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Intestinal Worms

 

When we talk of ‘worming’ your pet- what do we mean?


Firstly we need to establish there are many different type of worms we routinely prevent/treat in cats and dogs that require different approaches to treatment and prevention.

The worms we are going to delve into deeply in this blog are a group of worms that predominately reside in the intestines- we refer to these ‘types’ of worms simply as- intestinal worms.

Intestinal worms are parasites that make themselves right at home in your pet's gastrointestinal system and can have devastating effects if left untreated.


The four most common types of worms we see and treat in cats and dogs are roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm.


Roundworms-

Are the most common intestinal worm we see in cats and dogs. These horrid suckers feed off food in the intestines and can do damage to the point of causing some serious problems for your pet. A puppy and kitten can be born already infected with roundworms due to mum passing larvae on to pup in utero. A nursing dog can also pass larvae on to their pup via their milk. Other ways for your pet to get roundworm are via the environment -eggs are passed out of the body via the faeces and can remain in the environment for many months leaving plenty of chance to be ingested by other animals or re ingested by themselves! There are several different types of roundworm. Some stay in the host's intestine from ingestion to when they lay eggs, others migrate through the hosts organs such as the liver and lungs as the larvae mature. Roundworm may also be acquired by ingesting animals already infected with roundworms, such as rodents.

These worms can grow up to a whopping 12 cms long and are visible to the human eye in faeces and vomit- they have a spaghetti like appearance. Diagnosis of roundworm infection is usually made by examining the faeces for eggs, although sometimes adult worms may be identified in animals faeces. The worms are prolific egg producers and characteristic eggs can be viewed under a microscope once the faeces is mixed with a special flotation solution.


 

 

 

Signs your pet may have roundworm:

*Round (pot) belly
*Vomiting
*Diarrhoea
*Lethargy
*Poor body and coat condition 
*Failure to thrive
*Evidence of round worm in faeces
 

Severe infestations can lead to intestinal blockage and death.

Hookworms-

Hookworms feed on blood. They bury their head into the intestinal wall and feast! Like roundworms your pet may be infected by a variety of routes- via mum's milk, in utero, and from the environment i.e. faeces or ingestion of an affected rodent. It is also possible for the eggs to hatch into larvae in the environment and the tricky little larvae can migrate though your pets' skin into your pet (or for that matter can also affect humans!) Migrating larvae make their way into the lungs, are coughed up then swallowed and make their way to the intestines. They are around 1.5cms long and very thin in appearance. They can be seen by the naked eye in faeces and eggs are easily detectable with microscopic examination of faeces. 



Signs of hookworm infestation:

*Anaemia
*Blood in faeces 
*Poor body condition 
*Poor coat condition and lethargy

Dogs and cats of any age can get hookworm however it’s commonly seen in puppies and kittens.

Whipworm-

Now these guys mean serious business, they are blood suckers that attach to your pets large intestine wall and feed!
Whipworms lay their eggs in the large intestines of dogs which are passed in faeces. The eggs may remain stable in the environment for a long time, up to several years. Under favourable conditions they mature into an infective stage and are ingested by dogs then develop into adults in the gastrointestinal tract.
The hardest of all worms to diagnose and generally only present in dogs. They have a threadlike appearance. It may be difficult to diagnose whipworms as they only shed eggs intermittently, so the examination of multiple stools under the microscope maybe necessary get a positive diagnosis.

 

 

Whipworms can cause:

 
*Diarrhoea and bloody mucous in faeces due to the inflammation it causes in the bowel 
*Anaemia
*Lethargy

Flea tapeworm-

Guess how this worm is spread?! Via fleas- crazy huh! To infect or re infect a cat or dog the larval flea must temporarily play host after ingesting tapeworm eggs or segments that the adult tapeworm has shed. Segments adhere the anus of a cat or dog when they are passed in faeces. When the infected larvae turn into adult fleas the dog or cat then ingest the flea -usually this occurs when relieving the itch by biting the area where the flea has caused irritation or just from general grooming. This type of tapeworm can grow up to 50cm in length so they are definitely noticeable. Entire adult tapeworm are rarely seen by pet owners, however tapeworm segments are passed in faeces and are visible to the naked eye! Tapeworms feed off digested food in the gastrointestinal tract.

 



 

Signs your pet may have flea tapeworm include:

*Presence of fleas
*Scooting (dragging bottom along the ground)
*Visible tapeworm segments around anus and in faeces
*Poor body condition/weight loss 
*Lethargy

Hydatid tapeworm-

These guys are a lot smaller measuring up to only 1cm in length- these horrid creatures also shed segments which are present in faeces however they are not visible to the naked eye but diagnosed by microscopic examination of faeces. Like the flea tapeworm they require a host to be able to infect a cat or dog however that host is generally a farm animal such as sheep, cattle and kangaroos. Hydatid tapeworm can also use ……MAN as it’s host! The farm animal host usually ingests the eggs or segments when grazing in paddocks previously contaminated by the faeces of dogs with hydatid tapeworms. Once ingested they form large cysts in the organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs. Once ingested by humans, cysts may develop within organs and are only removable by surgery- absolute diligence needs to be executed when handling animals, especially in rural areas. When dogs and cats feed on raw offal from the host they can become infected with hydatid tapeworm. 
Humans may be infected when unwashed contaminated vegetables are consumed or when handling the faeces of an infected dog. 


There are generally no clinical signs of infestation in dogs however possible signs could include: 
 

Intermittent diarrhoea, lethargy,  poor coat and body condition.


Intestinal worming schedule

For both cats and dogs

Every 2 weeks of age up until 12 weeks of age,
Monthly until 6 months of age,
Then every 3 months for the rest of their life.

When we ‘worm’ our pet it is for the treatment of intestinal worms not for the prevention of them- this is why it is so important to keep up to date with your pets worming schedule. Not all worm products are the same! Depending on the active ingredients 'worm' tablets may treat roundworms, whipworm and hookworm  or roundworms, hookworms, whipworm and tapeworm. Some even prevent heartworm when used regularly. Although it is not common there are some areas where worms may be resistant to certain worm products. If you are concerned about that possibility your veterinarian may recommend faecal sample examination.

Always use a veterinary approved worming treatment for your pet. We have many different types available from our online shop or from our veterinary hospital such as Milbemax for dogs or cats and Drontal for dogs or cats.

Tips for preventing/treating worm infestation

*If concerned, consult your veterinarian
*Regular worm treatments
*Wear gloves when handling faeces or anything that is potentially contaminated with with worm eggs
*Clean up yard of faeces regularly to prevent re infestation
*Wash hands after petting animals
*Humans can also fall victim to intestinal worms as they are zoonotic (transferable from animal to human)


If you have any questions please phone us on 4362 1644

Author: Sara Brock
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