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Got Worms? Parasites in your Dog or Cat

Worms for dogs and catsHow many worms are there?

There are many types of internal parasites that cause problems in dogs and cats. These include nematodes or roundworms, of which intestinal roundworm and heartworm are the most common. Tapeworm and hookworm are also a part of this group. Only intestinal roundworm and tapeworm are visible by the human eye and can often be seen in stool.

Are these infections serious in the dogs (or cats)?

Because worms can cause symptoms like diarrhea and anemia they can be a risk to your puppy or kitten. Hookworms can cause anemia and roundworms can lead to poor growth and development.

Intestinal parasites are only occasionally life-threatening in adult dogs and cats, and are usually seen in debilitated animals or those that are immunosuppressed.

Heartworm disease is a major life-threatening problem. Heartworm disease is considered to be one of the most serious conditions seen in small animal veterinary practice.

Because all worms can cause long term and short term issues, it is best to get them immediately treated. If you are not sure if your pet has worms, get them tested during their annual checkup.

What will happen if my dog (or cat) gets worms?

Roundworms can stunt a puppy’s growth, cause serious digestive upsets and result in excessive gas. These puppies have a characteristic ‘pot bellied’ appearance. Nematodes (aka. roundworms) are free-living in the intestines. They do not require an intermediate host to spread from dog to dog, but can be transmitted from dog to dog via infective eggs shed in the feces. Most puppies get Roundworms in-utero. Often laying dormant in the mother, they will pass right through the mothers tissue into the puppies. They can also be transmitted through the mothers milk during nursing.

Hookworms are more common in dogs than cats.  Hookworms can be transmitted in-utero, through nursing, through stool-contaminated soil and through ingestion (ie. eating infected stool).  The larvae can enter the animal through their skin, usually through the mouth or feet. This can often result in eczema and a secondary bacterial infection due to their burrowing. They are most dangerous to puppies because they feed on blood which can leave the puppy anemic.


Whipworms are more often seen in dogs than cats. They are small worms, usually only ¼” (6 mm) long, that live in the large intestine, where they cause irritation and inflammation. Symptoms of whipworm infection include chronic watery diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss. Whipworms are very hard to diagnose and can often be missed in tests. If your dog has mucous covered stool, along with weight loss, you may want to get them tested. If the test is inconclusive the vet may want to treat for Whipworm prophylactically.


For your dog or cat to get tapeworm they have to eat an infected flea or infected rodent. Tapeworm will not pass directly from one animal to another.

The most common tapeworm causes few problems in the adult host but can result in digestive upsets and can stunt growth in puppies.

Tapeworms cannot be treated with over the counter medication, so do not waste your time. If you suspect your dog or cat has Tapeworm get them to the vet for a stool sample. You may be able to see evidence of Tapeworm in your pets stool. They will look like little grains of rice.

The typical clinical signs of heartworm infection are fatigue, coughing and poor physical condition. Heartworms are large worms reaching 6-14 inches (15-36 cm) long. They are primarily located in the right ventricle of the heart and adjacent blood vessels.

Heartworm is very difficult to detect. Both dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible.  The good news is you can get tested for it and you can take preventative action such as Heartgard.


There are many over the counter treatments for worms, but most are ineffective. The best option is to talk to come into VetCo and find out what treatments are available for your dog or cat.

Do worms affect humans?

Yes! Some worms can affect humans and therefore should be treated seriously. Bring your dog or cat into Vet-Co today to get tested!