IT IS very important to continually treat pet dogs and cats for worms at least every three months. Sometimes people forget, or simply don’t know, infected pets are a source of infection to people as well as other pets.
The European Scientific Counsel Companion Animals Parasites (ESCCAP) recomm end once monthly worm treatment in high risk situations, such as a pet living in a family with small children or immune-surpressed people, or in homes with access to gardens or parks.
The most common type of worm in dogs and cats are intestinal worms, roundworms, and tapeworms – hookworms and whipworms are less common but they do crop up.
Worm eggs are passed mainly through faeces, which can be ingested by other dogs or cats. Tapeworm infection usually occurs by ingestion of an infected flea or louse. Therefore, tapeworm infection in pets usually indicates flea or louse infestation. Lungworm, a potentially life-threatening disease in young dogs, can be picked up from eating infected slugs or snails.
People too can inadvertently ingest roundworm eggs and develop toxocariasis – named after the type of worms that cause the unfortunate disease. Children playing in or eating contaminated soil, or eating fruit or vegetables grown in contaminated soil, can develop the disease.
In humans the worm can’t develop into adults, so the hatched larvae burrow out of the intestines and into other tissues where they eventually die. This can cause damage to organs including liver, lungs, and heart, and in some extremely rare cases cause blindless or brain/spinal damage.
The difficult part for pet owners is that dogs and cats rarely show obvious signs of worm infestations. Worms may be seen in faeces or vomit, and tapeworm can be found on the hair around the anus or in bedding. The symptoms vary too. Weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and a swollen abdomen are often signs of heavy infestations.
Treatment and Prevention
Treat all cats and dogs in a household with an effective treatment at least every three months, and monthly if there are small children or an immune-suppressed person in the household.
Clean up your pet’s faeces promptly, whether at home or in public areas, and dispose of it safely. Rain and weather may wash faeces away, but the hazard remains as infective worm eggs can survive for several years.
Limerick’s Dr Doolittle, Donal Ryan of CityVet on Lord Edward Street, knows a thing or two about caring for animals. He regularly takes the time to give Limerick Post readers some sterling advice on how to best take care of their furry family members.