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An easy fix to a ‘nasty little problem’

When it comes to worm treatment, Lucy Richardson finds that cats prefer the spot-on liquid while dogs don’t mind tablets

If you watch your dog when out for a lovely walk, you will see them sniffing, licking and gobbling anything in their path, and this behaviour can lead to some nasty parasites such as worms.

Most worms that infect dogs, and cats, including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms, live in the intestines so the best place to look for them is in the poop. Your vet can confirm if your pet is infected by looking at a fresh stool sample under the microscope.

Heartworms, however, live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels so checking for these parasites involves a simple blood test.

Once the worm has been identified, the correct treatment can be given. This is often a tablet but can be a topical liquid in some cases. I find cats much prefer the spot-on liquid but dogs don’t tend to mind tablets.

Worms are particularly common in puppies and kittens because they can pass from mother to baby before birth, or soon after, through the milk. We recommend treating young animal for worms around 2 to 3 weeks of age and again at their vaccination appointments at 8, 12 and 16 weeks.

Some types of worms can be passed to humans from their dog or cat, so prevention is really a good idea. Young children, elderly people, or people who are immune-compromised are particularly at risk.

Keeping your pet worm and flea-free is beneficial for you and for them. Many owners do not realise the link between fleas and worms but it is actually the flea that is the most common cause of tapeworm in both cats and dogs. Fleas are the intermediate host for tapeworms, meaning that for part of the tapeworm’s life cycle they live in the flea. When the dog or cat grooms, they swallow the flea and infect themselves with tapeworm. So even if your pet lives indoors only, they can still be infected with parasites.

Practise the four Ps: pick up your pet’s poop promptly. For dog owners, pick up every time they poop in your yard or when out for a walk to avoid contamination of the area. For cats with a litter tray, clean it at least once daily and have one tray for each cat in the home, plus one. Always wash your hands carefully afterwards to avoid parasite spread.

Most vets will remind you when your pet is due for their worm medication, but certainly ask about parasite control at your pet’s next wellness check-up. Worms can be irritating, causing them to scooch their bum on the ground or excessively groom, or debilitating, causing weight loss and vomiting. In the case of heartworm, they can even be fatal.

Check in with your vet and ask about parasite control. There’s an easy fix to a nasty little problem.

Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda

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Published May 18, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated May 18, 2023 at 7:22 am)

An easy fix to a ‘nasty little problem’

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