Roundworms are zoonotic parasites, which means they can be passed from animals to humans - especially children. They can also be exceptionally good survivors, with viable eggs able to live outside the animal for several years. Roundworm symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, pot-belly and colic. Puppies and kittens can develop roundworm at the foetal stage, prior to being born.
The most dangerous of all intestinal worms, hookworms survive by burrowing into a pet's intestinal wall and sucking blood. Female hookworms can lay up to 30,000 eggs daily. These hatch in the faeces. Infection is caused by swallowing or skin penetration. Your cat or dog could experience enteritis, diarrhoea, dehydration and ultimately death from anaemia. Like roundworms, they are zoonotic parasites and can affect humans.
Whipworms live in the lower bowel of dogs and can survive for up to a year, laying more than 2000 eggs each day. These eggs are passed in the droppings and can survive in soil and pet surroundings for years. Symptoms include pain, diarrhoea and weight loss.
Common flea tapeworm larvae develop in fleas, and when a pet eats an infected flea while grooming itself, the tapeworm develops in the animal's gut. Other tapeworm larvae develop in rodents that can be eaten by pets, especially cats. While not a major health risk, tapeworms cause itching and possible weight loss.
On occasion you may notice white rice grain sized segments around the anus of your pet. These are the sticky segments of the tapeworm full of eggs that have been shed. These can reinfect your pet of other animals that come into contact with the faeces.
A regular worming programme is essential
While oral worming treatments are effective in killing worms that are present in the intestine at the time of treatment, worming is not a vaccine against future attacks. This is why regular treatment, especially in your pet's early months, is essential to the pet's health. Dogs and cats can be re-infected from other pets and from the environment.
There are many different preparations available nowadays which can tackle a number of parasites such as fleas, lice, ticks, roundworms and ear mites at once.
There is also a topical worming treatment for cats if owners have trouble treating with tablets.
More serious conditions involving hookworms may require Veterinary treatment.
Always ask your Vet for advice on worming treatments as some do not treat for the full range of worms.