Worming Advice For Your Pet

“Worms” is a broad term for a range of parasites that can infect an animal (or humans in some cases). Although when talking about worms we are mainly talking about intestinal parasites (roundworms and tapeworms), there are also species that can exist in the lungs and airways such as lungworm.

Further Advice

Common Questions

How can worms cause a problem?

Roundworms can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, poor coat and a distended (“pot”) belly. Puppies and kittens can be born with roundworm infections which are passed to them from their mother whilst still in the womb.

With tapeworms you may see little white tapeworm “segments” sticking around the anus or the animal may drag its bottom along the ground (scooting).

Hookworms can in rare circumstances can cause foot problems in adults due to migration of larvae through the skin on the feet.

Severe infections of whipworms can cause nasty diarrhoea.

Lungworms may cause breathing problems due to both their presence and the damage they cause to the respiratory tract. They can also cause some unusual symptoms such as clotting problems, tummy aches or even seizures.

How are worm infections caused?

The method of infection varies not only between families of worms, but also individual species. Broadly speaking, the lifecycle of worms usually consists of adult worms laying eggs, which then hatch into young larvae which then go on to grow into adult worms – thus completing the cycle. Adults tend to live in the animal’s intestines where they will lay eggs which are inevitably passed in the faeces. Once out in the open either the eggs or the larvae can be ingested back into a new animal. However before the larvae develop into adults they often migrate around the animal or form cysts.

Therefore transmission can be one of several ways:

Faeco-oral – the animal becomes infected by ingesting eggs or larvae that have originated from an infected animal's faeces. This doesn’t necessarily mean the animal has to “eat poo”! Eggs can be picked up on the skin and later ingested by grooming.

Oral – can occur if an animals eat another animal that may be infected or contain encysted larva. For example if a cat eats a mouse that has larval cysts inside it, or if a dog scavenges offal from an infected sheep. This route of infection is called “paratenic” transmission.

Maternal – some species of worm can be transmitted to young offspring. This can either occur directly from the mother in the womb, or can also occur through the milk.

Other – the common household flea can transmit a tapeworm (called Dipylidium) to dogs and cats when its bites.

What can be done to prevent my animals from getting worms?

It is very difficult to completely stop your animal getting worms, and so for this reason it is important to get your animal treated for worms on a regular basis to ensure that there is not a serious build up of parasites which can then go on to cause problems. Unlike a lot of medicines, the drugs used for worming don’t tend to have a residual action – in other words a couple of days after an animal has been wormed, the drug will have gone and potentially the level of parasites can begin to build up again.

As a result of this, it is recommended that all animals are wormed at regular intervals against both roundworms and tapeworms, and in many circumstances against lungworms as well.

What are the best wormers to use?

There are a lot of worming drugs to choose from ranging from “over-the-counter” treatments to prescription only drugs. A lot of the non-prescription drugs are quite old, and therefore there is some resistance around. Also wormers may not treat all worms – i.e. you may be treating tapeworms without treating for roundworms. If in doubt you should always talk to a vet or veterinary nurse who will be able to advise you.

The prescription drugs are very effective and also come in a variety of forms that should help with the administration of the drug. These days wormers can be given as:

Granules to mix into the food
Liquid to mix into the food or squirt into the mouth
Paste to mix into the food or squirt into the mouth
Drops to be placed on the skin (this is particularly useful for naughty cats!)

These prescription drugs can only be obtained from your veterinary surgeon, and we are happy to supply them to you at a free of charge consultation. Please contact our repeat prescription service to obtain your wormers.

If you are registered with the Severn Edge Veterinary Group, then you can order your wormers and other routine medications online via our Repeat Prescriptions page.