Most pets have the run of the house. They share the bed, the couch, and wander through the kitchen as they please. Unfortunately, they could also be sharing some unwanted hitchhikers… Worms! Here’s what you need to know about worms in pets.
Which Pets Get Worms?
It may surprise you to find out the most kittens and puppies are born with hookworms or roundworms, sometimes both. Most of the time, these parasites are passed from the mother to the offspring during pregnancy or nursing. If they are left unchecked, these nasty parasites can cause poor growth, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death in young animals.
And puppies and kittens aren’t the only ones in danger. Animals who have the bad habit of eating other animals’ feces, munching on grass, or those who catch and eat infested rodents could end up with vomiting or bloody diarrhea caused by parasites.
And, it doesn’t end with our pets. Hookworms and roundworms are both zoonotic, which means they can be passed to humans. Severe roundworm infections in children can cause blindness, seizures and organ dysfunction.
How do Worms Grow and Spread?
Once the larval stage of the worms enter the young animal’s digestive tract, it takes them about three weeks to mature. That’s when they become truly dangerous. The adult female worms can lay more than 200,000 eggs in a single day.
When you think about a mother dog with nine puppies, even if each puppy only had one female worm, that would be 2 million eggs deposited each day into your yard. Multiply that by nine pups and you’ll see why this is a tremendous problem.
To make matters worse, roundworm eggs are tough and can survive in harsh environments for up to two years. This makes places like dog parks an extreme risk for picking up these parasites. They can even spread in the wintertime.
Hookworm eggs are killed by freezing temperatures, but if you live in a place where it doesn’t get cold enough to kill them, they can survive in the soil and emerge to penetrate through the skin of unsuspecting animals and people. This infection will cause an intense itching sensation as well as swelling and redness as the hookworm larva moves under the skin.
Preventing and Treating Hookworms and Roundworms
Due to the prevalence of these parasites in young pets, a strategic worming protocol is recommended to protect both animals and people. Your vet should administer de-worming medication to puppies or kittens as soon as they are old enough. Your vet can also recommend a year round parasite prevention medication that works well in your area.
Children should be taught to wash their hands immediately after playing with pets or playing outdoors in a yard where pets frequent. Parasite eggs are microscopic, so there’s no way to know if they are present. It’s best to be safe and wash hands carefully to ensure that no eggs are present.
Have your pet’s stool checked for parasites every six months. These worms have a short life cycle so an animal can become infested very quickly. Adult pets should be de-wormed on a schedule as recommended by your vet for your area.
Our pets will always be part of the family, and they should be! But, play it safe and follow these guidelines to keep everyone safe, healthy, and happy!