What you need to know about treating your pet for worms

We all want to help our pets live healthy and happy lives so, although it might not be the most pleasant of topics, understanding how to prevent worms is essential.  

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Worms are parasites that live inside the body and can cause health issues in both animals and humans. Although it’s rare for humans to catch worms from their pets, they can prove particularly dangerous if passed onto children and pregnant women. It’s important to be aware of the different types of worms and what you can do to prevent your pet from getting them.   

The three most common types of worms 

“Although there are multiple types of worms, those most commonly found in pets are tapeworm, roundworm, and lungworm.  

 “Roundworms live in the small intestine, and puppies and kittens can contract them from their parents. A mild infestation of roundworms can cause a pot-belly, poor growth, and occasional diarrhoea. More severe infestations may cause a nutrient deficiency or even a life-threatening blockage of the intestines. Tapeworms can be found in the small intestine and are generally passed onto pets by fleas, but can also be contracted from hunting or eating raw meat. Tapeworm segments look a bit like grains of rice and may be seen around the tail and the area around your pet’s bottom.  

 “Lungworms are a potentially fatal parasite carried by slugs and snails. Dogs can become infected through eating them, or even by eating grass contaminated with snail trails, which may also be on your pet’s toys. Lungworm can make dogs seriously unwell and, although they can recover fully with intensive treatment, prevention is always easier than treatment. Although much less common, cats can get infected with a different type of lungworm through ingesting infected birds, frogs, and rodents or by drinking contaminated water. Cats tend to be much less severely affected than dogs. 

Spotting the signs early  

“The sooner you treat your pet for worms, the better, so be aware of the symptoms to look out for. Diarrhoea and a swollen stomach are the most common signs of tapeworms and roundworms, and you may also notice tiny segments of the worm in your pet’s faeces.  

Lungworm can be trickier to spot at first as symptoms may vary, but common signs include breathing problems, coughing, fatigue, loss of appetite, bruising easily, or even a general change in your pet’s behaviour. If you notice any of these symptoms you should contact your vet as soon as possible. 

Prevention is key  

“You can’t stop your pet picking up worms completely, but you can prevent them causing problems by worming them regularly. Worming treatments will kill any worms your pet has at the time, but they don’t have a long-lasting effect, so, to prevent reinfection, regular treatment with a wormer is recommended. How often your pet is wormed depends on their lifestyle and where they live. For example, puppies and kittens need to be wormed more frequently as they are often born with worms and can become infected through their mother’s milk.  

“There are many preventive methods for treating worms, such as tablets, or ‘spot on’ treatments. Some, such as the KRKA Worm Screen Combo for Dogs, are designed to fight both roundworms and tapeworms at the same time, and can be highly effective if used regularly. Always seek your vet’s opinion before using any type of wormers, as they will be able to advise on which treatment is best for your pet based on their specific needs.”