Most puppies and kittens usually have one or more types of intestinal worms. It is very common for puppies to be born with them or contract them through nursing, and kittens can be infected through nursing as well. Links to the most common intestinal parasites are listed at the bottom of the page.
Microscopic eggs produced by intestinal worms in infected dogs and cats are shed through feces and then passed on to other animals. Studies show that 8 out of every 10 dogs have problems with worms at some time in their lives. Under certain conditions, worms can even be transmitted to humans.
Regular veterinary check-ups and fecal exams are an important part of responsible pet ownership, and the only way to ensure your best friend stays parasite free (and you too!). Because only a few types of worms can be seen in feces, a microscopic fecal evaluation by your veterinarian is the only way to diagnose these parasites. All puppies and kittens should be dewormed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Adult dogs and cats should have a stool sample examined for worms at least twice a year (Spring and Fall). Anytime a dog or cat has a digestive tract problem, a stool exam can detect or rule out the presence of internal parasites. A stool examination not only detects the presence or absence of adult worms, it also detects the presence of worm eggs. When bringing a stool specimen to the veterinary hospital, it is best to transport it in a small, clean glass jar or baggie. A fresh specimen is definitely best. An old specimen may no longer contain the parasite or the eggs.
If your pet is positive for worms, your veterinarian will prescribe medication appropriate to the specific type of worm. How often you worm depends on your pet’s age, environment and severity of infestation. Lactating females should be treated two to three weeks after whelping. Adult dogs kept in heavily contaminated quarters may be treated at monthly intervals to prevent re-infection. Dogs who share common areas with other dogs risk re-infestation at any time. Dog droppings should be immediately picked up from public areas and from your yard to reduce the chances of contaminating the soil. Keeping cats indoors is an effective way to limit their risk of exposure to roundworms. A good way to prevent worm infections is by using one of several monthly heartworm preventatives available from your veterinarian.
Worm infections in humans can be easily prevented by practicing good hygiene and sanitation. Children should be discouraged from eating dirt and should not be allowed to play in areas that are soiled with pet feces. Sandboxes should be covered when not in use. Adults and children should always wash their hands after handling soil and after contact with pets. Shoes should be worn when outside to protect feet from larvae present in the environment, and raw vegetables should be thoroughly washed because they may contain parasites from infected soil.