Roundworms in Pets

Of all the health concerns that pets are exposed to, the one that is probably the most common, yet least treated, is roundworms. The reason is that pet owners may not realize that their pet has a parasite, or that the parasite can be picked up by people.

To understand the parasite, the risks, and how to treat it, it is best to start with the life cycle. The infectious part of the cycle is the larva, the immature worm that has just hatched. Larva migrate out of the intestine and into body tissues. This allows them to migrate to the reproductive tract and mammary tissue and be passed on to unborn and newborn puppies and kittens. Essentially, they are born with a parasite. It also allows pets to pick up roundworms by eating the flesh or stool of infested animals. There is a human health risk as well. Although the adult roundworm cannot live in the human intestine, the immature larva can migrate through the body tissues, doing damage to skin, eyes and nerves.

From this description, it is easy to see that the parasite can be minimized, but never completely prevented, with proper hygiene. Clean up feces in the area where your pet lives and keep them away from areas where feces are not cleaned up. People need to wash well after handling dirt from areas where pets go to the bathroom.

Since the parasite can be passed from mother to newborn, it is key to treat for roundworms in pregnant and breeding animals. It is also important to break the cycle by treating the young starting at two to three weeks of age, and then repeating every few weeks as long as they are nursing. Since pets can be reinfected by their environment, they need to be treated on a regular basis. “Regular” can be anything from one to twelve times a year, depending on how contaminated their environment is.

If you are unsure about the level of risk for your pet, and the best treatment, please talk to your vet. There are many products available for many different situations. The ideal treatment would keep parasites to a minimum, while keeping ease and safety to a maximum.

Written by Morinville Veterinary Clinic