Worms are a fact of life for animals, especially puppies and kittens. Most of them pick up roundworms before they’re ready to leave their mothers, sometimes before they’re even born. If they don’t get the worms in utero, they get them when they nurse if mom’s a carrier.
Roundworms are likely the most common type of worms that infect out pets, according to information from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Dogs and cats pick up these worms by coming in contact with worm eggs in the feces of other dogs or directly from the soil, where the eggs can survive for months while waiting for a host. Cats also often get them from eating mice or other rodents that have the worms present in their bodies. Once roundworms get into your pet’s body they are there to stay, at least until you evict them by using a suitable dewormer.
Toxocara canis is the scientific name for the roundworms that typically infect dogs. These pests can cause serious problems for puppies, including diarrhea and vomiting, but in adult dogs roundworms tend to just hang around in a dormant state. Everything changes, though, when a female gets pregnant. T. canis wakes up and begins producing eggs; a single female roundworm can produce as many as 200,000 a day. These eggs can pass through the placenta, so if the mother dog has roundworms the puppies will also, and they’ll be infected before they are ever born.
The roundworm that commonly infects cats is Toxocara cati. Although it is similar in appearance to T. canis and just as prolific, T. cati does not pass through the placenta, so it is unable to infect unborn kittens. These worms do head for the mother’s mammary glands once she’s pregnant, though, and from the moment the kittens first begin to nurse until they are weaned, they are repeatedly exposed to the eggs that lurk in the milk. Kittens carrying T. cati will often look rough and unhealthy, and typically have diarrhea and vomiting that leads to dehydration.
Intestinal parasites such as roundworms may find their way into a human host, so it’s important to keep your pet wormed on a regular basis. Although these creatures live in the intestines of your pet, if one gets into your system it could end up anywhere, including your eyes, lungs and liver. They may also burrow just under human skin, creating strange lumps and itchy rashes. While this is not terribly common, especially in adults, a regular worming program for your pet is an easy way to make sure it never happens to you.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats
- University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: Warning: Worms Can Hurt You and Your Pet!
- University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine: Roundworms
- University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine: Toxocara Cati