Roundworms are the most common of the parasitic worms found in dogs and cats. Almost all pets become infected with them at some time in their lives, usually as puppies or kittens. Roundworms may be contracted in different ways, making them easy to spread and hard to control. Your pet may be infected with roundworms from the time it is born because often the mother passes the worms to the young while they are still in her body. Roundworms can also develop in a puppy or kitten after it is born when they eat larvated eggs from the environment or drink worm larvae (young worms) in the mother’s milk. Another way roundworms are passed is when roundworm larvae are present in the tissues of a mouse or another small mammal and the puppy or kitten eats that animal.
How will roundworms affect my pet?
Adult roundworms live in the affected pet’s intestines. Many pets do not have signs of infection; however, pets with major roundworm infections, especially puppies or kittens, show weight loss, dull hair, and a potbellied appearance. The pet may cough if the roundworms move into the lungs. You may notice the adult roundworms in your pet’s feces or vomit. They will appear white or light brown in color and may be several inches long. Most times, the body reabsorbs the parasites and you do not see them.
How do I prevent my pet from getting roundworms?
Because roundworms can enter your pet’s body in many different ways, it is essential to keep your pet’s living area clean, remove feces regularly, and, if possible, prevent them from eating wild animals that may carry roundworms. To get rid of roundworms that are passed from the mother, puppies and kittens should be treated at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age and then receive a preventive treatment monthly. Fecal (stool) examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 or 2 times each year in adults. Nursing mothers should be kept on monthly preventive and treated along with their young. Keep your pet on preventatives such as Trifexis® (for dogs) or Advantage Multi® (for cats) year round for optimum protection.
Can humans be harmed by roundworms?
Roundworms do pose a significant risk to humans. Contact with contaminated soil or feces can result in human ingestion and infection. Roundworm eggs may accumulate in significant numbers in the soil where pets deposit feces. Children should not be allowed to play where animals have passed feces. Individuals who have direct contact with soil should wear gloves or wash their hands immediately.