Worms can cause disease in both animals and humans. Roundworms, which both dogs and cats can carry, can cause blindness in children if they become infected. Tapeworms can cause severe disease in livestock. Lungworm is a potentially fatal problem in dogs. Worming your dog and cat regularly, and keeping the environment free of faeces can avoid all these problems.
Puppies and kittens will get roundworms from their mother so should be wormed regularly for the first few months of life. After this, worming with a roundworm treatment at least every 3 months is recommended. This is because the life-cycle of the worm is about 3 months long so, with treatment of this frequency, the number of eggs passed in the dog or cat’s faeces will be minimal. Roundworm eggs take a few days to hatch once they are passed, so by clearing up your dog’s waste immediately, the risk of environmental contamination is eliminated. The larvae can survive for many years in the soil and this is one way children can become infected.
There any many different types of tapeworm. One type, Dipyllidium caninum is transmitted through fleas. Other types, such as Taenia species and Echinococcus species are transmitted through eating raw meat (e.g. cats hunting mice or dogs scavenging or being fed on raw food). Dogs can then perpetuate the cycle by defaecating on farmers’ fields where the livestock then ingest the eggs. Keeping your dog under control when on farmland and clearing up their faeces, as well as keeping worming up to date can minimise this risk. Echinococcus multilocularis is a particular human health concern. The UK is currently free of this parasite and this is why the tapeworm controls are in place on the Pet Travel Scheme.
Speak to your vet regarding the best worming regime for your pet.