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Worms in dogs and cats

Munster Animal Hospital

Now that the rain is here and worms are crawling out of the ground, it makes for a good time to be reminded of the very different but still very real worms that can crawl into pets. Here are the most common types of worms that cats and dogs can contract.
Roundworms are a parasite that is spread through eggs in infected animal’s feces. Roundworms are very common and can be serious in kittens and puppies giving them a ‘pot belly’ look. These intestinal parasites cause poor growth development when in young animals. Roundworms can also cause gas and intestinal upset for the pet.
Hookworms are contracted through the mouth or contact with a pet’s feet while walking on the ground. Hookworms are around an inch long and they attach themselves into the lining of the small intestine in order to feed on the pet’s blood. Due to the fact that they suck the animal’s blood it is very common for a pet to present with anemia which can be quite severe.
Whipworms eggs that have been expelled by and infected animal can stay in an environment for up to 5 years waiting to be picked up by a new animal. Once an egg has been ingested by a dog or cat it will hatch into an adult which will live in the lower intestinal tract. These worms cause chronic diarrhea.
Tapeworms are very common and have several different species. All are transmitted through an intermediate host; a flea, certain rodents or birds. Tapeworms cannot be transmitted directly from a dog or cat. Tapeworms cause upsets in digestion and in large amounts can lead to intestinal blockage. Echinococcus is a small type of tapeworm, only a quarter inch, but is very serious because it is zoonotic and can infect humans. This specific tapeworm can use sheep or humans as intermediate hosts and cause cysts in the organs.
If a pet has any of these symptoms it should be seen right away by a veterinarian. A stool sample brought in by the owner will help the veterinarian to test and find out which worm is infecting the pet and the best de-wormer to prescribe.

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