Dogs and cats should wormed every 3 months – at least four times a year. However, younger dogs and those whose lifestyle makes them more vulnerable to infection – such as cats and dogs that hunt – may need more frequent worming.
Although the risk of parasite infections continues throughout a dog’s and cat’s life, the risk of some parasites is greatest for the young puppy and kitten.
Puppies can be severely affected as some worms can be transmitted in utero and via nursing. These may cause serious illness before diagnosis is possible by faecal examination. For this reason, we recommend that puppies should be treated with appropriate worming treatments starting at 2 weeks of age. Treatment should be repeated every 2 to 4 weeks during the nursing period (depending on the type worm pill used) and should always include all puppies in the litter as well as the nursing bitch. Any other dogs that also have access to the bitch or the litter should follow the same worming regimen as they may also develop patent infections.
In cats, prenatal infection does not occur in kittens, so we recommend fortnightly treatment that can begin at 3 weeks of age, and can be repeated at 5 and 7 weeks. After 6 months old, worm every 3 months. Nursing queens should be treated concurrently with their offspring since they may develop patent infections along with their young.
Worms can live anywhere in the body, though they prefer the lining of the intestine as it is an ideal place to breed.
TYPES OF INTESTINAL WORMS:
Intestinal worms can cause many problems for your cat and dog, including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloody stools, tiredness/lack of energy, poor growth and weight loss. They can also weaken your pet’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to other infections.
Hookworm: Hookworm attach themselves to the lining of the small intestine and have a large appetite for blood. This makes them very dangerous for pet, especially kittens and puppies, as they can cause severe anaemia or even death. Symptoms of infection include bleeding in the intestine (identified by blood in the stool), abdominal pain, diarrhoea and itchy skin sores. Heavy infections can cause serious anaemia (identified by pale gums and tiredness).
Roundworm: Roundworm are named for their large, round bodies. They live in the small intestine and infestations are very common. The symptoms to look out for in cats and dogs include diarrhoea, vomiting, poor growth and tiredness/lack of energy. Puppies can also have a ‘pot belly’.
Tapeworm: Symptoms of heavy infection include weight loss, diarrhoea, anal irritation (causing dogs to ‘scoot’, i.e. drag their behinds) and a poor coat. However, infected cats dogs sometimes show no symptoms at all.
Whipworm – Dogs only: Whipworm are common in warm urban environments. The whipworm’s mouth has a spear that it uses to slash and puncture the intestinal lining to feed on blood and tissue. Symptoms of infection include diarrhoea or, in severe cases, anaemia.
Signs that your cat or dog may have worms:
- Abdominal pain
- Intestinal bleeding (identified by blood in the stool)
- Tiredness/lack of energy
- Poor growth
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin sores
- Anaemia (identified by pale gums and tiredness)
- Anal irritation (causing dogs to ‘scoot’, i.e. drag their behinds)
- Poor coat
- ‘Pot belly’ appearance in dogs and puppies
If your pet’s health is threatened by worms, their infection risks exposure your family too…..
Some internal parasites can be unintentionally spread from your pet to your family – this is known as a zoonotic disease (zoonosis). There are new cases of zoonoses in New Zealand every year. Many common worms can transfer from pets to people, including hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm and whipworm.
People can get worms from a pet by coming into contact with eggs on their coat or in droppings. You can also get worms indirectly from the environment, for example: from contaminated soil in your backyard or sandpits. Because children are still developing good hygiene habits, they are at higher risk of getting a zoonotic disease.
Symptoms of infection can be mild or very serious – from itchy skin and abdominal pain to blindness and epilepsy.
- Worming your pet at least every 3 months
- Encouraging children to wash their hands regularly, especially after contact with pets, pet toys or sandpits
- Wearing gloves when gardening
- Avoiding contact with pet urine or droppings
- Cleaning up pet droppings regularly
- Never eating anything a pet has licked
By treating your pet every 3 months with a vet approved worm treatment, e.g. Drontal, Endogard, Milbemax and practicing proper hygiene measures, you’ll have peace of mind that your family is protected too.