Worms are internal parasites in the digestive tract which drain your pets of blood and nutrients. Though these silent predators pop up more often than you may like, they are just as easy to treat.
How Does My Pet Get Worms?
Puppies and kittens contract worms from their mother, who passes these intestinal inconveniences through her placenta into her babies before they are born. This transfer also happens as she nurses, which is why puppies, kittens, and mothers should be wormed regularly.
Unfortunately, the newborn stage is not the end of it. Mature cats and dogs can also host these unwanted party guests through the following:
- Eggs embedded in soil after your pet has defecated in it
- Digesting fleas, or the feces of other animals
- Catching prey, like mice and snails
Types of Worms
There are four types of digestive worms:
Roundworms, which fester in the intestines, can grow up to half a foot in length.
Hookworms are named as such for their ability to “hook” onto the intestinal wall, which can produce bloody stools or anemia due to bleeding in the bowel.
Unlike the roundworm, tapeworms are flat. Sometimes parts of the tapeworm break off and stick to your pet’s anus. These pieces are visible to the naked eye and look similar to grains of rice.
Finally, the whipworm lives in the large intestine, and is so thin it is difficult to detect—both by the naked eye and microscopically.
Only roundworms and tapeworms can be seen by the naked eye, which is why it’s important to take your pet to the vet to check a stool sample through a microscope if you suspect an infestation.
Worms: How Can I Tell If My Pet Has Them?
Visibly catching worms at work is not an easy task. Here are some signs that can clue you into your pet’s predicament:
- Bloated stomach or belly that seemed to appear out of nowhere
- Regular vomiting, even vomiting up worms
- Frequent loose stools or diarrhea, which may have blood in it. This could also indicate other serious conditions, in which case, ring your vet.
- Scratching or rubbing against the ground or furniture, particularly around the rear. This could also indicate anal glands. In either case, call your vet.
- Weight loss or a decrease in energy, activity, or appetite, as worms steal your pet’s nutrients
- Dry hair or poor appearance overall
- Visible worms or eggs in the feces; worms in the fur, or around the rear
- None at all. Sometimes, worm eggs or larvae hide in your pet’s body and stir only during stress
How Are Worms Diagnosed?
Fecal exams are regularly done, but if you have noticed the above symptoms since your last visit, the vet will test your pet through a stool sample.
How Do I Treat Worms?
Deworming medications are used to treat your pet and are mostly found over the counter. Talk to your veterinarian to discover which type will work best for your furry friend, as each worm requires its own treatment; no one de-wormer can cure them all.
How Often Should I Deworm My Pet?
The American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both recommend regular deworming of dogs and cats. Keep in mind that worms can infect people, too, so regular deworming not only helps keep your pet happy; it also protects your human family, too.
The following is a general deworming schedule. The time between each depends on the type of dog or cat you have, so it’s best to confirm a timeline with your veterinarian.
- Puppies and kittens: Every 2 weeks from 2 weeks of age until 3 months, each month until 6 months of age, and again at 1 year
- Adult dogs and cats: Twice a year for life
- Strictly inside cats: Once a year
- Cats that like to hunt: Up to 3 times a year
- Adopted pets: Immediately, with at least 2 more treatments every 2 weeks
If this process or parasite sound intimidating, have no fear. With the right amount of love and attention to your furry friend, these, too, shall pass.