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A wriggly problem!

How can you tell if your pet has worms?

Most cats and dogs will appear healthy even though they still have worms, but occasionally we may see symptoms of worms especially in young puppies and kittens:

  • Scooting – dragging their bottom on the floor
  • Vomiting/Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss/ not gaining weight
  • Dull, lifeless coat
  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Change in appetite

How does my pet get worms?

  • Contact with soil/grass
  • Scavenging/hunting
  • Eating raw meat
  • Fleas
  • Eating faeces
  • Puppies/Kittens can contract worms from their mothers

Types of worms

Within the UK

Roundworms (Toxocara):

White worms that look like a piece of string or spaghetti. Present in puppies from 2 weeks old and kittens from 6 weeks old as they can become infected from their mother in the uterus and via their milk. In young animals they can cause lethargy, bloating, diarrhoea and weight loss. These worms can be transmitted to humans and although a rare ocurrence, in children they can cause permanent eye damage leading to blindness, so for this reason alone all pets should be routinely treated for roundworms.


These worms attach themselves to the small bowel and can grow up to 5 meters long! They look like flat ribbon shaped pieces or pale segments the size of a grain of rice which can often be seen in your pet’s fur or around the anus. Often pets become infected by swallowing fleas when grooming which carry the tapeworm larvae. Dogs and cats that hunt can also be infected from their prey. Dogs that holiday in Wales and Scotland can also be at risk of the sheep tapeworm, which can also be transmitted to humans.


Hookworms are blood sucking parasites that live in the small intestines. More commonly seen in kennelled dogs, leading to diarrhoea and even anaemia. Hookworm larvae can directly penetrate your pet’s feet leading to infection. Hookworms can cause human skin disease.


Whipworms are blood sucking parasites that live in the large intestines. They can cause diarrhoea and anaemia similar to hookworms. More common in kennelled dogs. Faeces of infected dogs will often be mucous covered.


Infection occurs when dogs eat infected snails or slugs or possibly lick the mucus trails. Foxes are the main host. Does your garden attract urban foxes? The associated symptoms in dogs are coughing and respiratory problems.

Outside the UK

As well as the types mentioned above, travelling pets may come into contact with worms only found abroad:


Heartworm gets its name as the adult worms will live in your dog's heart. Spread by infected mosquitoes, causing coughing, and appetite loss with advances stages being fatal. These worms are only found in Southern Europe, USA, and Australia.

Tapeworm - Echinococcis multilocularis:

Does not occur in the UK. This worm can infect your pet but can also cause very serious liver disease in humans.

Treatment and Prevention

Cats and dogs can look healthy on the outside, even when they have worms on the inside so prevention/treatment is important even if you do not think your pet has worms. Some worms can pass from your animals during grooming, stroking and from the environment, in particular children are very susceptible.

Treatment for worms depends on your pet’s lifestyle but as a minimum we recommend worming at least 4 times per year. For more detail follow the table below:

Pets Lifestyle Worming Advice Worming Frequency


  • Under 6 months
Usually have roundworms from their mothers, so need worming regularly in the early months Every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old, then monthly until 6 months old

Adult house Cat

  • No young children in the family
Regularly treat your cat to prevent catching tapeworm Every 3 months

Adult Cat with access to outdoors

  • No young children in the family
Rodents and birds can carry both roundworms and tapeworms, so it's important to worm regularly Monthly

Adult Dog

  • Exercised in own garden or short lead walks
  • No young children in the family
Regularly treat your dog for fleas to prevent catching tapeworm Every 3 months

Adult Dog

  • Exercised off lead
  • No young children in family
When your dog is off the lead, they will be exploring, chewing and licking things, so may pick up tapeworm, roundworm or lungworm Monthly

Adult Cat or Dog

  • Young children in family
Young children are at risk of roundworm and in rare cases get worm infections within the eye Monthly

Adult Cat or Dog

  • Travelling abroad
Make sure you protect from heartworm and tapeworm while you are away Discuss with your vet

Other ways to prevent worms:

  • Treat regularly for fleas to prevent tapeworms
  • Disinfect you pets food and water bowls regularly
  • Make sure all the family wash their hands before eating to prevent self-infection
  • Clean up your animal’s faeces

For more advice on worming control and prevention please contact us.