Busting Myths About Worms in Pets
Worms are a common issue in both dogs and cats. And the fact that they’re microscopic and have the ability to hitch a ride on basically anything—from fleas to snails to even the soles of your shoes—make them tough opponents.
In addition, misconceptions that get passed around about worms prevent pet owners from learning the proper methods of worm prevention and treatment. Down the line, this can lead to a delay in veterinary intervention and allow worm infestations to become worse. So check out the 5 most common myths about worms down below and start protecting your pet the right way!
Myth #1: Indoor pets can’t get worms.
While keeping your pet indoors reduces their risk of contracting worms, it doesn’t completely eliminate that possibility. As we mentioned earlier, every insect or backyard critter is a potential worm carrier.
Mosquitoes, for instance, are known to be carriers of heartworm. With their small size, they can easily sneak into your home and infect your pet without you knowing.
Flies, rodents, cockroaches, crickets, slugs, and lizards are also notorious for giving indoor pets worms. There’s even a type of worm that dwells in damp bedding and causes skin infections in pets. (You can check out our article about that here.)
And, of course, we can’t forget about raw or undercooked meat, which is often riddled with tapeworms; and unwashed or undercooked veggies, which may carry a type of lungworm spread by snails and slugs. (You can learn more about it in this article.)
Myth #2: If your pet has worms, you’ll see worms in their feces.
Contrary to popular belief, pets with worms rarely poop out the adult worms, just the eggs, and larva, which are almost impossible to spot with the naked eye. If you suspect that your pet has worms, it’s better to bring them to the vet for a proper diagnosis than to risk allowing worms to grow inside your pet and cause severe complications that are harder to treat.
At the animal clinic, your veterinarian can take a sample of your pet’s feces, examine it under the microscope, and if needed, prescribe de-worming medications to safely and effectively treat your pet.
Myth #3: Pets ALWAYS scratch their bums if they have worms.
While some worms MAY cause itchiness in your pet’s bum area, that’s not always the case. In fact, it rarely happens, and most of the time, it’s because of a completely different reason. More telling signs of a worm infestation include vomiting and diarrhea, but, of course, nothing is for sure without your veterinarian’s diagnosis.
With that said, not all worms affect the digestive tract. Heartworms, lungworms, and eyeworms, for instance, cause damage to other organs and cause completely different health issues.
Myth #4: Puppies and kittens don’t get worms
Since worms are found in the environment, some pet owners believe that there’s no way for a newborn puppy or kitten to get worms. They just got out of their mother’s womb, how would they contract worms?
Well, unfortunately, most worms can cross the placenta. That means that an infected mother dog or cat can pass them to the puppies or kittens inside her womb. Worms can also be transmitted through breastmilk.
Myth #5: Humans can’t get worms from their pets.
As much as we want this to be true, it’s not. Some worms are “zoonotic”, meaning they can be passed from animal to human and vice versa. Roundworms and hookworms are prime examples.
You can contract roundworms from your pet by ingesting or inhaling infected fecal particles. If your pet has roundworms, it’s important to wear protective clothing, such as disposable rubber gloves and a face mask, when cleaning up after them.
If you’re dealing with dried up feces, always spray it with a bit of water to prevent particles from scattering in the air before scooping it up, and triple bagging it.
Hookworms, on the other hand, can go from your pet (or another animal) to you if you unknowingly step on contaminated surfaces (concrete, soil, sand, etc.) while barefoot. Hookworm larva usually enters the body by burrowing into the skin.
How Can I Protect Myself and My Pet from Worms?
- Clean and disinfect your pet’s belongings (kennel, bedding, toys, bowls) regularly.
- Clean up after your pet right away. Don’t forget to wear gloves and a facemask.
- Talk to your veterinarian about monthly worm preventatives. On top of killing worms inside your pet, most of them are also effective in repelling worm carriers, such as fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes.
- Protect your pet with a pet-friendly bug spray when taking them outside and on trips.
- Always wash and cook meat and veggies before feeding them to your pet.
- Don’t allow your pet to drink stagnant water.
- Refrain from bringing your pet to stagnant bodies of water, like lakes and ponds.
- If you have a cat, don’t allow them to hunt insects and backyard critters. Invest in adequate indoor enrichment instead.
- Visit the vet regularly.