When worms infect our pets
The word ‘‘worms’’ seems to create a feeling of horror and revulsion and the most requested item – after flea control – at the hospital is worming medication.
But why do we ‘‘worm’’ our pets? And where do these horrible creatures come from? It’s a huge topic, but we can deal with some of it.
Aslan is a good example of the very good reason for de-worming our furry friends. Aslan is a destructive, but very loveable 6-week-old black lab puppy that came to see me on Sunday with a sad face and a horrified Sarah, his owner. Aslan had vomited several times that morning and his little parcels on the kitchen floor contained writhing, thin, pale-coloured spaghetti.
So first, the different basic types of worms in both dogs and cats – roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms.
Aslan had vomited roundworms. The unusual thing in dogs is that these worms are transferred to the puppy from the mother via the uterus before birth. This doesn’t happen in kittens, although they can receive them via the mother’s milk.
These little guys can cause the classic thin, but pot-bellied puppy look, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and sometimes vomiting if there are enough of them.
The other really important thing about roundworms is that they can transfer to humans. And they can cause a nasty disease in people, including blindness, especially in children.
So, not only is it important to regularly worm your puppy and kitten and adult dog or cat for their sake, but also for people’s benefit.
Tapeworm is more of an issue with cats, although dogs do get infected.
We regularly get calls at the hospital from a distraught owner who has a cat with wriggling rice grains around their bum. These are tapeworm segments that contain eggs that are looking for a new home. Cats actually get infected via eating tapeworm-infected rats or rabbits, but also when they groom themselves and ingest a tapeworminfected flea. So, the key to controlling this worm is also good flea control.
Last, but not least, is the whipworm. This is a very small worm that lives in the large bowel and can cause chronic diarrhoea and weight loss in an adult or older dog. The problem with this worm is that some worming medications don’t treat it.
Worms can affect one of our fourlegged friends at any age, but in the young and elderly, the effects can be severe or fatal.
Worming needs to be done with an effective product and started from an early age – that is, four weeks, or possibly two weeks – and continued throughout their life every three to four months. It is a very small cost to pay for their health – and ours.
And always check whether the treatment will do both types of worms.
So, now you know what those rice grains around your cat’s rear end are, if you ever see them. What people are doing looking at their cats’ bums is beyond me.
Dogs can have a hard time with worms.