Pets need to be wormed regularly and effectively
WORMS in dogs and cats are important for two reasons: first, they can cause serious ill health in animals. And second, they can cause serious illness in humans, especially in children. That’s why it’s so important to have an effective worm control programme if you have pets in your home.
THERE are many products available over the counter, in pet shops, supermarkets and online. But which products really work, and when do pet owners need to give worm doses anyway? Some owners mistakenly believe that if you don’t see worms, and if your pet is healthy, there’s no need to do anything. The truth isn’t as simple as that, and I’ ll explain why with a couple of real life cases. BUSTER is an eight week old terrier puppy. When his new owner took him on from the breeder, they were told that he had already been wormed. Just a week later, Buster developed a runny tummy, and to his owner’s horror, he started to pass spaghetti-like worms, with blood. They brought him to me for treatment, and their first question was “why did the breeder’s treatment not work?” THE answer to this question can be found by looking at the life cycle of the dog roundworm. This worm is found in almost all puppies because it’s passed on to them from their mother. WHEN a female puppy is infected with worms, some of the worm larvae migrate through their pup’s tissues, where they settle into a dormant form, waiting for the day when the pup grows into an adult breeding female. Then during pregnancy, changes in that adult dog’s immune system allow the dormant worm larvae to become active. FIRST while the pups are still in the womb, worm larvae pass to the puppies in the blood via the umbilical cord, infecting the puppies with worms before they are even born.
SECONDLY, some of the dormant worm larvae settle into the young pup’s mammary glands, waiting until she grows into an adult bitch producing milk. These worm larvae are then passed on to the new generation of puppies when they suckle.
THESE two routes of worm infestation mean that nearly all puppies are infected with worms, and they then start to shed worms in their faeces, causing all the pups in the litter (and the mother) to become reinfected with even more worms.
IT’S a challenge to completely control worms in a dog breeding environment. That’s why vets always advise that pups should be wormed as soon as they arrive in their new homes, with repeated worm dosing using effective products.
AS with anti-flea products, not all “wormers” are the same. There is no point in giving “tapeworm” tablets to a puppy with roundworms: they won’t work. You can buy powders, liquids and spot-on products, all working in different ways. It’s easy to waste money of products that are not appropriate. THE best answer is to ask for professional advice from your vet. Most puppies need to visit the vet anyway, for a thorough checkover and for vaccinations. Your vet will give you clear advice on precisely which worming product to use, and when to give it.
FOR Buster the puppy, I recommended a prescription-only highly effective broad spectrum worming tablet, to be repeated every two weeks till he is 12 weeks old, then once a month, long term. This will keep him safe, and it will also protect the children in the house from dog worms.
THE second case that demonstrates the challenge of worm control was an adult Collie called Danny who had developed a cough. When I examined a faeces under the microscope, dozens of lungworm eggs were visible. This explained why he had been coughing. DOGS pick up lungworm by eating slugs and snails: animals like Danny who spend a lot of time outdoors are prone to doing this. Even dogs that are not seen to be eating slugs and snails often chew grass, accidentally swallowing tiny snails. LUNGWORM settle in the blood vessels around the heart and in the lungs: the obvious sign of illness is coughing, but more worryingly, the worms stop the blood from clotting. I’ve witnessed young healthy dogs dying overnight, with no previous signs of illness. On autopsy, they were found to have died from brain haemorrhage, and they had evidence of lungworm in their lungs: the brain bleed had happened because the lungworm had stopped their blood from clotting. If they had been given effective lungworm prevention medication, they would not have died.
DANNY had shown no sign of internal bleeds: the cough was the only sign. He was treated with a prescription only spot-on worm treatment, and within 24 hours, he had stopped coughing. He now gets a once monthly dose, to ensure that he’s never again exposed to the risk of lungworm. I’VE only mentioned roundworm and lungworm: pets can also get tapeworm, hookworm, whipworm and others. These are all easily treatable, with the right products given at the correct frequency. TO protect your dog or cat, make sure you discuss parasite control with your vet at the next annual health check. It isn’t difficult, but the details are important. The apparent “quick fix” from the supermarket pet section is unlikely to be the full answer that you are looking for.
Dog and cat worms can cause illness in pets and in humans