When worms in­fect our pets

Manawatu Standard - - Weekend Magazine - MALCOLM AN­DER­SON

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.

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