By Dr Ian Wright, BVMS, MSc, MRCVS (a really important and knowledgeable scientific expert on tapeworm – check out all those letters after his name!)
Why is worm prevention necessary?
Parasitic worms are very common in cats and dogs, and can cause serious illness.
Some worms can also cause disease in people, making regular treatment of cats and dogs for worms important for both pets and humans.
What are the most common types of worms?
There are three different types of worms commonly found in cats and dogs: Roundworm, Lungworm and Tapeworm.
Cats and dogs may also carry other intestinal worms, such as hookworms and whipworms.
These can all cause weight loss, anaemia and diarrhoea in cats and dogs.
In this blog, we’re going to focus on tapeworm, but you can learn more about roundworm here.
What are tapeworms?
The most common tapeworms seen in cats and dogs are very large (often several metres long!)
Taenia tapeworms are the largest, with slow-moving segments passed in poo.
Dogs are infected through eating raw meat or offal, and cats through hunting small mammals.
The health of pets is rarely affected by infection, but worms crawling around in bedding and furniture can be an unpleasant sight.
Large numbers can also cause weight loss and an itchy bum, which is what leads to ‘scooting’ (your pet dragging its bum across the floor).
Is it just domesticated pets that are at risk?
Cows or sheep eating dog tapeworm eggs from grass or feed contaminated with poo can also develop cysts.
This can lead to meat being rejected, and heavy financial losses for farmers.
How can I protect my pet and my family from tapeworm?
Dogs and cats should be treated regularly with a product effective against tapeworm, as should dogs on a raw diet.
Don’t forget about the flea tapeworm…
The flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninum is another common, large tapeworm of cats and dogs that can grow up to 50cm in length. It can also be fast-moving.
Your pet is infected through grooming fleas off their coat, and people are also (rarely) infected if we accidentally ingest bits of flea from under our fingernails (yuuukkk!)
We can also be infected through pet saliva, when our pets give us a lovely, slobbery kiss.
How do I protect my pet and my family from flea tapeworms?
Good flea control will reduce the risk of both pets and people being infected.
With the use of routine, preventative flea products, pets and their owners can be safe from parasitic disease.
About Dr Ian Wright, BVMS, MSc, MRCVS
Ian Wright is Head of ESCCAP UK & Ireland (European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites) and is a practicing veterinary surgeon. He has a master’s degree in veterinary parasitology and is an editorial board member for the Companion Animal Journel. He continues to carry out research in practice, including work on intestinal nematodes and tick-borne diseases.
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