Pet Care 101: Intestinal Worming

The Three Monthly Worming Schedule

Many of you pet parents have probably heard your vet recommend worming once every three months, and you may have wondered why. Is it because that’s how long it takes for adult worms to lay eggs? Or perhaps it has to do with changes in season?

Well it actually is actually based on the fact worming products DON’T PREVENT worms; they just kill the ones that are already there. Some wormers will only kill the adult worms, where as many can target immature stages of worms as well. Veterinarians have chosen the three monthly worm schedules based on the fact that worm burdens will still be low and not causing an issue in a healthy adult pet after three months, so worming at this rate will keep the numbers low enough to prevent issues.

In puppies and kittens we recommend more frequent worming because they are far more susceptible to the dangers of intestinal worms such as intestinal blockages and anaemia. We will also formulate specialized worming schedules in some cases where the worm burden has been high and we know the pet will be re-infected quickly, or perhaps their immune system is poorly and they are more at risk.

Intestinal worming is not just for your pets health, but also for yours! Some intestinal worms found in pets can be passed on to humans. 

 

Dogs

Dogs love getting their mouth on everything – shoes, dirt, rocks, bark, other dogs mouths and toys, you name it and they have probably licked it! This means they are at risk of contracting worm eggs from the soil, water, fleas and other animals.

Your veterinarian can perform a faecal float to check for worms eggs. It is a simple, cheap and non-invasive method of determining worm numbers and types.

Your veterinarian can perform a faecal float to check for worms eggs. It is a simple, cheap and non-invasive method of determining worm numbers and types.

Roundworms, whipworms, hookworms and most tapeworms can be killed using a worming tablet once every three months. But not all worm tablets are created equally – some may only contain one or two ingredients which will not target all worm types. I personally use ‘Drontal Plus’ because it contains Praziquantal, Pryantel and Fenbendazole at the correct doses to kill the entire variety of worms your dog may contract. It can also be used from two weeks of age for puppies and I recommend puppies are wormed at 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age, then monthly until they are 6 months of age before going on to the adult schedule.

A wonderful way to prevent over treatment with worming products is having a faecal examination performed every 3 months at your veterinary clinic. A faecal float procedure will detect any worm eggs in your dog’s faeces and treatment can then be initiated accordingly. Some worms can shed eggs intermittently though, which means they may not always be detected so it is important to repeat the testing every 3 months.

 

Cats

Even indoor cats can be exposed to the horrors of intestinal worms. If they catch geckos, frogs, mice and other little critters worms can be contracted, not to mention the exposure in the soil or water for outdoor cats. They can also self-infect through ingestion of their own faeces (done by accident of course, cats would never stoop so low as to perform this dog-like behavior deliberately!)

Regular intestinal worms, including roundworms and most tapeworms, can be treated with a three monthly tablet or spot-on worming treatment. Once again ‘Drontal for Cats’ is a great product that contains Pyrantel and Praziquantal. It kills all intestinal worms in cats except Spirometra mentioned below. It can be given from 6 weeks of age in kittens and I recommend kittens are wormed at 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age, then monthly until they are 6 months of age before going on to the adult schedule.

Spot-on treatments can also be used but many will not kill tapeworms, so it is important to consult with your veterinarian about which product is best for your cat based on their temperament (or in other words whether they will kill you rather than take a tablet…) and potential exposure. ‘Profender’ is a good all-rounder spot on for hookworms, round worms and all tapeworms except Spirometra.

The "zipper" worm. Photo from University of Florida's database.

The "zipper" worm. Photo from University of Florida's database.

Geckos and frogs can harbor a particularly nasty tapeworm called spirometra, otherwise known as the zipper worm because of its appearance (check out that photo… YUCK!). Owners often come in thinking there cat has eaten some sort of fabric and it is in fact pieces of this worm coming out. If your cat is a hunter they should receive additional oral tapewormers every three months because these worms are particularly hard to kill.

A wonderful way to prevent over treatment with worming products is having a faecal examination performed every 3 months at your veterinary clinic. A faecal float procedure will detect any worm eggs in your cat’s faeces and treatment can then be initiated accordingly. Some worms can shed eggs intermittently though, which means they may not always be detected so it is important to retest every 3 months.

 

Exotic Pets

It can be difficult to worm an entire group of birds in aviary settings. I recommend collecting a group of faecal samples (for example 5 separate droppings for a group of 10 birds) that can then be examined together for a faecal float. If worm eggs are identified you can assume all the birds in the group are affected, this can then be repeated once every three months.

It can be difficult to worm an entire group of birds in aviary settings. I recommend collecting a group of faecal samples (for example 5 separate droppings for a group of 10 birds) that can then be examined together for a faecal float. If worm eggs are identified you can assume all the birds in the group are affected, this can then be repeated once every three months.

Birds, reptiles and small mammals should also be wormed on a three monthly basis. Even indoor pets can self-infect, if they poop out some worm eggs immediately before you worm them and they are then re-ingested the next day the whole cycle can start again. They may also be exposed to worms through the substrate or natural enrichment items like branches.

An alternative to tri-monthly worming is having a faecal float examination performed at your veterinarian. I recommend collecting three samples of faeces for the test, as some eggs can be shed intermittently. If eggs are detected your pet should be wormed, if they are egg free their faeces can be retested three months later. This can prevent over-treatment of exotic pets.