Worms in Pets: Different Types and Treatment

Pets

There are several types of worms that can infect our beloved pets, but some are more common than others. These parasites can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal or through their feces, so it’s important to keep your pet healthy and safe from these dangerous little creatures that can affect both their health and behavior if left untreated.

Here’s what you need to know about the different types of worms in pets, their symptoms, and the best treatment options available.

 

Roundworms (Toxocara canis)

Toxocara canis is a parasitic roundworm that affects many animals, most commonly puppies and kittens. They spread by infecting other animals through contact with their feces.

Toxocara canis may live for up to five years, at which point they reach maturity. Symptoms of infection include diarrhea, vomiting, blindness, and seizures.

Treatment includes administering medication daily for two weeks. While symptoms usually subside within three days of treatment, it is important to take the full course so as not to reinfect your pet.

Roundworms are passed from pets’ poop into our environment (via soil or sand) where children might come into contact with them.

If a child ingests roundworms, the worms travel through the bloodstream and make their way to the lungs before being coughed up or vomited out – this could lead to pneumonia or bronchitis, among other serious health problems.

To avoid spreading roundworms to young children, be sure not to touch animal feces when gardening or playing outside, and always wash hands after touching pets or their toys. 

A spiral-shaped nematode worm (Strongyloides stercoralis): Strongyloides stercoralis is an intestinal parasite that affects humans and canines alike.

 

Hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum)

Hookworms are intestinal parasites that are transmitted from animal to animal by ingestion of the infective larva. Hookworms can infect dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, cows, sheep, and other livestock animals including horses and pigs.

They are sometimes also found in humans. The hookworm is considered an obligate parasite because it needs a host to survive; if there is no host available, the hookworm will die within hours.

Adult worms live inside the intestines of their hosts where they feed on blood, causing anemia and weight loss.

The eggs produced by female worms are passed out with feces into soil or water where they hatch into larvae which then penetrate through skin or are ingested to complete the life cycle.

Hookworms do not usually cause serious problems in adult hosts but may be fatal for young kittens or puppies who cannot produce enough antibodies against them.

Treatment involves de-worming medication such as pyrantel pamoate or fenbendazole. A single dose often clears up the infection but periodic treatments may be necessary.

 

Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum)

Tapeworms are one of the most common types of worms found in pets. As the name implies, these types of worms live by attaching themselves to the intestinal tract or other organs of the host animal.

Tapeworm larvae are usually ingested with food or water and live inside of their host’s intestines, maturing into adult tapeworms that can be over one meter long.

In addition to causing anemia from excessive blood loss, it is estimated that up to 2% of infected dogs have seizures from the irritation caused by tapeworm segments moving around in their brain.

Symptoms of this type of infection include sudden weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures. Treatment typically consists of oral medications like praziquantel (Droncit) or niclosamide (Pyrantel).

Drontal Plus (praziquantel) is available as a paste which may be easier for certain animals to swallow than tablets.

Niclosamide is not approved for use in animals, but some veterinarians will prescribe it if they believe that tapeworm infestation poses a serious health risk to the pet.

The FDA has issued warnings about potential safety issues with Droncit; however, those warnings do not apply when used according to directions on the package insert.

Owners should make sure that any time the treatment is administered, it is given at least two hours before feeding so that the parasites cannot regurgitate back out through their mouths.

Dogs who receive treatment may experience abdominal cramping due to die-off effects and there are reports of neurological problems in cats who were treated with Niclosamide.

If your pet seems unwell after receiving medication, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

 

Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis)

Whipworms are the most common type of worm found in cats. These worms reside mainly in the cat’s large intestine, although they may occasionally migrate through the body.

If you suspect your cat has whipworms, speak with your veterinarian about medication that is available to help kill these worms.

Worms can live up to five years, so it is important for pet owners to be aware of the signs and symptoms so they can take their pets for treatment as soon as possible.

Cats typically become infected with whipworms from contact with fecal matter from other animals or from ingesting a flea larva that contains eggs from an adult female worm.

Symptoms include weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and poor appetite. If left untreated, a case of whipworm infection will last approximately two months before going away on its own.

However, if not treated promptly, the severity of symptoms could worsen. Dogs rarely suffer from this kind of infection because they have strong immune systems and are less likely to come into contact with contaminated soil or food sources. 

One way humans can also get this type of worm is by consuming water that has been contaminated by feces containing T. vulpis larvae.

The CDC recommends boiling water at a rolling boil for one minute (or bringing it to another full boil) before drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth with it; using purification tablets; filtering water, or storing it at room temperature only.

People who swim outdoors should avoid swallowing any fresh water. 

 

Threadworms (Strongyloides stercoralis)

Threadworms are caused by a type of roundworm known as Strongyloides stercoralis. Threadworms often infect pets that have been born into an environment where there is already a high population of threadworms.

Infection occurs through ingestion of larvae from the soil or through contact with infected feces. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, skin rash, itching around the rectum or vagina, and coughing up worms from the throat.

It can be treated with mebendazole or pyrantel pamoate medications for two weeks for adults and one week for children under 12 years old.

With consistent treatment, it should resolve in about 2-3 months. Pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis): Pinworms are also a type of roundworm.

They usually enter the body through fecal-oral contamination or by pinching them off from someone else’s underwear that has been contaminated with pinworm eggs.

The symptoms include abdominal pain, intense itching around the anus area, and irritation of the genitals during urination due to frequent scratching in this area.

Some people may also experience nausea, depression, insomnia, and irritability when they have pinworms. To treat it, you need to use oral medication such as albendazole or mebendazole for three days in a row.

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