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Symptoms of Worms in Dogs and Cats

What we think of as worms are actually a number of different intestinal parasites: hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, and whipworm. They all have very different lifecycles and ways of feeding, so the symptoms they can produce in your pet are also quite different.

As a pet owner, you may wish to be aware of some of the signs that may indicate the presence of worms in your dog or cat. Remember though, that many pets do not develop any symptoms of worms until the infection is advanced, so it is important to maintain your regular checks with your vet.

Symptoms and their causes

Weight loss– as the name suggests, intestinal worms live in your pet’s digestive system, so weight loss is a common symptom associated with all worms.

Pale gums –this is a common sign of anemia, which may be caused by parasites that feed off your pet’s blood or cause blood loss, such as hookworm.

Diarrhea or vomiting– the physical presence of worms in the intestines can cause irritation, leading to diarrhea and vomiting, particularly with roundworm and whipworm.

Distended belly– for young animals, in particular, a potbellied appearance may indicate the presence of roundworms.

Sores between the toes– this distinctive symptom is often seen in dogs or cats who have contracted hookworm from contaminated soil. The larvae burrow into the skin on the feet leaving lesions behind.

Dull coat– both hookworms and roundworms can cause your pet’s fur to appear dull.

Visible traces of worms– roundworms and tapeworms are both visible to the human eye and are often seen in an animal’s feces. Roundworms are white or pale brown and can be several inches long, while tapeworm segments are smaller and look like grains of rice.

Scooting– an animal scooting or scratching their behind on the floor or ground is usually a symptom of tapeworms. This is due to the segments of tapeworm causing irritation as they are expelled in the feces.

Confirming the diagnosis

Even if your pet has all the symptoms related to a particular worm, it is important to get the diagnosis confirmed. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, which will need to be ruled out. In most cases, your vet can confirm the presence of worms by conducting a simple fecal exam.

Treating worms in dogs and cats

Once your vet has confirmed that your dog or cat has worms and identified that particular worm, they will advise you of the treatment options. In most cases, this will be the same medication that is given as a preventative. This may be given as a one-off dose or as a series of doses repeated every 2-4 weeks until the infestation has been cleared.

Your vet may also offer treatment for symptoms caused by the worms. For young animals, in particular, blood loss can be dangerous and they may require a blood transfusion.

Symptoms of Worms in Dogs and Cats

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