WHY SHOULD YOU WORM YOUR PETS REGULARLY?
Your pet is a part of your family and will add to your life in many ways. But as a pet owner, it is important to be aware that most dogs and cats will carry parasitic worms at some point in their lives. Cats and dogs may appear to be perfectly healthy but still be carrying parasites. Often, it’s only when a severe infection is present that they display signs of ill health.
Worms can be hazardous both to your pet’s health and also potentially to the health of the people who come into contact with them. Parasites which can transfer from animals to cause disease in people are called zoonotic parasites.
Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of most worms and massively reduce the risks associated with these worms. You can protect your pets and family simply by worming your pet regularly.
WHICH WORMS SHOULD YOU BE PROTECTING AGAINST?
Dogs and cats in Australia should be protected against three major groups of intestinal worms: Roundworm, Hookworm, and Tapeworm. Dogs also need protection against Whipworm. Both dogs and cats should also be protected against Heartworm.
ROUNDWORM (Ascarids: Toxocara, Toxascaris)
Virtually every puppy is born with roundworm, or can become infected while suckling. Roundworm infection in puppies or kittens may impair their growth and cause vomiting, diarrhoea, colic, and development of a pot-bellied appearance.
Dogs or cats who hunt (eg for birds and rodents) are at increased risk of infection.
Animals infected with roundworm may release thousands of eggs in their faeces.
Children playing in contaminated dirt or sand can become infected with roundworm if they place their dirty fingers in their mouths. Roundworm eggs can hatch in a child’s stomach and migrate to abdominal or other vital organs causing signs such as stomach pain and fever. In extreme cases larvae may migrate to the eye, causing blindness.
Puppies may become infected with hookworm while still feeding from their mother. Puppies and kittens may also become infected when exposed to soil contaminated with the infective larval stage of hookworm. Larvae may enter the animal by burrowing in through the skin, or by accidental ingestion.
Hookworms have a voracious appetite for blood and cause small bleeding wounds where they feed in the small intestine. Infected animals may develop skin inflammation where larvae have penetrated the skin, intestinal bleeding, anaemia, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea.
Hookworm eggs are released into the environment in the faeces of infected animals. Infection may occur once the larval stage has hatched from the egg.
People may become infected after contact with contaminated soil. Migration of the larvae through skin cause itchiness and inflammation most commonly on the feet. Rare cases of infection in the intestine of people have also been reported, causing abdominal pain and blood in the stool.
Whipworm tends to be a problem in older pups and young adult dogs. Infection can cause wasting, anaemia, and dehydration in affected animals. Eggs can survive in soil for years, even in cold climates.
People can become infected through accidental ingestion of eggs from soil or grass contaminated with dog faeces. Human infection is rare but can cause diarrhoea, anaemia and loss of appetite.
TAPEWORM (Cestodes: Dipylidium, Echinococcus, Taenia)
The most common form of tapeworm affecting dogs and cats is the flea tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). The parasite is passed on to the animals via infected fleas, and attaches itself to the wall of the small intestine. Small, white, rice-like segments full of eggs are released by the adult tapeworm and may be seen ‘wriggling’ around the bottom of infected animals. As a result the most common sign observed in infected animals is ‘scooting’ or rubbing their bottom on the ground due to irritation of the anal region.
Adult hydatid tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus) also live in the small intestine. Dogs are most commonly infected after being fed raw offal from sheep, pig, cattle, or kangaroos. Eggs released in the faeces of the infected dog may also adhere to the animal’s coat, paws, mouth, and anus. These eggs have the potential to infect livestock, native animals (such as kangaroos or wallabies) and people.
People infected with the larval stages may develop severe illness following hydatid cyst formation in organs such as the liver, brain and lungs, requiring surgical management.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOUR PET AND FAMILY FROM ZOONOTIC PARASITES?
- Always wash your hands after handling pets.
- Encourage your children to wash their hands regularly.
- Make sure that children wear shoes outdoors if pets have access to their playground.
- Cover children’s sandboxes when not in use.
- Prevent the spread of infection by using ‘poop-scoops’ and ‘poop-bins’ and pick up your dog’s droppings DAILY.
- To provide optimal protection for both your pet and your family, it is important to worm your pet regularly.
We recommend routine worming of puppies from two weeks of age. Puppies should be treated every 2 weeks from 2 weeks of age until 12 weeks of age, and then monthly until 6 months of age and then at least 3 monthly (although worming monthly is preferred – especially if there are children in the household).
Breeding bitches should be dosed at mating, monthly through gestation, just prior to whelping, then monthly through lactation.
Milbemax® for Dogs, Interceptor® Spectrum, or Sentinel® Spectrum all offer broad spectrum protection against intestinal worms in dogs.
We recommend routine worming of kittens from 6 weeks of age. Kittens should be wormed at 6, 8, 10 & 12 weeks of age and then monthly until 6 months of age and then every 3 months for life.
Milbemax® for Cats offers broad spectrum Intestinal worm protection for cats in a conveniently small tablet.