Common Pet Parasites: Roundworms

What are they?
Roundworms (Toxocara Canis, Toxocara leonina and Toxocara cati) are intestinal parasites that live in the intestines. They feed off the partially digested content that is located in the intestines. They get their name from their round shape (think a cooked spaghetti noodle)

How could my pet get them?

Roundworm eggs are passed from infected animals in their fecal matter. When a dog or cat then sniffs or licks the infected feces they can become infected. Most commonly in mature dogs and cats, they can get it from walking through infected feces and then in the grooming process, lick these feces and get infected. This infected fecal matter can come from other dogs and cats, but can also come from other animals such as rodents, and birds.
We find that puppies and kittens are more commonly diagnosed with a roundworm infestation, because this parasite can also be passed on from their mother. The roundworm larvae is present in the mother’s milk and as the puppy or kitten drinks the milk, they too become infected.

How do I know my pet has them?

Sometimes (depending on the cycle of the roundworm) you can see the adult worms in the feces. Most likely though, there will be an infestation of eggs, which are not visible to the naked eye. Because of this, the best way to find out if your pet has roundworm (or other types of intestinal parasites) is to have their feces tested. We usually recommend collected samples from three different days. The samples are then combined, put into a container containing a preservative solution, and sent to the lab for analysis.

Oh no! The fecal test came back positive! How do I get rid of them?

Treating roundworm is very easy and relatively inexpensive. Medication is dispensed according to your pet’s weight. The first dose is given and then two weeks later, another dose is given. A follow up fecal sample should be submitted two weeks after the last dose of medication is given. This ensures that the parasite has been successfully eradicated. Sometimes, an additional course of medication needs to be given if the infection is stubborn.

Can these worms be transmitted to humans?

Toxocara canis is the type of roundworm that can be transmitted to humans. That is why it is important to pick up your dog’s feces right away if they have this parasite. Humans get this parasite the same way animals get it: through ingestion of the feces. Therefore, small children are mostly at risk. Practicing strict hygiene is important. Always wash your hands after handling feces!

If you suspect your pet may have round worms call West Hill Animal Clinic as soon as possible.