Roundworms, tapeworms and lungworms…why do we worm?

1. Roundworms:

  • 10cm long spaghetti like- lovely!
  • affects puppies, kittens, hunting pets and those on raw diets.
  • doesn’t affect pets too much except when puppies and kittens have in large numbers ( pot-
    belly appearance)
  • worms can pass across mother’s placenta and milk to her puppies/kittens!
  • the main concern is zoonosis (zoonosis means that humans can pick it up)
  • roundworms can occassionally cause  blindness in children. Click here to read more.

How do humans get infected?

Lots of ways!
Dog/cat passes roundworms in your garden, you go gardening, the roundworm infected faeces gets on to your hands and a bit gets into your mouth.. so wash your hands after gardening! Child playing with a toy with soil on it, and, a big one, kids playing in sandpits that all the local cats have been using as a five star public lavatory.

What can we do?

  •  Roundworms are not zoonotic until 2-7 weeks after they appears in the environment. Like a fine wine, they need time to mature….so.. pick up your pets faeces immediately. This will decrease the amount of eggs in the environment. This is most important.
  • Worm every 3 months or monthly if young kids/immunosuppressed in household, you are the owner of hunting cat /dog or your pet is fed a raw poultry diet.

2. Tapeworms:

Tapeworms are gross! Small segments around your pets behind or on the couch! Echinoccus multiocularis and granulosus are thankfully not in Ireland. They are serious tapeworms and can be fatal in humans. This is why tapeworm treatment for our pets travelling from mainland Europe to Ireland is ABSOLUTELY VITAL!

a) The Flea Tapeworm (dipylidium caninum)

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  • Your pet picks up this tapeworm by swallowing a flea that has tapeworm inside.
  • This tapeworm doesn’t affect your pet apart from you not wanting to snuggle him/her when you see tapeworm segments dancing around his/her behind. Yuck!
  • If  you eat a bit of a flea by mistake when in close contact with your  pet, you  could find yourself the proud owner of a 50cm tapeworm and start producing segments yourself!
  • When we see tapeworm segments on our pets’ behind it is a sign that our flea treatment programme has broken down.
  • By having a good flea treatment programme, you will eliminate the flea tapeworm.

b)Taenia hydatigena and ovis:

  • Associated with country dogs, on farms etc…
  • This tapeworm goes from dog to sheep/cow.
  • It doesn’t cause either of them trouble but the problem is for the poor farmer as the tapeworm damages the sheep/cows liver and  the meat factory don’t pay him/her as much for them.

So, the next time your dog poos on the side of the road, don’t just pick it and flick it in to the field as the poor farmer could end up paying for it!

In summary, the tapeworms we see in Ireland are not very pathogenic to the pets or humans. The are more disgusting and could erode the human-animal bond. If your dog is living a life, on the lead, city slicker, not loose on farmland, has a good flea treamtment regime,  it is unlikely that he/she will need tapeworm treatments.

If you do have the pleasure of finding tapeworm segments in your home or start producing them yourself (!) it is more likely due to the flea tapeworm and is a good sign that you need to look at your flea treatment regime (after you get to the chemist to sort yourself out of course!)

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a)Dog lungworm (angiostrongylus abstrusus)-strictly speaking this is not a lungworm but let’s not go there!

  • Our pets come along, eat an infected slug, snail, bird, frog and become infected.
  • slugs and snails can be very small so a dog that eats grass will commonly inadvertently eat a small snail/slug.
  • The main clinical signs are coughing and clotting problems ( unexplained bleeding/bruising).
  • So,if your animal is at risk, monthly lungworm treatment is advised.
  • Pick up dog bowls, toys when not in use in garden so slugs don’t land on them.

b)Cat lungworm (aelurostrongylus abstrusus)

  • Low prevalence… 1-2%
  • Hunting cat greatest risk by far.. No surprises there!Roundworms vs tapeworms in cats
  • Hunting cat should be on monthly roundworm treatment so this will cover for lungworm also.
  • Can cause bronchitis/pneumonia.

Golden rules of worming:

Worm monthly if:

1.your pet has access to unprocessed rawfood/carcasses  2.your pet consumes slugs/snails, eat grass, eat faeces 3.there are children or immunosuppressed people in household have a puppy or kitten less than 6 months of age

If you want to know more about worms  click here for some lighthearted reading!


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About the Author: Tung Chi