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How deworming can help keep your pet healthy

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Do you really need to deworm your cat or dog?
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Cat and dog cuddling

It’s easy to forget to deworm our pets. Worms live inside your dog or cat so they can’t be seen. Although they might not be as obvious a problem as fleas and ticks, they can still lead to health problems in your pet.

Why so serious?

Intestinal worms are common, but adult cats and dogs may not show any obvious signs of a worm infestation. However, symptoms occur most often in puppies and kittens. and can include vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy. The other really important thing to know about worms is that some of them can pose a risk to our health, too.

Know your enemy

What exactly are you up against? There are a number of different species of worms that can affect our dogs and cats. The main worms to know in dogs are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms. For cats, roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms are the main culprits.

Roundworms

These are the most common intestinal parasite found in both cats and dogs. Several inches in length, they look like thin white strands of spaghetti. Chances are that you’ll never actually see one though, as they live, feed and breed inside the intestine of your pet.

Infected pets pass microscopic roundworm eggs out in their poo, which transfer to the soil. Other animals can become infected with roundworm if they eat these eggs while rummaging around outside.

If people accidentally eat roundworm eggs (eggs can get onto our hands if we’re gardening, and can get onto food grown outside, or even be present in our pet’s fur), the larvae of this parasite can travel in our bodies and cause serious disease.

Tapeworms

Cats and dogs can get tapeworms in a few different ways, but one the most common ways is by swallowing infected fleas when they groom themselves. Fleas can contain the larval stage of the flea tapeworm and, once inside your pet, this develops into a new adult tapeworm. Just as with roundworms, it’s not always easy to tell if your pet has a tapeworm, but you might notice tiny segments of the worm crawling in your pet’s poo (resembling crawling rice grains) or crawling on the fur around their bum. Tapeworms can also lead to disease in people.

Hookworms

Dogs and cats can pick up hookworms if they eat hookworm larvae in the environment. The parasite may cause no symptoms but, in puppies and kittens with high numbers of worms, it can cause diarrhea, low-grade anemia and lethargy. Hookworm larvae can also burrow into your pet’s skin, usually between its toes, causing intense skin irritation. Also, worryingly, if we walk barefoot in areas where this parasite is found, larvae can burrow into our feet, too.

Whipworms

Dogs can pick up whipworms by eating whipworm eggs when they’re sniffing around outside. Dogs with low worm numbers may not show symptoms, but dogs with high worm counts or young animals may show signs or whipworm including diarrhea containing blood, weight loss, anemia and lethargy.

The best defense

It’s all too easy to forget about deworming your pet but maintaining a schedule of regular treatments is an essential part of pet healthcare. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the best deworming treatment for your pet.

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