EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ROUNDWORMS IN CATS AND DOGS
They live in colonies in the intestines of dogs and cats young and old. Their microscopic eggs can be found everywhere in our environment. They are resistant to the cold and appear to be indestructible. Fortunately, they can be easily treated. What are they? Roundworms, also known as ascarides.
What is a roundworm?
Roundworms are round intestinal parasites with a white to light brown colour that can reach 7 inch in length. While they look a little bit like spaghettis, they are far from succulent!
They are the most common parasitic worms in dogs and cats who go outdoors, whether they live in the country or the city. Roundworms are often found in the intestines where they feed off the nutriments in the food consumed by your pets.
How do pets get infected?
Dogs and cats going outdoors are exposed to a risk of contamination every day. Roundworms can be contracted in different ways, making them easier to propagate and harder to control.
Here are a few examples:
- Unless pregnant female dogs or cats get proactively treated for worms during the gestation period and after the parturition, practically all puppies and kittens will be infected by their mothers. Their immune system is then too weak to protect them.
- Transmission can also occur through maternal milk.
- Cats and dogs can ingest roundworm eggs by eating stools or small animals (e.g., mice or field mice) who are roundworm carriers.
- Cats can get contaminated by scratching the soil to defecate and then licking their paws, while dogs can get contaminated by eating grass.
How do I know if my pet is infected?
Roundworms are not always easily detectable. It’s not uncommon for pets to show no symptoms or signs of infection, making it harder to detect.
Possible symptoms include coughing, poor digestion, a dull coat, and the inability to gain weight. Generally, these are not serious health issues. It does not benefit parasites to kill their hosts, as they would die right along with them, which explains why we call a person living off someone else a “parasite.”
Some owners will be shocked to see their puppy or cat vomit “swarming spaghettis.” This is more common in heavily parasitized pets. Worms can also be found in stools.
Since the majority of young pets are contaminated, we recommend a stool analysis, especially if pets show signs of diarrhea. Laboratory tests will enable us to detect the presence of microscopic eggs, confirming infection.
Why perform a stool analysis when you can simply deworm pets?
Roundworms are just one of many classes of parasites, which include hookworms, flatworms, tapeworms, Giardia lamblia, coccidias, etc. Each type will need a different approach. If a pet is parasitized, several types of parasites are likely involved. We need to know what they are to get rid of them for good.
Can roundworms get transmitted to humans? Cat and dog roundworms can be dangerous to humans. Children, individuals with a weakened immune system, and pregnant women are more at risk. Humans get infected by ingesting parasite eggs laid on their pet’s coat or outdoors (gardens, sandboxes where cats do their business, etc.).
It’s easy to understand why health professionals are especially worried about children: they are still learning the basics of good hygiene and they love to show their affection physically by hugging their pets.
In adults, parasite infection will bring about an influenza-like condition: muscle aches, physical weakness, etc. In children, roundworm larvae can cause serious injuries to the eyes and nervous tissues. However, those infections are rare, so there’s no need to panic. But who wants to run this risk with our precious little ones? Thankfully, preventative measures can easily be applied to give us peace of mind.
How can I protect my pet from roundworms? What should I do if my pet is infected?
Prevention is key! Though possible, roundworm infections rarely have serious effects. Fortunately, they can be avoided altogether through monthly prevention using deworming medication.
Because roundworm infestations are very common in young pets, it’s recommended to deworm early in a pet’s life. Good breeders know this and will get the procedure done before you even adopt your furry companion.
Specialists recommend deworming as early as 2-3 weeks old before the environment becomes contaminated. Deworming medication is inexpensive. It’s equally important to scoop up your puppy’s feces to keep the environment free of parasite eggs.
If you find a young kitten, it’s critical to get a full veterinary exam immediately. Cats can carry various parasites, such as fleas, ear mites, or ringworms.
Upon your first visit to the veterinarian with your young companion, you will be introduced to preventative measures and deworming medication to treat various parasites. Your vet will give you their best advice and suggest the most appropriate treatment depending, among other things, on where you live and your lifestyle.
Any additional prevention tips?
- It’s essential to keep your pet’s living environment clean (including cleaning your cat’s litter box regularly).
- Individuals who came in direct contact with the ground and could have been contaminated by cat or dog feces should wear gloves or wash their hands immediately. If you love gardening outdoors, put on gloves, as cats love nothing better than loose soil to do their business.
- When not in use, cover playgrounds where animals could leave feces (e.g. sandboxes which are often a prime choice of litter box for outdoor cats). This will prevent cats and other animals like raccoons from contaminating the playground’s surface. Once in the ground, roundworms are contagious for at least 5 years. Actually, racoon parasites are more dangerous than dog or cat parasites for humans.
- Encourage children to wash their hands after touching pets.
Remember that your veterinarian can help you to prevent, diagnose, and treat roundworms. For more information, please contact the nearest Passionimo veterinary clinic.