Worms and Your Pets

Oct 8, 2018   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

Unfortunately, worms on an inevitable part of life for a puppy and kitten. Most puppies and kittens are born with worms, as worms can pass from mother to baby before birth, and can even pass from mother to baby through her milk. Puppies and kittens need to be wormed at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks.  The initial doses of medication will kill the worms that may already be present in your pet's digestive tract and the subsequent doses are to kill the eggs that will hatch.  Dogs should be on a monthly heartworm preventative for their entire lives and be tested at their yearly wellness check. It should be noted, that while puppies and kittens are more susceptible to getting worms because of their immune system, a parasite infection can happen at any stage of your pet's life. 

Tapeworm, hookworm and whipworm lives in the digestive tract. If you notice worms in your pet's stool, that will look like spaghetti or small pieces of rice, your puppy or dog may have a parasite infection and need to be seen by the vet.  Pets can also vomit up the worms. If your pet vomits worms or you find it in feces, the sample needs to be taken to a vet along with a picture of the fecal matter or vomit. 

If you suspect your pet has worms, see your vet for testing and medication. While waiting on the test results, pumpkin seeds can help expel worms. Dog's Naturally Magazine has more information on pumpkin seeds and deworming.   After deworming, the fecal matter will contain a large amount of worms. This is normal and not reason for concern. 

Signs of serious worm infestation in puppies and kittens include weakness and listlessness, diarrhea and/or vomiting, weight loss despite eating a healthy amount, and an abnormally swollen stomach. If the puppy is experiencing these symptoms have your vet take a blood sample to check for anemia.  Anemia can be a very serious medical condition that needs treated immediately, and in severe cases of anemia, the puppy or kitten may need a transfusion. 

You can take steps to help make sure your pet isn't exposing themselves to possible worms. It's a fact, puppies and dogs live through their mouths, so all toys, especially toys that are taken to a dog park, need to be cleaned with a soap and water and thoroughly rinsed.  Always clean up your yard and properly dispose of your pet's waste in a closed receptacle.  For cats, clear the litter box frequently. If your cat is suffering from diarrhea due to the worms do a full litter change.  If your pet is stepping in its own waste, it could easily track bacteria into your home, putting you and your family at risk as well. Always wash your hands after handling any pet waste. If you've been out hiking, walking or in any environments where there are dogs and other wildlife, clean your dog's paws afterwards. This can be done with grooming wipes or wet wash cloth. Worms can be passed between dogs and cats by sharing drinking water and toys. To be frank, dogs love getting into their feline siblings litter box and can acquire worms through eating cat waste.  If one pet has worms, its good practice for all animals in the home to be treated.  

After treating a known case of parasites, bring another stool sample to your vet to recheck for worms.  Even if you don't see signs of worms in your pet, you should make sure your vet is checking for worms through a fecal sample at your dog's yearly wellness check. 

Keeping a close eye on your pet's behavior and bowel movements will help with early detection of worms and help them recover quicker. Worms can make your pet very sick because keep in mind worms are a parasite and do feed on your pet and their nutrition.  A keen eye, along with regular vet checks, will go a long way in keeping your pet healthy and worm free. 

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