Dogs and cats are susceptible to many of the same types of parasites, including roundworms, hookworms, heartworms and tapeworms. Unfortunately, worms infect pets more than you might think.
Dogs and cats can acquire intestinal worms in a number of ways, often through your pet’s natural instincts to sniff and hunt. Discover the common places and activities that can put your pet at risk of intestinal worms.
1. From the environment
Risk of: Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms
Roundworm and whipworm eggs are deposited in the soil from the droppings of infected animals. Though whipworms only affect dogs, both of these parasites are common in your pet’s environment. These eggs can survive in the soil for long periods of time and in harsh environmental conditions. If pets accidentally eat these eggs – by sniffing or licking the ground, or by eating dirt or grass – they can become infected.
Your pet can contract hookworms by accidentally ingesting hookworm larvae found in the soil. They can also get hookworms through close skin contact with larvae left in soil or sand – the larvae, which are tiny living worms, can burrow into the skin on their feet.
People can inadvertently bring worms into their home on their shoes. If you have stepped on soil or vegetation that is harboring roundworm eggs, whipworm eggs or hookworm larvae, these parasites can be tracked into the home.
2. From scavenging or hunting
Risk of: Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms
If your dog or cat has a tendency to hunt or scavenge, they could be at risk of contracting roundworms, hookworms or tapeworms by eating infected rodents and other wildlife. Insects, like roaches, and even earthworms can also harbor immature stages of worms that can be passed to your pet if eaten.
3. From their mother’s milk
Risk of: Roundworms, hookworms
Puppies can contract roundworms and hookworms from their mothers, either before they are born (roundworms only) or via milk when nursing. Kittens can also contract roundworms through their mother’s milk when nursing.
4. From grooming
Risk of: Tapeworms
If your dog or cat is suffering from a flea infestation, they are also at risk of picking up an intestinal worm. Fleas are common transmitters of tapeworms, and if your pet swallows infected fleas when grooming, they will develop tapeworms. Cats are especially at risk because they are such good groomers. Even if your cat does have fleas, you might not know it because they will have groomed (eaten) all of them off.
5. From mosquitoes
Risk of: Heartworms
Mosquitoes carry heartworms that can infect cats and dogs. Mosquitoes often pick up baby heartworms, called microfilariae, from feeding on heartworm-positive animals, including foxes, coyotes and even pet dogs.
When they bite your pet dog or cat, they can transmit the heartworm infection on to them. This infection can cause serious illness in your pet, with symptoms ranging from a persistent cough to fatigue, weight loss and more.
Help keep your pet safe through prevention
Worms can be found in your pet’s environment throughout the year. Even if your dog or cat mainly stays indoors, rodents, worm eggs, fleas and mosquitos can occasionally find their way inside your home. Regularly treating your dog or cat with a heartworm prevention product that also treats intestinal worms each month or a broad-spectrum deworming product and testing them for parasites yearly can help them stay healthy.
How to Tell if Your Cat or Dog Has Worms
Intestinal Worms in Dogs
Intestinal Worms in Cats