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Pet Information - Worms

Should I worm my pet?

Yes - for three reasons:

1. Lungworm is now a problem in Derbyshire, we diagnosed our first case in 2010, the dog was very well cared, and had just been to Crufts. He had been wormed, but not with a wormer that killed lungworm - he was lucky to survive, but happily responded well to treatment. Lungworm can be fatal - very sadly, we have had one fatality, the dog concerned lived in Alfreton, we gather there has been another fatality in a dog from Stonebroom. You need to worm your dog with a lungworm preventative to ensure its life is not at risk. Please see our separate section about Lungworm for more details.

2. Worms can cause health problems for your dog – such as vomiting and diarrhoea in young animals. Sometimes the worms are vomited up – they can be over 15cm long. Worms can lead to poor growth and the classic ‘pot bellied’ appearance. Very heavy infestations can lead to pneumonia as the worms migrate through the lungs as part of the life cycle. In extreme cases, large numbers of worms can obstruct the bowel.

3. Worms can be transmitted to humans. Worm larvae can migrate around the human body, to the eye (causing loss of vision and blindness), or the lungs or liver, or in the central nervous system.

Which worms can dogs and cats get?

There are 3 main types: roundworms, tapeworms and lungworm.

1.Roundworms - These are circular in cross-section, and most live in the intestine.


2. Tapeworms - These are flat, and release segments which look like grains of rice – these contain eggs. These eggs must enter a second host before they can affect the final host (dog or cat). 


There are two types of tapeworm:

· The flea tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) – tapeworm eggs must be ingested by fleas or lice, then the pet is infected when it accidentally eats the flea/louse.

· Taenia species – the second host can be rodents (for cats) and sheep, cows and rabbits for dogs. Dogs and cats become infected when they eat prey (eg cat eating a mouse) or uncooked meat or offal

3.Lungworms - See our separate section for more information on this potentially fatal worm, which dogs get from infected slugs and snails.



Although cats get lungworm, it is not the same type that dogs get and is not life-threatening.

How did my pet get worms?

Roundworms in the gut of infected dogs and cats produce thousands of microscopic eggs which pass out in the animal’s faeces. Larvae develop in the eggs, which develop into worms when eaten by a dog or cat. Eggs are very resilient and can survive for years in the environment, long after the faeces has gone, leading to contaminated soil, pavements, etc. The eggs stick to the paws of dogs and cats as they walk on them, then the pet ingests them, for example when grooming.

Tapeworms are passed on by the pet ingesting infested fleas, prey or meat (cows/sheep).

In addition, puppies get roundworms from their mum, both across the placenta and from infected milk (the milk of the mother will contain worm larvae).


Puppies start producing worm eggs in their faeces by about 2 weeks of age. A study of 7-10 week old puppies showed each female Toxacara canis roundworm produced 25,000-84,000 eggs each day. So puppies produce vast numbers of worm eggs, which contaminate the environment.


How will I know if my pet has worms? I’ve never seen any!

· You probably will not know – and this is one of the arguments in favour of regular worming.

Assume ALL PUPPIES AND KITTENS are infected. They get them from their mum. Always. Unavoidably.
·Worm eggs are microscopic so you won’t see them (unless you look at your dog’s motions with a microscope!!)
·You may see worms e.g. in motions or vomit especially in young puppies, but often there are no visible signs.
·Sometimes dogs ‘scoot’ ie drag their bottoms, due to irritation caused by the worms
·Dogs which hunt and consume prey have a high risk of harbouring tapeworms.

Why should I worm my pet regularly?

Based on the information above, it can be seen that regular worming:

· Could save its life by preventing lungworm

· Protects your dog from potential ill-health

· Stops other dogs getting infected

· Protects your family from ill health – such as blindness caused by roundworm larvae

· To reduce contamination of worm eggs in the environment. In one survey, roundworm eggs were found in fenced-off play areas tested in southern England, showing that soil can be contaminated even in areas where dogs supposedly have no access)

· Should be regarded as an essential part of being a responsible dog/cat owner!


How often should I worm my pet?

Practice Recommendations:

Puppies and kittens under 6 months old should be wormed at least monthly from 2 weeks (puppies) and 6 weeks (kittens).

For animals over 6 months old, we recommend worming at least every 3 months but more often in higher risk situations, such as:

· Cats that hunt/dogs that scavenge

· Animals which have any contact with children.

· Farm dogs

· Animals not regularly flea-treated


What’s the best way to worm my pet?

There are no wormers available to prevent worms – so the best approach is to kill worms that are present on a regular basis.

There are tablets (many are palatable) and spot on wormers, the spot-ons often kill other parasites as well.

For dogs, you must use a product which covers against lungworm.

Make sure you know your pet’s weight accurately – under-dosing with a worm product will reduce how effective it is. You are welcome to bring your pet to the surgery so it can be weighed accurately, then we can help you choose the best wormer for your needs.

Choose a convenient product - some wormers need to be given over several days, so avoid these and instead use a licensed reliable product that is just a one-off tablet, or a spot-on on the back of your pet’s neck.

Regular flea control is advisable to reduce spread of some tapeworms.

Our highly-trained staff will be happy to guide you towards the best product for your pet, please contact the surgery.


I can't give my pet tablets, are there any alternatives?

Yes! You can bring your pet to the surgery for one of our nurses to administer a worming tablet. There is no charge for this, only for the tablet.

There are excellent spot-on wormers available for both dogs and cats, applied in a similar way to flea control products to the skin at the back of the neck.


How long does the effect of the wormer last?

Wormers do not last for long in the body, and they don’t remain active against worms - a worming tablet will probably only last for a few hours. This is why it is advisable to worm your pet regularly, and keep it away from sources of worm infection.


Is there anything else I should do?

Regularly worming your dog is crucial to reduce the contamination of environmental soil. This will reduce the exposure hazard to both humans and other animals.

Another important take-home message is to always clear up after your dog ie poop-scooping. Faeces should be removed soon after they have been passed (e.g. in your garden) as the eggs are not immediately infective. Delaying removing them increases the risks to you and your family.


My local shop sells wormers, are they the same as the ones at the vets?

Probably not - supermarkets and pet shops can only sell wormers which as no longer licensed, usually because they are old products or haven't been rigorously tested to check they work (such as herbal products). The concern is that they may not kill all the worms that are present, this is potentially a life-threatening omission where lungworm is concerned. In addition, dosing can be confusing and complicated; some must not be given to cats (risk of poisoning), or animals with kidney problems; some must be given mixed with food – which your pet may not eat; some contain chocolate which sends a mixed message (chocolate is considered harmful to dogs). For all these reasons, these products may not represent good value for money and more importantly, may not protect your pet or your family.

Practice recommendation:

Only use a worming product that is proven to work, and all dogs should be given wormers effective against lungworm.

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