Our pet cats and dogs, as well as other animals, are often plagued with parasites. Internal worms can be a real problem, and if neglected can cause health problems, even death.
Knowing how our cats, or dogs. get worms is important in preventing these internal parasites.
There are many different types of worms and each is slightly different in terms of how our pets get them.
Heartworm is more of a problem in dogs, but does occur in cats too. Heartworm is fatal when enough worms build up in a dogs heart. Heartworm is spread via mosquitoes. The mosquito takes blood from an infected animal, sucking up tiny eggs or larval worms in the blood it drinks – these are then transferred to the next dog where they begin to grow and eventually live in the heart muscle.
It is interesting to know pets with fleas can get tapeworms from eating the fleas when they itch using their mouth they actually end up swallowing fleas, the fleas can carry tape worm eggs.
Tapeworms can be transferred through grooming, as tiny segments of tape worm often cling to the fur around an animals anus or on their tail.
Eating another animals stool (coprophagia) is another way animals can come into contact with tapeworms and most other worms. Quite simply put an animal who has worms may shed some, or shed some worm eggs in their stool. This behavior is more common in dogs than in cats.
Once the stool has broken down, or even been cleaned up, there still may be some worm eggs in the environment. These eggs can be dormant for months. Very small worm larva move up stalks of grass. This is one way rabbits, sheep, and other grazing animals come into contact with worms, however dogs, and cats, who eat grass will also find themselves eating tiny worms which will grow once inside a host animal.
When owners do not keep their yards clean greatly increase their pets chances of re-infesting itself with worms. As well this will attract flies, which can result in the deadly concern known as “Fly Strike”, a problem with maggots, not worms..
From their Mother
If a mother cat, or dog, has worms, she will very likely pass worms on to her kittens or pups.
Eating an Animal with Worms
Cats, or dogs, who eat wild animals are very likely to get worms. Worms are common in mice, gophers, birds, and pretty much any animal a cat, or dog, might eat.
Pork is of particularly concern as it may contain worms.
photo by author
How to Know if a Cat or Dog has Worms
You may notice the pet is eating a lot, but not gaining weight, it may have a bloated appearance, and will always be hungry (this can also be a problem when pets are fed low quality diets). You may notice diarrhea, particularly if it has blood in it. Worms may be noticed in the stool, or in heavy cases pets may vomit worms. Lethargy and excessive shedding are also symptoms of a heavy worm infestation.
Heartworm can be suspected if a dog is coughing after exercise, and seems not to have a normal amount of energy for its age and breed.
What to do if a Cat or Dog has Worms
There are many kinds of worms and worming products do not treat all kinds of worms. Therefore taking a stool sample to the veterinarian is important to determine what kind of worms a pet has (even if no worms can be seen in the stool, there may be eggs).
Once the kind of worms are known treatment can take place.
Again owners need to be aware that over the counter wormer is not always effective against all types of worms.
Keeping a clean yard will also reduce our pets chances of contacting worms, and always cleaning up after our pet is important. Cats can have their risk reduced if kept in a proper outdoor cat enclosure. Proper flea medication (again not over the counter flea medication – which has been linked to pet deaths) should be used only if fleas are known to be active.
Before any animal is to be bred, it should be wormed.
Pets who go outdoors should be wormed regularly, in some cases this may mean every six months. Prevention measures should be taken against heartworm in dogs through a vaccination program.