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Top five signs your pet has worms

  1. Worms in stools. The most common way to detect worms is by taking a look at your pet’s stools. Roundworm and tapeworm are large enough to be spotted in faecal matter, so if you notice what looks like small grains of rice in a stool, it’s a safe bet your pet has worms.
  2. Vomiting and diarrhoea. Vomiting and diarrhoea are caused by irritation of the stomach or intestine. While the most common cause of vomiting in pets is eating things such as leaves and sticks, parasitic infection such as roundworm or hookworm will also cause your pet to vomit, particularly in puppies and kittens.
  3. Weight loss despite a good appetite. Weight loss can mean worms are stealing your pet’s nutrition, especially if your pet is losing weight while exhibiting a healthy or increased appetite.
  4. Pale gums. This can mean your pet doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body. Blood-sucking parasites such as hookworms are one of the more common causes of anaemia in pets because there simply isn’t enough blood to go around.
  5. A pot belly. When puppies and kittens catch worms they will show a bloated stomach or belly. This means your pet may have numerous roundworms causing an intestinal blockage and stools cannot pass.

Top five tips to prevent worm infestation

  1. Use a good worming tablet. There are plenty of all-wormers on the market. Products such as Milbemax®  fight roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm with just one tiny tablet. Puppies and kittens up to 12 weeks old are most at risk of catching worms and should be given a tablet once every two weeks. Once your pet hits 13 weeks it should be taking a tablet once a month and at six months a tablet every three months will suffice. If you’re unsure, speak to your local vet.
  2. Don’t let your pet smell or lick stools. The majority of pets will catch worms while sniffing around animal faeces. Dog stools can contain millions of tiny thin-shelled worm eggs that hatch on the ground and damp, cool soil is a perfect nesting ground.   Eggs actually need to develop for a while before they become infective. When hookworm eggs hatch into larvae, they will penetrate your pet’s skin. Roundworm egg shells tend to be sticky so they’ll cling to fur and are eaten while grooming.
  3. Be responsible and pick up your pet’s stools. One of the easiest ways to prevent worms from spreading from pet to pet is to simply pick up after them. Worm eggs can survive in soil for weeks so if your pet is infected, do the right thing and remove faeces as soon as you can.
  4. Make sure meat is well cooked. It’s possible for your pet to catch worms by eating meat, typically offal that is already contaminated with worm eggs. Freezing, drying and exposure to temperatures over 37oC will kill hydatid tapeworm cysts. Steer away from serving meat from wild animals and aim for supermarket meat that is safe for human consumption.
  5. Keep an eye out for fleas. Young tapeworms can reside in fleas so if your pet swallows fleas while grooming, it will ingest tapeworm and become infected. Administering flea treatments regularly will protect your pet and your home from these pesky invaders.

Worms and your family

Worms often live in the lining of a cat or dog’s intestine as it is an ideal place to breed. Without ongoing treatment, worms pose an unseen risk to your pet and even your family.

Worming your pet only kills the parasites at the time of treatment, so it’s important to treat regularly to avoid re-infection – at least once every three months is recommended.

Milbemax® is a state-of-the-art broad spectrum all-wormer. The tiny tablet is easy to administer and works from the inside to kill internal parasites fast. Milbemax offers your cat, dog and family effective protection against gastrointestinal worms.

Hookworm:

Hookworms attach themselves to the lining of the small intestine and have a large appetite for blood.

Infection from hookworm is very dangerous for cats and dogs as it can cause anaemia, even death if blood loss is severe.

Symptoms of infection include bloody stools, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and itchy skin sores.

Roundworm:

Roundworms are named for their large, round bodies. They live in the small intestine and infestation is common.

Many puppies are born with a roundworm infection. Symptoms include failure to thrive, abdominal discomfort, a pot-bellied appearance, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Cats infected with roundworm can have diarrhoea, vomiting, poor growth and lack of energy.

Tapeworm:

Tapeworms are common parasites and can be found in the small intestine of cats and dogs. However, infected pets often show no symptoms at all.

Cats or dogs infected with hydatid tapeworm are particularly dangerous as their droppings can contain active worm eggs posing a serious threat to families. Human transmission can be fatal.

Whipworm:

Whipworm is mostly found in dogs and more prevalent in warm urban environments. Its mouth has a spear that it uses to slash and puncture the intestinal lining to feed on blood and tissue.

Adult whipworms reside in the large intestine causing inflammation of the lining and diarrhoea.

Protection for your family:

Some internal parasites can be unintentionally spread from your pet to your family – this is known as a zoonotic disease (zoonoses). There are new cases of zoonoses in Australia every year.

People can get worms from a pet by coming into contact with eggs on their coat or in droppings. As children are still developing good hygiene habits, they are at higher risk of getting a zoonotic disease.

Symptoms of infection can be mild or very serious – from itchy skin and abdominal pain to blindness and epilepsy.

Zoonoses can be avoided by administering worming tablets at least once every three months, encouraging children to wash their hands regularly after contact with pets, ensuring children wear shoes outside, wearing gloves when gardening, and avoiding contact with pet urine or droppings.

About Dr Marc Simpson
Dr Simpson graduated from Sydney University with BVSc (Hons) MANZCVS (Small Animal Medicine & Surgery) in 1990 and started working at Randwick Vet. From 1991 to 1996 he managed Maroubra Vet Hospital and in August 1996, he and business partner Dr Andrew Herron bought Randwick Vet and opened two additional Vetmed purpose built hospitals in Northbridge and West Lindfield.
Dr Simpson has completed a post graduate course in Small Animal Imaging – Radiology and Ultrasound and has an interest in advanced cancer & joint surgery.
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