Here at VetShopAustralia, we love animals but there are four wriggly worms we won’t ever warm to: Parasitic worms that like to find a home inside our pet’s organs, pose a serious threat to our furry friends’ health. The main types of gastrointestinal worms that affect our wonderful cats and dogs are roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm. At VetShopAustralia we can tell you why each of these worms is worrisome and which worms pose a zoonotic risk, where the infection can be transferred from pet to pet-owner; highlighting the importance of worm control.
Looks Like: Round in shape, roundworms can grow up to 15cm and resemble a piece of string.
How Infection Occurs: By ingesting stools or soil infected with worm eggs or hunting infected animals. Puppies can also be born with the disease if their mother is infected.
Symptoms and Damage Caused: Adult roundworms live in the small intestine and may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, a pot-bellied appearance, dull hair and lethargy. Large numbers of roundworm can block the intestine leading to constipation. Roundworm can cause respiratory disease, stunted growth or death in puppies.
Zoonotic Risk: Yes, young children especially are at risk if exposed to contaminated soil or faeces.
Looks Like: Similar to a hook in shape, hookworms are greyish white in colour.
How Infection Occurs: Hookworms can penetrate the skin of your pet if they are exposed to soil contaminated with larvae, when hunting infected animals or in contact with contaminated faeces. Hookworms are typically transmitted to puppies from their mother’s milk, if the bitch is infected.
Symptoms and Damage Caused: Hookworms latch onto the intestinal wall and feed on your pet’s blood; which can cause intestinal bleeding, severe anaemia which may result in death, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and weakness.
Zoonotic Risk: Yes, from contact or ingestion of contaminated soil.
Looks Like: The long body of a tapeworm consists of multiple flat segments.
How Infection Occurs: Pets typically contract tapeworm from fleas. If a flea ingests tapeworm eggs, a tapeworm will develop inside the flea’s body of a flea. Your pet may then ingest this infected flea when grooming themselves.
Symptoms and Damage Caused: Tapeworms hook onto the wall of the small intestine to feed which can cause your pet to have problems absorbing their food, diarrhoea or scooting (perianal irritation).
Zoonotic Risk: Yes, children are particularly at risk of ingesting infected fleas. Also, tapeworm can be transmitted by ingesting infected faeces or egg-contaminated soil.
Looks Like: A Whipworm is very thin at the front and thick at the back, like the shape of a whip.
How Infection Occurs: Pets become infected when they consume water, food, faeces or soil contaminated with whipworm eggs.
Symptoms and Damage Caused: Whipworms have a mouth structured like a spear which punctures the wall of your pet’s large intestine so they can feed on the animal’s blood, causing dehydration, anaemia and diarrhoea.
Zoonotic Risk: Luckily, whipworms pose no zoonotic risk so pets, not the owners, are at risk.
Clearly, measures should be taken to control and prevent these pests from wiggling their way into our pet’s bodies and our lives. Check out this month’s product spotlight on Drontal Allwormers for cats and dogs, which takes control of all four of these worms before they have a chance to wreak havoc in your pet’s stomach.