Even though you can't see them, it doesn't mean they aren't there. Your pet can seem happy and healthy while intestinal worms are slowly damaging their body. Regardless of how much you limit your pet's time outside there is still a possibility they may get worms. This is why during your pet's annual visit the veterinarian may recommend bringing a stool sample. Most worms can be detected by using a microscope to look for eggs in the patient's feces. For other worms like heartworms, a blood test is used to detect them.
What are common worms that cats and dogs can catch?
- Roundworm - this intestinal parasite is very common in puppies and cats. It can be transmitted in utero from the mother, through milk while nursing, by ingesting infected soil or from eating infected animals (rodents). Worms can grow up from 3-6 inches long and resemble spaghetti noodles when seen in stool, which is contagious to humans.
- Heartworm - as the name suggests it can live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of your pet. It is most common, but also deadly in dogs. Hundreds of these worms can survive inside dogs and cause organ malfunction. Mosquitoes are the culprits in passing these worms to cats and dogs.
- Tapeworm - this internal parasite can be seen with the naked eye in stool. As they grow inside cats and dogs, some species will break into pieces and appear white/cream in color or dried up in their stool or under their tail. Other parasites like fleas carry tapeworms which your pet can get by ingesting them.
- Hookworm - this is another zoonotic parasite that humans can get from cats and dogs. The larvae can penetrate the human skin when they sit or walk in contaminated sand or soil with bare feet. Feline and canine animals get worms from contaminated soil or by eating feces or prey. Hookworms have different life stages when they enter your pet's body and can be dormant for periods of time.
- Whipworms - another intestinal worm that is more common in dogs than cats. While infected, it is not uncommon for both feline and canine pets to be asymptomatic. A fecal sample is usually examined under a microscope to detect worm eggs.
How do I know if my pet has any of these worms?
Although not always visible, some pets will begin to display symptoms the longer they are infected. You should look for:
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Dragging their hind across the floor
- Weight loss
- Black tarry or bloody stool
How can I prevent my pet from getting worms?
Small activities from your pet's everyday schedule could be exposing them to worms. The best way to reduce your pet's chances of getting worms is to deworm them regularly even if you don't think they have worms. Keeping your pet on a prevention plan can treat and control worm infections. To reduce your pet's exposure to worms you should keep play areas, lawn, gardens, and areas around your house free of animal feces.