Preventing worms in dogs and cats

5 minute read

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Worming your pets is an essential part of looking after them. Here’s all you need to know to keep your dogs and cats healthy, happy and worm-free.  

  • Regular worming and flea treatment help keep your pet healthy and free from worms 
  • Cats are likely to contract worms at least once in their lifetime  
  • Worms can be passed on from your pets to other family members, spreading disease and infection  

While your pet may look healthy on the outside, worms can be causing them pain and stress, which can even lead to death in rare instances when left untreated. If you spot any signs of worms in your cat or dog, it’s important to take them to the vets as soon as possible. 

Treatment can be expensive, depending on how severe it is, but the condition will get worse if you ignore it. However, preventing worms in the first place is simple and affordable.

Worms can cause dogs and cats pain and stress

Worms in dogs

Treating your dog for worms is hugely important. Not only does it keep them fit and healthy, it helps to stop diseases spreading from your dog to other family members or pets. 

If your dog does have worms they’ll usually show some of the following signs :

  • Sickness and diarrhoea (look out for blood) 
  • A swollen stomach 
  • Worms in their vomit, faeces or around their rear 

If you suspect your dog has worms, there are several different kinds, each with slightly different symptoms: 

  • Roundworm – roundworms are passed on through dirt or infected stools. They cause your dog’s stomach to appear rounded and swollen. Being sick, diarrhoea and mucus in the stool can also be key indicators of roundworm in dogs. 
  • Hookworm – this is one of the most dangerous types of worm and can be transmitted at birth,  putting puppies especially at risk. Key signs to watch out for include lethargy, poor appetite, black stools and anaemia . 
  • Tapeworm – tapeworms in dogs are generally passed on from fleas or mice. They cause young dogs to eat a lot more frequently than normal, without any weight gain . If a mature dog has tapeworms, they generally try to scratch their rear on the floor .
  • Whipworm – whipworm predominantly affects your dog’s bowels and will cause mucus to appear in their stools.   
  • Coccidia – particularly harmful to puppies, coccidia is a type of worm that attacks your dog’s intestines. Look out for diarrhoea and signs of blood . 
  • Heartworm - heartworm comes from the bites of infected insects that carry heartworm larvae . It can spread into your dog’s heart and lungs, making it one of the most dangerous types . 

    How do dogs get worms?

    The main reasons dogs get worms is by eating their eggs, which are found in either soil or faeces . Dogs are renowned for sniffing and eating things they shouldn’t, so it can easily happen in your garden or on walks. 

    They can also get worms by their skin - usually their feet - coming into contact with microscopic larval.  

    To prevent your dog getting worms, it’s important to give them regular worming treatments (around every 3 months ). Talk to your vet about the safest treatments for your pet and keep up with regular flea treatments too as they can carry tapeworm eggs .

Dogs often get worms by eating their eggs

Worms in cats

Cats are likely to get worms at least once in their lifetime,  making worming even more important. Many of the same types of worms that affect dogs are also found in cats. 

The 3 most common types of worms in cats are: 

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms

How do cats get worms?

As cats like to groom themselves and spend a lot of their time outside, they’re likely to find infected faeces, rodents or eggs. These are then digested when they groom themselves .

Cats with worms usually have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Visible worm segments in your cat’s faeces  
  • Bloody stools 
  • Vomiting 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Bloated  
  • Constipation 
  • Rounded stomach 
  • Constant coughing
  • Difficulty breathing 

To save you and your cat this trouble, speak to your vet about the best treatment to avoid them getting worms. 


Worming puppies and kittens

The best way to keep your pet safe is to start worming them when they are puppies or kittens. If you’ve adopted a pet, this won’t be possible, but talk your vet as soon as you can. Reputable shelters will probably have already started worming treatment and should give you all the information you need to continue it.

Young pets are more susceptible to worms. Puppies and kittens could even already have them if their mother was infected.

Worming treatments should be given routinely from 2 weeks old. This means breeders usually give the first worming treatments. It’s important to check whether your new pet has been wormed and when their next dose is due. 

All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.