What you should know about worms
Just because worms live inside your pets body and are not visible to you does not mean that they can be ignored. In fact severe worm infestations can result in anaemia, intestinal obstruction and even death.
Pets most often affected
All breeds and ages of pets can be affected but the younger animals are generally more severely affected by these internal parasites.
Roundworms, often called "ascarids", are the most common parasite of the digestive tract in dogs and cats.
How do roundworms cause disease in pets?
In your pet’s intestines, roundworms absorb nutrients, interfere with digestion and can damage the lining of the gut. Animals with mild infestations of roundworms may not show any signs of disease. Animals with more severe infestations may be thin, have dull hair coats and develop a pot-bellied appearance. Some may become anaemic and show symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation. Rarely, in severe infestations, the roundworms can cause obstruction of the intestines. A cough may be observed in some animals due to the migration of the worm larvae through the respiratory system. In young animals the migration of the larvae in the lungs can cause pneumonia. Adult worms may be seen in the faeces or vomit. The worms are round on cross-section (hence the common name) and look a bit like spaghetti.
Are roundworms of any danger to people?
Accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs by people may cause blindness, nervous system damage or damage to internal organs.
Hookworms (Ancylostoma) are one of the most common intestinal parasites of dogs and cats (especially puppies and kittens), and can cause severe disease including anaemia and serious diarrhoea. Hookworms have either teeth-like structures or cutting plates with which they attach themselves to the wall of the intestine and feed on the animal’s blood. The mucous membranes e.g., gums will appear pale, the animal will become weak, and sometimes black, tarry stools can be seen. Growth in young animals is stunted, and the hair coat may appear dull and dry. Animals may become emaciated and eventually die from the infection.
Are hookworms of any danger to people?
Hookworm larvae can penetrate the surface of a person’s skin (usually through bare feet) and migrate through it, causing a disease called "cutaneous larva migrans" or "creeping eruption". The lesions appear as red lines under the skin and sometimes break open at the skin’s surface. These lesions cause severe itching. Usually the larvae will die in several weeks and the condition will disappear. In severe cases the larvae may make their way through the skin and enter deeper tissues. This may cause lung disease and painful muscles.
In heavy infections, we may notice abdominal discomfort or nervousness in the animal. The animal may vomit and sometimes have convulsions. It is thought that the convulsions are due to toxins produced by the tapeworm. The active tapeworm segments around the anal area may cause an animal to lick or "scoot" on the floor, because of the itchy feeling around the anal area. Scooting may also be as a result of inflamed anal sacs, which can be expressed by your veterinarian.
Are tapeworms of any danger to people?
Accidental ingestion of certain tapeworm eggs may result in cysts forming in the skin, brain, muscle etc. Cysts in the brain can for example lead to epilepsy.
What can be done to reduce the risk of a worm infection?
Regular deworming of dogs and cats at strategic intervals reduces the risk of infection and contamination of the environment and thus helps prevent human illness. We recommend beginning deworming at a young age before environmental contamination can occur and continuing at strategic intervals.
Adults should ideally be dewormed once every 3 months whilst puppies and kittens require more regular deworming. Bitches and queens should also be dewormed prior to whelping.
* Image courtesy of the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, University of Pretoria.
Disclaimer: Zoetis takes no responsibility for any claims that may arise from information contained in this information sheet. Individual situations may vary from location to location and it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before any management or treatment decisions are implemented.
Vrywaring: Zoetis neem geen verantwoordelikheid vir enige eise wat mag voortspruit uit inligting vervat in hierdie inligtingsdokument. Individuele situasies varieer van plek tot plek en dit word voorgestel dat u eers u veearts kontak alvorens enige bestuurs- of behandelingsbesluite geïmplementeer word.