Do we really need to worm pets?

Vets recommend that you do.

Two questions about worms that I've been asked many times since I qualified as a vet 13 years ago are:

1: Are worms really a big deal? YES!

2: Surely it's just a money making scheme for supermarkets and vets? NO it isn't!

Worms are detrimental to human and animal health.

Here are 2 reasons why we should worm:

1) To protect our pets' health

  • Worms live inside the body

  • We only see them when they die and pass outside in the faeces

  • Worms spread from pet to pet by microscopic eggs passing out of the worm into faeces then into the mouth of the next animal and so on

  • When inside our pets' body, the worm bites onto the inside of the gut

  • Causing pain and inflammation

  • It also absorbs nutrients that the dog or cat is receiving from its food

  • If there are enough worms present, then your pet can become deficient in vitamins and minerals, and may also lose weight

2) To protect our (human) health:

  • As easily as worms pass from pet to pet, they can get into humans if we touch our faces, bite our nails, or prepare food without good hand washing.

  • This is especially important when pets live with young children.


What is a 'worm'?

We're not talking about a garden worm here, we are talking tapeworms and roundworms, hookworms and lungworms (note that ringworm is not a type of worm).

Worms are little white things that start off as an egg, grow into a long white worm by feeding from the gut of an animal/human, and then produce their own eggs.

The eggs are really tiny and you need a microscope to see them.

Your pet will pick up worm eggs from the environment when they are sniffing around, (or eating things that they shouldn't). Cats often get worms from hunting mice and birds.

Puppies can be infected by their mother, so your new addition to the family needs to go to your vet asap to be weighed and wormed. Worming must be done every few weeks until they are grown up, not just by the breeder before your pup comes home.

What happens once worm eggs are eaten by my pet?

The eggs hatch into little thin worms.

They bite into the lining of the gut and take nutrients from your pet. They also cause discomfort and inflammation in the gut, a bit like IBS.

That in itself is a good enough reason to give a wormer to your pet!

If we don't give a worming tablet, then these little white worms just stay there; feeding, causing discomfort and producing microscopic eggs (meaning they are invisible to the naked eye), or producing little white 'segments' if it's a tapeworm (see picture below)

These eggs pass out of your pets bottom and can go anywhere:

1. Your pet licks its bottom, or licks/eats it's faeces, and the eggs go back in to the gut and new worms develop

2. Another pet licks or sniffs your dogs bottom or faeces and the eggs go into their gut. So now they will have worms

3. You touch your pet, or your pets faeces (this is often accidental as there will inevitably be some faeces in their coat after they've been to the toilet) and the eggs on your hands go into your gut

4. A child touches the dogs bottom or faeces, and they then rub their face, or put their hands into their mouth.

If your pet isn't given a regular wormer, then you and your family could easily get worms growing inside your own gut

Worms and Children

There is a specific worm called Toxocara which is easily picked up by children, again, because they are more likely to touch their face and mouth with unwashed hands.

If present on the hands, the parasite can infect the child's eye. Sounds horrible and it really is.

So please, worm your dog to prevent it from spreading Toxoxara around parks and pavements where little children can come into contact with it.

Worms and Pregnancy

If you are a pregnant woman, then you must stay away from your cats faeces and do not handle the litter tray.

Cat poo can contain toxoplasma, which is a parasite that can damage a developing foetus and can cause miscarriage.


If you don't regularly worm your pet:

1. They pick up worm eggs from the environment

2. The worm eggs develop into worms which bite into the gut

3. The worms cause gut pain and inflammation, and in extreme cases can cause bloating, bleeding and weight loss

4. These worms produce eggs or segments which pass out of the keys bottom

5. The pet re-infects themselves by licking their bottom

6. Humans can get infected by accidentally putting their fingers in their mouth, when preparing food, if they don't wash their hands after handling their pet.


Wormers from supermarkets and pet shops sadly are outdated and frequently ineffective against worms, so you can be spending money and thinking that your pet and family are protected, when they are not.

A wormer from a vet will be safe and effective.

Worming frequency depends on your pet's lifestyle and which preventative treatments are being used to control lungworm and fleas.

If your pet is on a monthly flea treatment, then usually a twice-a-year tapeworm would be enough.

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