How to Know if Your Pet Has Worms

Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, earthworms, oh my. “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same.”  Remember this song from “Sesame Street?” The thought of our pets or, even worse, us having “worms” is soooo gross. Yuck, icky! This is especially true if you happen to see these nasty parasites. However, sometimes these worms are not visible. So, how do you know if your pet has worms?

In the case of many intestinal parasites, but not with all parasites, your pet may expel adult worms with their bowel movements. When this happens, as veterinarians, we get frantic calls saying, “My Fluffy has worms, what do I do, and how soon can I treat her?” When as pet parents you actually visualize the worms, it makes diagnosis relatively easy, especially if you can bring in a sample of the worm for identification to your vet.

On the other hand, many times intestinal parasites go unnoticed. So how do you know if your canine or feline friends are suffering from “worms”? The best way is to routinely submit a fresh stool (fecal) sample to your veterinarian at least twice yearly. In some areas of the country (more temperate climates), this may be even more frequently. Your vet, more likely the technician (they get all the glamorous tasks), will prepare this fecal sample and observe what is termed a fecal float under the microscope to look for the immature form (eggs) of intestinal worms. This fecal float may be augmented by also doing a direct smear of the feces in some instances. In the case of tapeworms, it should be noted that sometimes the eggs don’t show up routinely on a fecal float since with the most common tapeworm we see in pets the eggs are encased in a segment of the tapeworm called the proglottid. You may see these proglottids stuck to the hairs around the anus and they appear like moving white rice kernels. Gross!

It should also be noted that if your furry companion has tapeworms they have most likely been exposed to fleas. The most common tapeworm we see in our companion animals has an intermediate host of the flea and when your pet ingests the flea they get tapeworms. This is one more reason to make sure to have a good flea prevention program in place by using such preventatives on a monthly basis. Many of the monthly heartworm preventatives also have additional medications in combination to prevent intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms for example. Prevention is best, right? YES!

As a pet parent you can also routinely deworm you pet at home. This will treat the most common of intestinal worms. It should be noted however, that not one wormer will treat all the different species or types of intestinal worms and parasites your pet may be harboring. Your veterinary team will identify the specific parasite and recommend the appropriate medication for treatment.

Did you know that people can be infected with these worms as well? Believe it or not there are thousands of cases each and every year in the U.S. of roundworm and hookworm infections. In the case of roundworms this can cause blindness in people along with internal organ failure. Nothing to take lightly.

So, make sure to have your pet’s feces routinely checked by your veterinarian and consistently use your heartworm and flea preventatives. Worms are for fishing and to keep our gardens soil healthy, not for our pets or us. By the way, if you didn’t already figure it out, earthworms is the worm not like the others.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Print
  • email