Want to find out more about worms? Check out our frequently asked questions below.
Can my vet give me anything to prevent worms?
Unfortunately there is nothing that will stop your pet from picking up the worms commonly found in the UK. Even the best 'vet strength' worming treatments deal with current infections but can't offer long term protection.
However, if you worm on a regular basis, as recommended by your vet any worm eggs should be eradicated before they have time to mature and start to cause problems.
NB It is however worth noting that a broad spectrum wormer from your vet can help to prevent heartworm infection in dogs travelling abroad.
At what age should I start worming my pets?
Puppies can be born with worms eggs that have been passed directly from their mother so a first treatment is recommended at 2 weeks and then at regular short intervals until they are 3 months of age – the bitch should also be treated at the same time.
Kittens should have their first treatment at 6 weeks, and again lactating queens should also be treated to avoid passing any eggs back.
How long does the effect of the dose last?
An effective 'vet strength' treatment will get rid of worm infestations but no treatment offers lasting protection against the worms found in the UK. This is why it is so important to worm on a regular basis - every 1 - 3 months, as recommended by your vet.
Do I need to keep my pet away from others, or the family, after a treatment?
With some worming treatments you do, but not all – please ask your vet for guidance.
Can we humans catch the worms pets pick up?
Yes. 'Zoonosis' is the term used to describe a disease that is passed from animals to humans, and when it comes to the family dog or cat, the most common types in the UK are those caused by roundworm and echinococcus (a type of tapeworm).
The best way to ensure your family is protected is to ensure any worms your pet does pick up don't have time to mature and be passed on – regularly worming with a broad spectrum is the only way to do this.
How can humans get worms from pets?
Worms can pass from pets to people through grooming, stroking their fur (which may contain worm eggs), facial contact (kisses, a lick from a dog whose saliva is infected), fleas and from the environment – sandpits, soil, eating something that has been dropped on the floor etc.
We can't be immunised against worms so you need a combination of fastidious hygiene and worming your pet regularly so that any infestation is controlled.
Why should I worm my pet?
Given that our pets are exposed to parasites from so many sources (fleas, scavenging, contaminated soil and even their mother's milk), preventing total contact with worms is simply not an option. Regular worming, with an effective prescription, is the only practical method of control.
My pet looks perfectly healthy. Do I still need to worm?
The simple answer is yes.
Pets can pick up worms almost anywhere, but they won't always display obvious symptoms, and by the time they do it may be too late – damage has already been done.
When you consider worms can unwittingly be passed on to members of the family, it's not something you should be complacent about. Worming treatments don't provide long lasting immunity so the only way to be sure is to worm on a regular basis – every three months – if you want to confidently protect your pet and your family.
How often should I worm my pet?
Worming regularly is vital if you want to stop worms from maturing and affecting your pet's health. Experts, including the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), recommend all pets are wormed at least every three months.
But it does depend on the individual pet - young animals and those in a higher risk environment may require worming more regularly. It's important to discuss with your vet to establish a treatment plan that's right for you.
My cat hunts – does that mean I need to worm her more regularly?
Yes it probably does. Mice and other rodents often have tapeworm, and can pass roundworm on to your pet. Talk to your vet about the time intervals between treatments they would recommend, or check out our assessment page here.
Is there a way to help my pet to take the wormer?
The battle of trying to get your pet to take their worming treatment is a thing of the past since the launch of tablets and chews that have been specifically designed to be more palatable for your pet.
In fact, 8 out of 10 pet owners who use Chewable tablets say it has made such a difference that they don't mind worming anymore.
94% of dogs accept Chewable Tablets spontaneously from their owner's hand Palatability/acceptability trial. Data on file, study number NAH-02-0054
42% of cats take worming chews happily from their owner's hand. Palatability study NAH CRA 05/173. Data on file, 2006
How can I tell if my pet has worms?
The truth is, sometimes you can't tell if your pet has worms as they don't always show obvious symptoms.
These are some of the common signs that indicate your pet may be infected. Of course, a lot of these could have different causes but it is worth talking to your vet if you have any suspicions that worms may be to blame...
*if you look closely you can sometimes see worms in faeces or vomit
- 'scooting' – whereby the animal drags it's bottom along the carpet
- smelly stools*
- a dull, lifeless coat
- loss of appetite
- lack of energy
- a pot bellied appearance – particularly in puppies and kittens
- breathing difficulties/heaving
- any general changes in behaviour
I am taking my pet abroad later in the year – do I need to do anything specifically regarding worms?
The law requires that all travelling cats and dogs are wormed, not just for their own safety, but to prevent the spread of foreign parasites to the UK. Your pet will also require rabies vaccination and certification from your veterinary surgeon.
This is because there are parasites found abroad that we don't currently have in the UK. For example, we don't have heartworm in the UK but its spread in southern Europe by infected mosquitoes, and in its most advanced stages, it can be fatal.
Likewise a type of tapeworm known as Echinococcus multilocularis does not occur in the UK, but is present abroad. This worm can cause very serious liver disease in humans.
Start talking to your vet several months before you travel to see what they recommend as the timing of the vaccinations and worming treatments is critical. A 'vet strength' broad spectrum treatment, could help control their risk and prevent infection of heartworm.
Are fleas and worms in some way connected?
Fleas can carry and transmit certain types of tapeworm so if you don't control a flea problem at the same time as worming, your pet is almost certain to be re-infected.
If you have a cat ask your vet to recommend an effective external parasite treatment, known as an ectoparasiticide, to control fleas and ticks.