Although we might not often see these parasites, they’re all around us, including in parks and public play areas. Some worms can infect humans and cause serious disease - accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs from contaminated soil can even, in rare cases, result in blindness. .
Protecting your pet, family and home
Worms of dogs and cats in the UK are transmitted by contaminated faeces - hygiene is fundamentally important when preventing infection, particularly washing hands after handling pets and gardening, and before eating food. Try to minimise exposure, especially of children, to potentially contaminated environments. Cleaning up faeces is crucial to reduce the number of worm eggs in the environment, but even the most diligent hygiene cannot fully protect dogs and cats from infection. Worm eggs are abundant in the environment due to their hardy exterior and long life.
Dogs can be infected with lungworm when they eat a slug, snail or frog infected with lungworm larvae. Once in the stomach the larvae migrate to the airways, blood vessels and the heart.
Adult worms lay eggs that develop into tiny larvae and are coughed up and swallowed. Larvae pass out in the faeces where they enter slugs and snails, starting the cycle again.
The parasites can cause damage to blood vessels and airways. Common signs include a cough, breathlessness or breathing difficulties but can include weight loss, lethargy, reduced appetite, anaemia and abnormal bleeding.
Dogs of all ages and breeds can become infected but younger dogs seem to be more prone to picking up the parasite because of their curiosity. Dogs can’t pass the infection directly to one another - it’s important to try to stop them eating slugs, snails and frogs, and to use regular treatments from your vet to protect your dog.
If you’re concerned, it’s always best to take your pet to the vet to be checked. If caught early enough, treatment for lungworm is usually successful.
Fleas and chewing lice can transmit tapeworms. Tapeworms use their sharp teeth to attach themselves to cats’ and dogs’ gut walls. They can grow to around half a metre in length inside the guts. Segments packed with eggs, break off and are excreted in the faeces looking like grains of rice.
Most tapeworms found in the UK rarely cause any symptoms, but can deprive your pet of vital nutrients. Some tapeworms found abroad can be a significant risk to human and pet health. It’s always important to discuss parasites with your vet before you travel.
Pets of any age can become infected with roundworms by picking up worm eggs and larvae from the soil, ingesting faecal matter, hunting rodents and by feeding or scavenging on raw meat or carcasses.
Puppies can become infected while in the mother’s womb if the mother is already infected, and both puppies and kittens can become infected through the mother’s milk.
Symptoms in infected cats and dogs can include loss of condition, lethargy, weight loss, anal irritation, diarrhoea and respiratory problems. In puppies and kittens, a heavy worm burden can also cause intestinal blockage with possible life-threatening consequences. Some roundworms can be zoonotic, so cleaning up faeces is a crucial part of responsible pet ownership.
Adult roundworms can grow up to 7 inches long
Protect your pet and your family with a year-round, regular worming regime.
Although we might not often see these parasites, they’re all around us, including in parks and public play areas. Some worms can infect humans and cause serious disease - accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs from contaminated soil can even, in rare cases, result in blindness.