Worms – what you need to know


Pets are victims of several internal parasites frequently referred to as worms. The most common are the roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. Of these only two are commonly seen in faeces with the unaided eye: roundworms and tapeworms.

Worm infestations can cause any or all of these symptoms: diarrhoea, perhaps with blood; weight loss; dry hair; general poor appearance; abdominal pain and vomiting, perhaps with worms in the vomit. However, some infestations cause few or no symptoms; in fact some worm eggs or larvae can remain dormant in a pet’s body and are activated only in times of stress, or in the case of roundworms and hookworms, until the later stages of pregnancy when they activate and infest the soon-to-be-born puppies and kittens.

Additionally roundworms can migrate throughout other tissues in the body which can lead to other potential problems such as blindness. Tapeworms can also cause significant anal irritation.

An emerging problem is that of the Lungworm, Angiostrongylus vasorum. They are carried by slugs and snails and when ingested the adult lungworm will live in the heart and major blood vessels of the lungs causing symptoms such as coughing, exercise intolerance, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive bleeding from minor wounds and seizures.

Problem to People?

Unfortunately a number of these worms can affect humans, particularly if inadvertently ingested. Children and wheelchair users are especially at risk from infections.

How do dogs get worms?

Dog-to-dog contact in the park can lead to the transmission of roundworms (through soil contaminated with parasite eggs), fleas and tapeworms. Just one pile of dog poo can contain a million roundworm eggs. Even if you scoop the poop, eggs can still remain in the left overs. Tapeworms are a risk to scavenging or hunting dogs, which can use small rodents as intermediate hosts. Only appropriate worming can you break this life cycle. Soil, birds, mice and even slugs and snails in your garden all harbour parasites including lungworm, tapeworm and roundworm. Additionally, ingestion of fleas which carry tapeworm eggs can contributes to a parasitic infestation.

How do cats get worms?

Soil, birds, mice and even slugs and snails in your garden all harbour parasites including lungworm, tapeworm and roundworm, they can be transmitted by sniffing and licking in areas where other cats have been or even from owners shoes that have brought microscopic parasites in from outside. Hunting cats are at risk of being infected by roundworm and tapeworm, which can use small rodents and birds as part of their lifecycle. If your cat regularly brings you home a ‘present’ you need regular tapeworm and roundworm control. Cat fleas are a major source of tapeworm eggs that can cause problems if ingested. Please see our Fleas leaflet for more information about fleas.

How do I prevent my animal from suffering from worms?

Regular worming is the only solution. Puppies and kittens should be done very frequently. The schedule of adult worming will depend on the type of wormer used and the environmental challenge, for example cats that like to hunt.

The more pets in the household the more likely there is to be a problem with parasites. In order to prevent any human health issues it is advisable to worm animals more frequently if there are young children or immunocompromised people living in the home.

What types of worming product are there?

There are many highly effective worming products that treat a wide variety of worms. These take the form of:-

  • Tablets
  • Flavoured Chews
  • Oral Powders
  • Oral Solutions
  • Injections
  • Topical Spot-On products
  • Some wormers also have ectoparasiticide activity too.

Please speak to one of the Oakhill Team about a suitable worming programme for your pet.