What worms are dangerous in our cats and dogs? And what is the best way to protect your pets and family from parasites?
There are a number of different worms that can infect our pets. Although most prefer our pets, some parasites can infect humans as well.
Having a huge burden of intestinal worms can gradually wear down your pet, reduce absorption of nutrients and lead to protein loss and anemia. This is particularly important for young puppies and kittens, whose tiny bodies need all the nutrients they can get.
Depending on where you live, there are different risks when it comes to parasites. The most dangerous type of intestinal worm is a type of tapeworm called the hydatid tapeworm, common in areas where dogs have access to sheep. Dogs in farming areas can pass on the hydatid tapeworm to their human family, usually when the dog is allowed to lick faces or dye to improper hand washing before eating.
There are other types of worms, called hookworms and roundworms that can also infect people, usually children.
Regularly worming your pet one of the easiest ways to make sure they (and you!) stay in optimum health. When you should worm your pet depends on how old it is: here are some good guidelines for dogs and cats.
It is also important to pick up your pet’s feces and to wash hands after playing with pets before eating.
What about heartworm?
Heartworm is a particularly dangerous and clever worm. The parasite is spread by mosquitoes, so can be transmitted to any dog, even one that rarely goes outside. The disease is becoming less common due to regular preventatives, however foxes, stray dogs, and other animals not subject to regular health care can carry heartworms, and act as a reservoir for the disease on the fringes of urban areas. Monthly preventative treatments are important year-round. If your dog has had a break for heartworm treatment, please get a heartworm test, as a heartworm positive dog can have a fatal reaction to a simple preventative tablet. Dogs with heartworm usually don’t show any signs of the disease until they are so infected that severe damage has happened within the heart, so early detection is important.
Which is the best wormer to use for my pet?
There are a number of ways to protect your pet from parasites and there is a useful summary here. It’s always best to ask your vet about their recommended monthly treatments, and any questions or concerns you may have regarding them.
So what now?
If you aren’t sure whether your pet is protected from parasites, ask your vet for advice the next time you visit. If your pet hasn’t had a heartworm treatment for more than 3 months, ask your vet to do a heartworm test before starting preventative treatment. If you are a little late with your intestinal wormer, it is safe to give anytime and you might even see some worms in your pet’s feces – but don’t worry, this just means your wormer is working!