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In this time of drought personal hygiene is of paramount importance. With short showers and little access to water it essential for us to keep our hands clean. Deworming your pet is an important part of its regular health regime.

So this month we are going to look at worms! 

The four most common types of worms that affect our domestic pets are:

• Round Worms –  Toxocara Canis 

Toxocara Leonis

As one of the most common parasites to affect our pets, almost all dogs and cats will be infected with roundworms at sometime in their life but they are frequently seen in puppies and kittens. Round worms resemble cooked spaghetti and live unattached in your pet’s intestines where they feed off partially digested food.

How does my pet get infected?

• The adult worms shed eggs through the faeces of the infected pet.
• Other dogs become infected by licking or sniffing the infected faeces
• Roundworm eggs can have ‘paratenic’ hosts such as earthworms, cockroaches and birds. If your pet ingests one of these it will become infected.

Is it true that a puppy or kitten be born with roundworms? Yes!

Round worms have a complicated life cycle that includes many different stages one of which is encysted larvae. These larvae migrate through different body tissues and are capable of crossing the placenta of a pregnant dog or cat to the unborn puppy or kitten. They can also be found in the mother’s milk. Therefore, when the offspring are born they will already be infested with adult worms which in turn will start producing eggs .

What are the symptoms?

 An adult dog or cat may show no symptoms of roundworm infestation or may have diarrhoea. However, puppies and kittens are often presented with:

• potbelly
• stunted growth
• persistent diarrhoea

Are Humans At risk?

If a human accidentally swallows an infected roundworm egg, the encysted larvae can migrate through various tissues and become a problem. This is an EXTREMELY RARE occurrence and normal hygiene control should prevent this.

• wear gloves when handling faeces
• clear away your pets faeces timeously particularly from areas where children play.
• wear gloves when gardening
WASH YOUR HANDS after any of the above activities

How should I treat my pet ?

Visit your Veterinary clinic. There are many excellent dewormers on the market and your veterinarian will be able advise you which is the most suitable for your pet. Modern dewormers usually kill the worm in the intestines, where it dissolves. These drugs are safe and should have no side effects. Depending on the severity of the infestation you may need to repeat the medication 10-14days after the initial treatment, or even complete a longer course.

  • Tape Worms – Dipylidium Caninum    
Tapeworms are particularly important because  of their association with fleas. They are segmented worms that attach to the lining of the small  intestine in cats and dogs. Tapeworm segments develop behind the head of the worm, and move down the tapeworm as they mature until they are finally deposited outside the body in your pets faeces.

They are often seen as little ‘grains of rice’ on the fur of your pet and are mobile. As they dry out the segment opens releasing fertilized eggs into the environment.

How does my pet get infected?

• The tapeworm MUST pass through its intermediate host –THE FLEA– before it can infect a dog or cat.
• Fertilized tapeworm eggs lie in the environment and are then eaten by flea larvae.
• Inside the flea larvae the tapeworm eggs hatch but do not develop into adult worms.
• Only when the adult flea is accidentally eaten by a dog or cat, usually during grooming, does the tapeworm itself mature and start producing more eggs.

What are the symptoms?

Tapeworms do not usually cause serious problems in adult pets. However in young puppies and kittens heavy tapeworm infestation can cause:

• anaemia
• stunted growth
• intestinal blockages

Are Humans At risk?
This particular tapeworm does not pose any threat to humans.

How should I treat my pet ?


Creating a flea free envirnment – which involves treating both your pet and the environment – is the only way to prevent recurring tapeworm infestation. Deworming treatments for tapeworm are extremely effective but once again several treatments may be necessary along with good flea control to eradicate the infestation completely. There are excellent flea treatments available (for both house and pet) from your Veterinarian.
  • Hook Worms –  Ancylostoma Caninum    
                                               Ancylostoma braziiense                               
Although not as common as the previous worms we have discussed, the hook worm is a partucularly nasty little critter! Their mouthparts have hooks, which allow them to attach onto the intestinal wall of the cat or dog where they suck blood. The active worms often leave the bite site, which will continue to seep blood. The adult hookworm lays eggs that pass from your pets faeces. The eggs hatch into larvae that are excellent swimmers and can travel in raindrops or dewy vegetation while waiting for a suitable host to come along.

How does my pet get infected?

• larvae burrow through your pets skin and then migrate via the blood to the trachea and lungs where they are coughed up and swallowed.

Once in the intestines they settle down mature, mate and produce eggs!

• larvae can be eaten in contaminated food or water. Most larvae will pass into your pet’s intestines where they will mature. However, some may migrate through tissue where they can encyst and lie dormant in muscle, fat and other tissue.

• in the female dog and cat these dormant larval cysts migrate into the mammary tissue thus infecting her nursing young.

What are the symptoms?

Hookworm can cause severe disease in adult dogs and cats as well as puppies and kittens where it can be life threatening. 

• anaemia –pale gums 
• black tarry stool
• vomiting and diarrhoea
• coughing
• emacaition

Are Humans At risk?

Hookworm larvae can burrow into the skin (usually through bare feet) and can cause a disease called ‘cutaneous larva migrans’.

How should I treat my pet?

Visit your Veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet. Hookworms are very small and diagnosis of an infestation is usually done through microscopic examination of the faeces. So you may be asked to take in a stool sample. There are excellent dewormers for the treatment of hookworm. A prolonged course may be required to eradicate the infestation.

  • Whipworms-  Trichuris trichiura       
Whipworms are extremely small worms that live in the cecum and colon of your pet where they cause severe irritation. The adult lays eggs intermittently and it can take up to 12 weeks after maturing for the adult to begin laying eggs which are passed out in the faeces.

How does my pet get infected?

• by eating infected matter
• contact with infected animals
• whipworm can live in the enviroment for years and be present in
 soil, water, food , faeces and animal flesh

What are the symptoms?

Whipworm can affect dogs and cats of any age and can cause serious disease.

• weight loss
• water,bloody diarrhoea
• general debilitation

Are Humans At risk?

How should I treat my pet?

Visit your veterinarian who can do a thorough examination. It may take several microscopic examinations over a period of time to diagnose whipworm, as eggs are not always present in the affected animals faeces. There are excellent treatments for whipworm available from your veterinarian.

As you can see from above our pets are at constant risk of worm infestation. Regular deworming of your pet is an essential part of its general health, you may see no signs of worm infestation but that doesn’t  mean that they aren’t there!

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