By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 6 December 2011
Intestinal worms that infect cats and dogs include roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Pets infected with worms may have some or all of the following symptoms:
- Bloody stools
- Bulging stomach (especially in kittens and puppies)
- Lack of appetite
- Poor coat
- Scooting (dragging the hind end along a carpet or grass, especially common in dogs)
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss (or failure to gain weight in kittens and puppies)
- Vomiting (which may include vomiting up worms in the case of severe infestations)
Pets that are infested with a small number of worms may show no symptoms at all.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Worms in Cats and Dogs
Deworming is a simple procedure and relatively inexpensive. If worms are diagnosed via a stool sample, a deworming medication can be administered to eliminate them (such medications often require more than one application). Depending on the type of worms, medications are available as pills, liquids, pastes, chewables, topical treatments, and injectables.
If pets are treated at the first sign of worm infection, prognosis is good. Even very young animals are unlikely to die unless treatment is delayed until an infection is severe.
How to Prevent Intestinal Worm Infection in Cats, Dogs, and Humans
To reduce the risk of pets and people being infected with intestinal worms:
- Deworm breeding females before they become pregnant and during late pregnancy (consult a veterinarian for recommendations of safe products to administer during pregnancy).
- Deworm kittens and puppies at a relatively early age (recommendations for age of first deworming vary – ask a veterinarian for advice).
- Deworm pets if there are any symptoms of infestation, particularly pets that go outdoors, as they are at far higher risk for infection.
- Keep litter boxes clean – scoop promptly (worms are not transmitted by fresh feces) and scrub regularly with bleach (be sure to rinse thoroughly afterward, as bleach is toxic to cats). Wash hands well after scooping or scrubbing the litter box.
- Don’t leave pet waste lying around outdoors – scoop dog waste into a plastic bag and dispose of it as soon as possible.
- Wash your hands after touching or digging in grass or soil and before eating, and teach children to do likewise.
- Fit covers to outdoor sandboxes to keep animals from using them as toilets.
- Use a bleach solution to regularly clean household surfaces where pets walk or lie.
- Wash pet bedding regularly.
- Keep cats indoors, or at least reduce the likelihood of their catching infected prey by attaching bells to their collars.
- Don’t let dogs eat or lick carcasses of dead animals.
- Wear gloves when gardening.
- Keep dogs out of cat litter.
- Wash produce thoroughly before eating.
- Don’t eat or feed pets raw meat (or at least freeze it for several weeks before feeding to reduce the risk of infection).
- Prevent or eradicate fleas, which act as hosts for tapeworms – see Natural Flea Control for safe, non-toxic options.
- Don’t walk barefoot on beaches or lie directly on the sand where dogs are allowed to defecate. Hookworms can burrow through human skin. This usually just causes itchy, irritating lesions, but occasionally these parasites manage to go deeper into the body, causing serious health problems.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation and care.
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