Roundworms are very common in the UK – in fact, studies have shown that over 20% of dogs and cats can become infected at any time!
This means your dog is at risk of catching worms every time you go outside. Picked up in faeces or even contaminated soil, roundworms can cause diarrhoea and poor growth, and pose a risk to human health.
What Are Roundworms?
Roundworms in Dogs
Roundworms are white, round-bodied worms, and can get up to 18cm long! These worms spend most of their life within the gut of dogs, feeding on intestinal contents.
Roundworms in Cats
Cat roundworms are brownish-yellow, round-bodied worms, and can get up to 10cm long! These worms spend most of their life within the gut of cats, feeding on intestinal contents.
Roundworms reproduce by laying eggs within the intestine. These eggs are passed out with faeces, mature for up to seven weeks, and then become infectious.
Dogs and cats then ingest these infectious eggs, which hatch into larvae. Importantly, larval roundworms can travel out of the gut to a wider range of tissues, including multiple organs such as the liver and lungs, skeletal muscle and the gut wall, where they may form cysts.
This allows dogs and cats to maintain a level of infection, and bitches can pass on infections to their puppies & kittens via the placenta or milk.
This infection of puppies & kittens is the most common route of infection.
Sadly, toxocara can also infect humans and, while usually harmless in adults, can cause serious damage to children’s eyesight.
What Are The Signs Of A Roundworm Infection?
In a healthy, adult car or dog there may be no outward signs of a roundworm infestation beyond visible adult worms in the faeces or vomit. However, in severe infestation, or in dogs or cats that are very young or have a poor immune system, you may also see:
A pot belly
Weight loss, or poor growth
Poor coat quality
Sadly, a heavy infestation in a young kitten can even be enough to kill.
Types Of Worm That Can Affect Your Pet
Can Roundworms Affect My Health?
Sadly, humans can also become infected with toxocara, and this includes toxocara found in dogs and in cats.
Many people who are infected with toxocara roundworms show no signs at all. However, some people, especially those who are young, or have a poor immune system, can develop problems as the larvae can migrate to the organs and the eye.
How to protect you and your family’s health:
Make sure your pets are kept up-to-date with their worming treatments
Promote handwashing after playing with pets, or playing outside
Clean up after your pet as quickly and frequently as possible
Teach children it can be dangerous to eat soil