No one wants to talk about them because, frankly… well, yuk! The very thought of worms is enough to gross people out; unless you’re an avid fisherman and we’re talking worm on a hook. The idea of worms living inside your pet is a tough conversation to have, but one that is certainly worth having.

There are four common worm types; roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. How can you tell your pet has worms? Most infestations cause any or all of the following:

 Diarrhea, perhaps with blood
 Weight loss
 Dry hair
 General poor appearance
 Vomiting, perhaps with worms in the vomit

However, some infestations cause few or no symptoms. That is why, if your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to visit your Boca Raton pet care specialist. Many times, only a stool sample and microscopic examination, can reveal an infestation.

Roundworms
A large percentage of puppies and kittens are born with microscopically small roundworm in their bodies. The worm larvae eventually migrate to the intestinal tract where they can grow up to five inches in length. There, they begin shedding eggs which are passed in the stool. If eaten, the egg-bearing stool passed the worms along to another animal. Puppies and kittens with active roundworms in their intestines often have a pot-bellied appearance and poor growth. The worms may be seen in vomit or stool. If not treated in time, a severe infestation can cause death by intestinal blockage.

Whipworms
This parasite is more often seen in dogs than cats. Adult whipworms live in the animal’s large intestine and although seldom seen in the stool, look like tiny pieces of thread, with one end enlarged. Infestations are usually difficult to detect since the whipworm sheds few eggs but a sign of infestation is chronic weight loss coupled with passing a stool that appears to be covered with mucous.

Hookworms
Hookworms, like whipworms, are also much more common in dogs than in cats. Hookworms are very small, thin worms that fasten to the wall of the small intestine and suck blood. Dogs can become infested with hookworms from larval migration in the uterus, contact with the larvae in stool-contaminated soil, or ingesting the eggs after birth. As with roundworms, the hookworm larvae can also be transferred to the nursing pup from the mother’s milk.

A severe hookworm infestation can kill puppies and in older dogs, hookworm infestation is a common cause of poor stamina and chronic weight loss.

Tapeworms
The tapeworm is transmitted to dogs (and cats) that ingest fleas or other animals that are infested. A tapeworm can reach 4 to 6 inches in length. Cases are often diagnosed simply by seeing tiny “segments” of the worm either attached to the pet’s fur around the anus or under the tail.

The best prevention? Visit your Boca Raton veterinarian regularly.
Early diagnosis for the presence and type of intestinal parasite is vital. Regular visits, and examinations, by your local vet will go a long way in a keeping your dog or cat safe from these intestinal nuisances.