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Why should I worm my cat/dog regularly?

- Posted by in Pet Care

Why should I worm my cat/dog regularly?

The chances are, every dog and every cat will get worms at some point in their life. Often, infections are manageable but even healthy looking animals may have the beginnings of something more sinister inside them.

If I don't worm them, what might happen?

In extreme cases and depending on the type of worm, there may be awful consequences such as intestinal blockages, blockage of blood flow in the heart, inflammation of arteries, anaemia, and even death if left untreated.

Early signs to watch out for include poor growth and a bloated abdomen in puppies/kittens, a dull and brittle coat, increased appetite, weight loss, coughing and abnormal breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea (either may contain whole or fragments of worms!), blood in faeces. A tell-tale sign of tapeworm in particular is small white fragments of worm in the fur around the bottom.

Where does the threat come from?

Throughout their lives, parasites pose risks in many ways and we need to be aware in order to protect our pets properly.

Their mother

  • It is common knowledge that the majority (around 90%) of puppies are born already infected with the Toxocara roundworm, as the larvae can pass from mother to pups via the placenta. After birth, both puppies and kittens can be infected by their mother's milk, as Toxocara larvae can also find their way into mammary ducts. As the mother is a constant source of infection, regular worming every two weeks until weaning is complete is essential.

Environment

  • Toxocara roundworm eggs pass out in the faeces of infected pets and mature into an infective stage in the environment . Infective larvae are able to establish infection if eaten.
  • Contaminated grass, toys, food and water can transmit infecion, so picking up faeces is very important.
  • Nursing mothers are often reinfected when they clean up after their litter, and the cycle continues as larvae are passed on via the milk again.

Prey

  • Active hunters run greater risk of infection, as prey animals like rabbits and rodents act as middle-men for many nasty types of roundworm and tapeworm.
  • Lungworm is a growing concern in the UK and pets can pick up infection by eating slugs and snails. If lungworm is prevalent in your area, it is best to discuss options with your vet, as established infection requires careful treatment because the adults live in the heart. To prevent lungworm, a single dose of a non-prescription wormer is not sufficient. Don't forget that you can always purchase prescription-only medication from us if you get a prescription from your vet :)

Fleas

  • Regular flea treatments go hand-in-hand with worming. Fleas feed on the eggs and carry the larvae of the most common tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) and if a pet accidentally swallows a flea while grooming or gulping down unfortunate prey, you can pretty much guarantee they'll get infected. We'd recommend treating for fleas (and ticks) with Effipro and for all major worms with TermaWorm every month if your pet likes to explore.

Food

  • Other types of tapeworm like the Taenia species hibernate in cysts inside muscle tissue of their middle-men, and if meat is fed raw or undercooked, they can survive to infect cats and dogs.

So, how often should I worm my cat/dog?

Adult animals come across a greater variety of worms and depending on their lifestyle, may need worming once a month or once every three months.

  1. If you have indoor pets with restricted access to wildlife and the outdoors, worming every three months as a precaution will be ideal in most cases, providing that fleas are kept at bay too.
  2. Pets who spend a lot of time outside hunting or love to scavenge while in the garden are more likely to need worming once a month, along with a regular flea treatment.
  3. Animals living in large groups should also be wormed more regularly, as risk of roundworm infection from a contaminated environment is higher.

We recommend using TermaWorm Tablets or Prazitel multi-wormer tablets for both dogs and cats. They are ideal for routine worming and monthly treatments if required.

No matter the category a pet falls into, we shouldn't wait for trouble to rear its head before taking action.

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Comments

26th Jun 2014

I do a worm egg count on all my cats. We have 4 at present and our queen is expecting a large litter of kittens in July. I have been doing worm egg counts on my cats, dogs and horses for a number of years now. I have never wormed any of the cats since I started this targetted program. I have done over 150 worm egg counts on horses and only needed to worm on 6 occasions. It is a known issue that worms are developing a resistance to wormers and no new wormers are presently in development so worming without checking is expensive and a dangerous practice.

2nd Sep 2014

It is very true that resistance issues are widely documented in horses and it has become quite a large problem there, which is why worming strategically with chemicals appropriate for the type of worm being targeted is important, along with knowing the weight of the horses to allow accurate dosing. The subject is very complex but we have a guide which you can find on the horse worming page, which covers and explains main aspects of it.

With common roundworm and tapeworm in dogs and cats there isn't the same widespread issues with resistance, but we should avoid promoting resistance by over worming or dosing incorrectly (under-dosing). Each animal should be looked at separately to decide how often they should be treated.

For cats who don't hunt and dogs that don't eat everything they find outside or mainly live indoors, worming 2-4 times a year just to make sure that any they do pick up don't get out of control will be fine (some pets could be treated less often if worm counts are carried out and show that there isn't a significant adult infection present).

Not all infections are picked up by worm counts though, and in particular Toxocara species in cats and dogs lay dormant in the muscles until the animal's immune system weakens, such as during pregnancy or old age. These species of worm most often cause problems in puppies and kittens, but if humans acquire infection, consequences of Toxocariasis can be serious, such as blindness. It is particularly important to treat animals for the roundworm if you have small children who play in the garden and with pets, then put their fingers into their mouths without washing their hands.

For hunters, each prey eaten is a possible source of infection, so more regular worming is required to ensure worm burdens don't get to a level where they become a health concern. Both roundworm and tapeworm should be targeted in active hunters. With proper dosing it reduces the chances of worms surviving and becoming resistant.

We are always happy to give advice on products, dosing and working out worming plans for your pets (big or small!). Our email address is: vet+sqp@viovet.co.uk

10th Nov 2017

My Labrador is having Advocate as a flea and worm treatment. But he needs a tapeworm treatment as he is regards dead rabbits as a specialty. I worm for tapeworms every 2 months with Drontal, is this enough and do Termaworm do a wormer specific for tape worms and if they do would I be able to use it with the Advocate please.
Thank you
Sandra Bass


13th Nov 2017

Hi Sandra,

TermaWorm treats all common tapeworm and roundworm found in the UK. It is also safe to be used alongside Advocate.

I hope this helps :)

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