There are a number of different type of worms that will all be discussed here. Worms can be grouped into different categories. The most important of which are the roundworms and the tapeworms. The difference between them is the round shape of the round worms, there are two different sexes and they don’t need a host animal to replicate. The tapeworms do need a host animal and is hermaphrodite, the worms therefore don’t have to breed with in a pair, but is able to fertilize its own eggs.
Below we will discuss the most important types of round- and tapeworms and what you can do to prevent infection of your pet.
How do I know my pet has a worm infection?
Most of the time you will not be aware that your pet has an intestinal parasite. So watch out. Often you may see a worm or pieces of a worm in vomit or stool. Pieces of a tapeworm can also stick to the coat of your pet, usually around the anus.
The veterinarian can do a stool sample examination. The vet searches for worm eggs in the stool, under the microscope. This does not give a 100% guarantee that there are no worms present if the sample is negative, but if we find worm eggs your pet has a worm infection.
There are different types of tapeworm but they all live in a very similar fashion. They are build out of a head that can attach very firmly to the intestinal wall and their bodies are segmented. They live in the intestine of dog and cats where they feed themselves with bowel content. In their life they keep producing new segments, the oldest segments being near the tail of the worm. The oldest segments contain ripened eggs, they fall from the rest of the worm and come out through the anus. You may find segments in the hairs of your pet or on their bedding that look similar to small rice grains.
A flea/rabbit/rat or mouse are the between host, they eat the small segments. In the host animal a small cyst is formed in muscle tissue. In the wall of this cyst thousands of small tapeworm heads are formed. When the between host is eaten as prey the small heads are released from the muscle tissue and can infest the intestine again to go on and produce more segments.
In our pets it is mostly the flea that causes infection with tapeworm. That another reason to prevent flea infection in your pets.
These are the worms that are commonly described as small white elastic bands, that can be found in either stool or vomit. The larvae of the roundworm can make a migration route through the whole host body. In the dog and cat there are two main types that can spread through the stool and through the mothers breast milk. In the dog the worm can also be transmitted in the uterus from mother to pup. De-worming of puppies and kittens together with their mother is therefore essential.
De-worming before or during the pregnancy does not prevent the necessity to de-worm after the puppies are born. This is because the worm larvae are in rest and hide out in the muscle tissue. During the pregnancy the larvae migrate to the uterus and milk glands. In this resting phase they are immune to de-worming medication.
The adult roundworm lives in the small intestine, and can cause infection at any age. In the intestine the worm produces thousands of eggs, that come into the environment through stool. The eggs ripen and these ripened eggs are ingested again by new dogs/cats/mice where they grow into larvae and into adult worms again. Pets can ingest the eggs by sniffing at the grass outside or you can walk them into the house on the bottoms of your shoes.
Heartworm is a parasite we only see in the southern parts of Europe. They are transmitted by biting insects, and can cause serious illness in your pet. If you are thinking of taking your pet abroad then please contact us at the clinic and we will happily inform you of good heartworm prevention medication.
What is heartworm?
The heartworm is a parasite that, like the name suggests, lives in the heart of dogs and cats. It does this once it has grown to be an adult worm. Many heartworms can be in the heart at the same time. In this way it prevents the heart from functioning, killing its host. The host can be a dog or a cat.
How does my pet get heartworm?
The adult heartworm ( Dirofilaria immitis) live in the heart of dogs and cats, larvae live in the blood of the host. The larvae are sucked up by biting mosquitos, when they bite a new host they transmit the heartworm larvae. Infection therefore only takes place in areas of the world where these mosquitoes live. Direct transmission between dogs or cats is not possible. The larvae or microfilaria turn into adult worms producing new larvae.
In what areas are contaminated with heartworm carrying mosquitos?
In the southern European countries below Paris the mosquito is wide spread, the highest level of infection in the river areas of northern Italy and the Rhone-delta in France, but no area in southern Europe is completely free of these mosquitos.
What can I do against adult heartworms?
There is no treatment against adult heartworm infection at this time. There are some new specialist techniques whereby the worms are removed through surgery, but there are still many risks.
What can I do against the larvae?
In the areas where mosquitos live that carry the heartworm larvae we can prevent heartworm infection in dogs and cats. Preventing your pet being stung by a mosquito is very difficult. We therefore use ant parasitic medication that kills the heartworm larvae before they reach the adult worm stage that lives in the heart. This is not only important for pets living in these areas of the world, but it is also important for pets traveling outside of the Netherlands to southern Europe.
Please contact the clinic for up to date heart worm prevention medication and advise. Thankfully we diagnose heartworm disease rarely in the Netherlands. This may be due to the good health and immune system of most Dutch pets.