What are worms exactly?
Worms are the common name for internal parasites. Internal parasites are organisms that live within an animal and rob it of food or blood. There are several very common worms we see in dogs and cats including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms.
How do pets get them?
Puppies and kittens can get worms from their mom, either in the womb, or when nursing. Older animals can get worms by being exposed to contaminated soil or grass or by hunting prey animals. Interestingly pets can also get worms when they have a flea infestation (fleas carry tapeworm!) and there is one type of worm, the hookworm, that can infect your pet via the skin- the larvae can enter the body by crawling through the paw pads!
Can I prevent them?
Yes! The good news is worms are very easily treated and prevented! At Acadia Veterinary Hospital we recommend a veterinary approved dewormer once a month during the “warmer” months- so from May until November. An over the counter dewormer is not an effective treatment for intestinal worms. Another important thing to do is to pick up your dog’s feces promptly- this reduces the risk of environmental contamination! For cats, it’s important to clean their litterbox daily, especially if you have multiple cats, have young children, if your pregnant, or if your immunocompromised (i.e. receiving cancer treatment). Protect hands while cleaning up the feces and wash hands afterwards.
How do I know if my pet has them?
Some parasites, like tapeworms and roundworms, are visible in the stool or around the anus. But, unfortunately, parasites are tricky! In most of the cases, dogs and cats that have worms don’t show any signs of illness. If they do show any signs it’s usually vomiting, diarrhea and/or weight loss. The best way to check if your pet has worms is a fecal test. This is a test run by your veterinarian where they take a fresh sample of feces and check it for the presence of worm eggs. This is a quick and non-invasive test to be sure your pet is free of worms.
How do we get rid of them?
There is no way to 100% get rid of worms from your pet’s environment. Some parasite eggs can live up to 5 years in the soil! So we can treat a current infection easily with a prescribed dewormer, but after that, it’s still important to deworm regularly.
Can my pet give my children(or me) worms?
Yes. When you or your child accidentally ingests a worm egg through infected soil then the worm larvae can migrate into the brain, the eyes, the skin, the liver or the lungs. This disease is called Visceral Larval Migrans. Young children are the most at risk to acquiring this disease. So regular preventative deworming is not only important for your pet, but for you and your family as well!
Please feel free to give us a call or drop by with any questions or concerns you have about worms and your pet!