There are a number of different worms that can infect our pets. Although most prefer our furry friends, some parasites can infect humans too.
Having a huge burden of intestinal worms can gradually wear down your pet, reduce absorption of nutrients and lead to protein loss and anaemia. This is particularly important for young puppies and kittens, whose tiny bodies need all the nutrients they can get.
Depending on where you live, there are different risks when it comes to parasites. The most dangerous type of intestinal worm is a type of tapeworm called the hydatid tapeworm, common in areas where dogs have access to sheep. Dogs in farming areas can pass on the hydatid tapeworm to their human family, usually when the dog is allowed to lick faces or due to improper handwashing before eating.
There are other types of worms, called hookworms and roundworms that can also infect people, usually children.
Regularly worming your pet is one of the easiest ways to make sure they (and you!) stay in optimum health. When you should worm your pet depends on how old it is: here are some good guidelines for dogs and cats.
It is also important to pick up your pet’s droppings and to wash hands after playing with pets and before eating.
What About Heartworm?
Heartworm is a particularly dangerous and clever worm. This parasite is spread by mosquitoes, so can be transmitted to any dog, even one that rarely goes outside. The disease is becoming less common due to regular preventatives, however foxes and stray dogs can carry heartworms and act as a reservoir for the disease on the fringes of urban areas. We will most likely never be able to entirely eliminate heartworm, so monthly preventative treatments are important year-round. If your dog has had a break from heartworm treatment, please get a heartworm test, as a heartworm positive dog can have a fatal reaction to a simple preventative tablet. Dogs with heartworm don’t show any signs of the disease until they are so far gone that severe damage has happened within the heart, so early detection is important.
Which is the Best Dewormer to Use for My Pet?
There are a number of ways to protect your pet from parasites and there is a useful summary we put together. There are many choices, but the drugs Milbemycin and Selemectin have a broad spectrum that takes care of hookworms, roundworms and prevents against heartworm. They are found in a number of medications, including Trifexis, which is an oral tablet that can be given to dogs, and Revolution, a topical medication that is available for both cats and dogs. Both of Trifexis and Revolution also prevent against fleas.
It is also worth mentioning that while Revolution and Trifexis work well as a preventative, neither of these medications work against tape worms, which come from fleas. If your pet has tapeworms, it will need a dewormer with either Fenbendazole Panacur for dogs, or Praziquantal for cats which is in a number of other dewormers.
So What Now?
If you aren’t sure whether your pet is protected from parasites, ask your vet for advice next time you visit your vet hospital. If your pet hasn’t had a heartworm treatment for more than 3 months, ask your vet to do a heartworm test before starting treatment. If you are a little late with your intestinal wormer, it is safe to give anytime and you might even see some worms in your pet’s droppings – that just tells you the worming is working!