WHAT ARE ROUNDWORMS?
Roundworms are large, white colored worms often visible in the stool. They live in the intestines of dogs and cats. Roundworms are extremely common parasites.
HOW DOES MY PET GET ROUNDWORMS?
Pets can become infected by their mother during pregnancy or nursing. The environment will become infected from feces and pets will become infected from the contaminated soil by sniffing or licking the ground, grooming themselves and eating grass or feces outside. Pets can also become infected by eating prey, such as birds and rodents. Roundworms eggs are highly resistant and long lived in the environment.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ROUNDWORM INFECTION?
Some pets will not show any symptoms at all. Puppies and kittens are usually the most severly affected and will often appear “pot-bellied”. Other signs include:
- Dull, thin coat
- Failure to gain weight
HOW ARE ROUNDWORM INFECTIONS DIAGNOSED?
Your veterinarian can diagnose a roundworm infection by finding microscopic roundworm eggs on a fecal exam. Sometimes pet owners will discover that their pet is infected when live roundworms are seen in vomit or stool.
HOW IS A ROUNDWORM INFECTION TREATED?
Your veterinarian will prescribe a deworming medication to give to your pet. It is important to start heartworm prevention two weeks after giving the deworming medication to prevent any continued roundworm issue. A fecal sample should be rechecked 2 weeks after giving the deworming medication.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY PET FROM ROUNDWORM INFECTIONS?
Roundworm eggs can remain in the environment for months to years so pet feces should always be removed and disposed of. Keep your dog on a leash while walking to prevent exposure to contaminated areas and to minimize the chances of your pet eating an infected rodent or bird. If possible, cats should be kept indoors to minimize their exposure.
Sharing litterboxes and outdoor bathroom areas can spread roundworms among your pets. Any new pets that are brought home should be tested for intestinal parasites before being introduced to other pets in the home.
A monthly heartworm prevention that includes medication for roundworms is great year-round protection from parasites. Since it’s easy to forget a monthly treatment, annual fecal exams are recommended.
CAN ROUNDWORMS BE PASSED TO PEOPLE?
Yes, roundworms can be transmitted to from animals to people. Children are most at risk for infection. They typically become infected by eating contaminated soil. In humans, roundworms are a significant cause of larva migrans, an illness cause by migration of young worms through body organs such as the liver, lungs, and nervous system. Young worms may also travel to the eye, where they can cause blindness.
Make sure children wash their hands after handling pets or playing on playgrounds. Keep sandboxes covered when not in use.