Roundworms are large, white colored worms often visible in the stool. They are one of the few intestinal parasites that can be seen visibly. They are extremely common parasites that affect puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats.
HOW DO PETS BECOME INFECTED WITH ROUNDWORMS?
Mother dogs can pass the parasite onto her developing puppies in the uterus or through milk when the puppies are nursing. Kittens do not become infected in the uterus, but they can become infected when nursing.
Adult roundworms live in the intestines, where they lay eggs. An infected dog or cat sheds the roundworm eggs into the environment when they defecate. There they become infective. Other pets will become infected by eating contaminated soil, which will happen when pets groom themselves, sniff or lick the ground, or eat things outside.
Pets can also become infected if they eat infected prey, such as rabbits, rodents, and birds.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF INFECTION?
Puppies and kittens are the most affected and most often will have a “pot-bellied” appearance. Other signs include:
- Dull, thin coat
- Failure to gain weight
CAN I GET ROUNDWORMS FROM MY PET?
Roundworms are considered zoonotic parasite, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to people. Children are most at risk. People typically become infected by eating contaminated soil.
Roundworms are a signifcant cause of several types of larva migrans in people. This is an illness caused by the migration of young worms through the body organs such as the liver, lungs, and nervous system. Young worms can 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.
HOW ARE ROUNDWORMS DIAGNOSED?
A roundworm infection is typically diagnosed by finding microscopic roundworm eggs on a fecal exam. Unfortunately many owners realize their pet is infected after finding visible roundworms in their pets vomit or stool.
HOW IS A ROUNDWORM INFECTION TREATED?
Routinely young pets are treated with an antiparasite medication during their early visit to the veterinarian. Most monthly heartworm preventions control roundworm and other intestinal parasite infections. Roundworms are very common, but not always apparent in fecal samples from infected pets. Your veterinarian may still recommend deworming your pet even if a fecal test does not confirm a roundworm infection.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY PET FROM ROUNDWORM INFECTIONS?
Its important to know that roundworm eggs can remain infective in the environment from months to years, even in harsh weather. Fresh feces is not infectious, and should be removed and disposed of immediately. A monthly preventative that includes medication for roundworms is good for year-round prevention and annual fecal exams are recommended to ensure your pet is free of parasites.
Sharing litterboxes and outdoor bathroom areas will spread roundworms between pets, so any new pets should be tested for parasites before being introduced to your other pets.