Worms (hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms) commonly infect dogs and cats and also pose a threat to humans.
How do dogs and cats pick up worms?
Worms or internal parasites can be picked up by:
- licking the ground or drinking contaminated water
- ingesting infected fleas which can transmit tapeworms
- through the placenta before birth from the mother to the puppies
- through the milk of the mother to the unweaned kittens and puppies
- from scavenging or hunting
- eating raw offal, which could be infected with tapeworm cysts.
How do I know that my pet has worms?
Pets rarely pass worms, and even if they do, you will rarely see them. The symptoms of a worm infestation can be one of the following:
- Bloody stools
- Loss of appetite
- Anaemia (pale gums and eye membranes)
- Weight loss
- Poor growth
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Loss of vision in one or both eyes
Tapeworm segments are released with the droppings (faeces) and are clearly visible in the faeces or around the anus of the animal. These segments look like rice grains.
Is a worm infestation dangerous?
A heavy worm infestation can cause enteritis with a resultant diarrhoea which can even contain blood and mucous. Some worms suck blood, which causes blood loss in the animal leading to weakness and even death. Heavy worm burdens can block the intestines and lead to the death of the animal. Another danger of worms lies in the transmission from dog or cat to humans. Many worms can cause serious health problems in humans as well.
How can I protect myself?
- Always wash your hands after working or playing with your pets.
- Never allow dogs or cats to lick your face.
- Fence off vegetable gardens to prevent dogs or cats defecating in these areas.
- Wash all vegetables thoroughly before eating
- Never share cooking utensils with pets.
- Never feed raw offal to your pets – make sure it is well cooked
- Deworm your pets and family regularly.
How do I treat my dog or cat for worms?
Every adult dog or cat should be given a dewormer every 3-4 months and puppies and kittens every three months. This should be done in co-operation with your local Community Veterinary Clinic or veterinarian.
It is also very important to deworm family members at least twice a year – speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Note: Do not feed your pet raw offal. It could be infected with tapeworm cysts.