy intestinal worm burdens can cause death.
How can I prevent infections?
Mont Albert Vet recommends regular worming treatment for your pets to reduce the incidence of infection and to reduce environmental contamination.
There are many worming treatments available as tablets (such as Drontal or Milbemax), liquid spot-ons (such as Advocate).
Worms sometimes have complex lifecycles which involve a period of existence and development outside your pet. Understanding the life cycle of a specific worm is important so that strategies for treatment and prevention can be designed and implemented. For example, some tapeworms need to pass through fleas to complete their lifecycle, so flea prevention is an important part of controlling tapeworms.
Re-infection is a common problem, particularly in pets that are in contact with a heavily contaminated environment.
Can I get worms?
Yes, occasionally people can also become infected with intestinal worms. Worming your pets will also help to protect you and your family. Young children are most at risk of picking up worm parasites from pets particularly if they play in areas that may contain dog or cat droppings (such as sandpits).
In people these parasites do not actually become worms in the bowel but can cause various problems. These may include Visceral Larval Migrans (VLM) that causes stomach pains or more serious, but less common, problems such as retinal disease in the eye.
The dog worm most dangerous to people is the Hydatid tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus). Dogs get this parasite from eating infected sheep offal and will pass the worm eggs in their faeces.
In Australia, our meat inspection services prevent such offal from reaching shops so it is mainly country dogs, who may come across a dead sheep and eat some of it, that are at risk.
People can become infected if they swallow some of the Hydatid worm eggs passed by an infected dog. In people the Hydatid tapeworm produces fluid-filled cysts in various parts of the body and the condition is difficult to treat.
Some tips for reducing the risk of infection:
Promptly clean up pet droppings in your yard or garden
Practice good hygiene and always encourage children to wash their hands regularly, especially after playing in dirt or sandpits, after playing with pets or prior to eating
Prevent children from playing where the soil may be contaminated
Keep your pet's environment clean
Always pick up your dog droppings in public parks and playgrounds and dispose of the droppings responsibly
Please call us at Mont Albert Vet on 9890 1728 to discuss an intestinal worming program for your pet.