Worms in pets is one of the most common types of conditions for cats and dogs. Worms in pets have many of the same symptoms for both cats and dogs, and the mildness or severity of the condition is similar as well. The different types of worms in pets include: hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and whipworms. These types of worms live in the pet’s intestines and they can cause:
- Change in appetite
- Weight loss
- Inability to exercise
- Distended abdomen, especially in kittens
- Dull coat
Hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and whipworms are easily treated through antibiotics, diet changes, and exercise. While these types of worms are rarely fatal if treated early, another type of worm called “heartworm” can cause sudden, serious, and even fatal disease in the pets. Even a small number of heartworms can be serious. Symptoms of heartworm include respiratory stress (difficulty breathing or rapid shallow breathing), gagging or vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
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In addition to recognizing the symptoms of worms in pets, it is important to recognize what the different types of worms in pets look like. Round worms look like spaghetti and tapeworm segments look like little grains of rice. In addition to your pet’s food, worms can also be found on or buried in your pets fur, around his anus, and around his paws (from scratching). It is not uncommon to find worms in your pet’s ears as well.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent worms in pets. One of the best ways to prevent a serious worm infection is to have your pet screened for worms twice per year. If your pet is considered high-risk for worms, you should have him screened more than twice a year. High-risk pets typically live in condensed urban areas and they usually live in a home with more than one pet. Outdoor cats are especially susceptible to worms.
Caring for a pet with worms should only be done under the care of a vet. Most non-prescription medications don’t work. Your vet will have access to a number of cutting edge preventatives that are extremely effective against the most aggressive types of parasites such as roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, and heartworm.
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It is important to keep in mind that fleas are a source of certain types of tapeworms. When your pet accidentally swallows an infected flea, the tapeworms can hatch in your pet’s intestines. These types of tapeworms can also be transmitted to humans as well. Animal carcasses such as rodents and rabbits may also contain tapeworms, so if you have an outdoor cat, it will be impossible to keep your cat away from them. You may want to rethink allowing your cat to roam around freely outdoors.
It’s also a good idea to keep your pet clean and well groomed. You should also dispose of pet feces immediately. Never leave it in piles in the backyard, the dog run or in the litter box. Whipworm and roundworm eggs can remain infectious for years, and hookworm larvae can multiply quickly in dirty litter boxes and in dirty dog runs and poop filled lawns. If you suspect that your pet has worms, please contact your vet immediately.