The common roundworms (Toxocara species) of pets are large: they can be seen easily by naked eye and resemble thin spaghetti in an off white or brown colour. The adult worms live in the intestines of pets and lay microscopic eggs which are passed in faeces and become spread on the earth over time. Eggs are not infective immediately, they must develop through larval stages on the ground. The infective eggs are sticky and become attached to the feet of animals and are ingested during grooming. Tiny larvae hatch in the intestine and burrow through the intestinal wall into the body of the animal.
Some travel through the liver into the lungs. After going through more larval stages, these are coughed up and swallowed. These worms are now young adults which live, feed and lay eggs in the intestine.
Some larvae travel in the bloodstream and end up in muscle tissue, where they become dormant.
Most travelling larvae cause a tiny amount of insignificant damage to the tissues they go through. However, if present in a sensitive tissue such as the brain or the eye, serious problems can result. (Partial or complete blindness or a degree of brain damage).
Adult worms in the intestine can cause illness in the form of diarrhoea and weight loss in puppies. Rarely, there are enough worms to completely obstruct the intestine. Disease in adult dogs is rare.
Puppies can become infected with worms from the bitch. Dormant 'sleeping' larvae in the tissues of a bitch become activated in late pregnancy. Some migrate through the womb and enter the puppies before birth, whereas others go to the mammary glands and infect the puppies through milk in the first days of feeding. Consequently, pups are exposed to large numbers of worms right at the beginning of their life, at a time when their immune system is not fully developed. Infected pups grow less well, are pot-bellied and are prone to diarrhoea.
There are other species of roundworm which can also be found:
Lungworm: Can be a cause of coughing in dogs and cats.
Hookworm and Whipworm: Can be a cause of diarrhoea, marked weight loss and anaemia, especially in young dogs from kennels.
Heartworm: These worms are more common in warmer states of the USA, Australia and southern Europe. They may now be seen more commonly in the UK as more pets travel to these destinations. A variety or heartworms are seen occasionally in dogs in Britain, especially in Wales and West UK.
Treatment for Roundworms
We would advise treating pups from 2 weeks of age, every three weeks with Panacur, until 3 months of age.
For adult dogs we would advise treating with Panacur or Drontal Plus at six months of age and every 6 months thereafter. Monthly Spot-On treatments can also be used for roundworms.
Why do we recommend Panacur? When given daily for 3 days, Panacur kills buried larvae as well as adult roundworms. In addition, a 3-day Panacur course is effective against the protozoan parasite Giardia, which is a common cause of diarrhoea in pups. Panacur is not effective against Tapeworms.
Other ways to catch roundworms: If dog and cat roundworm larvae are eaten by small rodents, the larvae migrate in the tissues and become dormant. When these rodents are eaten by dogs or cats, the dormant larvae become active and complete their life in the intestine of the predator.
Protecting Your Family: Worms can be passed onto humans in the same way they are passed onto pets. It is important to do everything you can to protect your family from catching worms as each year, a small but significant number of humans, (mainly children) suffer blindness or brain damage caused by the Visceral Larva Migrans (the name given to larvae travelling in the body.) As mentioned, most travelling larvae cause little trouble but it is always best to do what you can to prevent infection. There are some very simple rules to follow to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your family:
- 1) Worm all pets every three-six months.
- 2) Pick up faeces in the garden daily and put down the drain or toilet.
- 3) Ban dogs from play areas.
- 4) Pick up faeces in parks.
- 5) Wash hands and scrub children's nails after playing in the garden.
All tapeworms live their life in two hosts: the end host and the intermediate host.
The common tapeworm of dogs and cats is Dipylidium Caninum.
Adult tapeworms live in the intestine of dogs and cats. They cause little or no disease. The worms are flat in cross section and are made up of a head, which attaches to the intestinal wall and the body, which is made up of segments. The segments are 'parcels' of eggs which creep out of the bottom of the dog or cat. They may be seen by the owner on the coat of the pet or where the pet has recently been sitting. Initially they are short, pale and motile. Then they dry out and appear like grains of rice.
Eggs end up on the floor, where they are eaten by flea larvae. When the flea is a young adult, it hops on a pet. If the pet is successful at grooming, it is eaten. Digestion of the flea releases a partly developed tapeworm, which completes its life in the intestine of the pet.
Other tapeworms: have different intermediate hosts. E.g. small rodents, raw sheep offal.
Treatment for Tapeworms
We advise treating for tapeworms every 3-6 months. If you are using a flea treatment all year round, treating every 6 months would be sufficient. The effective treatments available for tapeworms include: Drontal Plus, Drontal Cat andDroncit. Drontal and Droncit are tablet treatments which can be given in food.
The best way to control the tapeworm threat is via regular worming treatment and good flea control.