What are Intestinal Worms and Lungworms in Dogs & Cats?

What are Intestinal Worms and Lungworms in Dogs & Cats?

What is an Intestinal worm?

There are four common types of intestinal worms that infect dogs and cats; roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. There are varying symptoms between each type of worm, as does the way in which pets can be infected.


Long, white and spaghetti-like, these nasty creatures live in the intestinal tract, but can burrow their way into other bodily tissues and organs.


Hookworms are shorter than roundworms and possess sharp, biting mouthparts which they use to suck on blood. They can be fatal in young puppies, due to the severe amount of blood loss and nutrients they strip.


Adult whipworms can be found in the large intestine where their thin head burrows into the intestinal wall. They tend not to extract as many nutrients as other types of worms.


Tapeworms reside in the small intestine, grabbing on to its wall with its six rows of teeth to take in nutrients as food is digested. If your dog or cat is infested you may see them scratching or licking their bottom, and you may see worm fragments in their faeces.

What are the Causes of Intestinal Worms?

Intestinal worms are often found in dogs and cats because they can be picked up in several different places.

  • From their mother

Puppies or kittens can catch intestinal worms from their mother before they’re born or from her milk. This is a very common way of transmitting roundworm infection so it’s extremely important to ask for veterinary advice about worming puppies and kittens.

  • Contaminated soil

If your dog or cat sniffs, digs or plays with a toy in contaminated dirt or grass, they can become infected with intestinal worms. Hookworms hiding in the soil can also infect your pet by digging into their skin, usually the paws or belly.

  • Contact with contaminated animals

Your pet can become infected with intestinal worms by eating infected animals like rodents, wildlife and grazing animals. Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms can all be caught this way. Cats who roam and hunt outdoors regularly are more at risk.

  • Fleas

Fleas can be infected with flea tapeworm, which are the only intestinal parasite that can be passed on through infected fleas and cannot be contracted in any other way. The only way a dog or cat becomes infected is if it consumes a flea carrying tapeworm eggs.

senior dog playing outside

Symptoms of Intestinal Worms

  • Diarrhoea
  • Blood in faeces
  • Bloated stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Poor body condition and dull coat
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive scratching or itchiness around their bottom
  • Cough (typically only seen in roundworm and hookworm infections)
  • Blocked intestine (only in severe cases)
  • Pneumonia (only seen in serious cases of roundworm)
Puppy wormed blog image

How to Check for Worms

Checking for worms on your dog or cat is a bit trickier than checking for fleas as they are not visible to the naked eye and you would need a microscopic examination of the faeces to detect the eggs. If you notice any of the above symptoms, make sure to contact your veterinarian immediately as prolonged delay could be life threatening. Even if your pet does not show any symptoms (which can often happen), if you suspect they were infected with worms, take them to your vet for advice and treatment.

What is Lungworm?

Different to intestinal worms, adult lungworm can be found in the heart and blood vessels of the lungs, which can be life threatening if left untreated.

What are the Causes of Lungworm?

Your pet can contract lungworm by eating larvae found in infected animals such as snails, frogs or slugs. They could also accidentally ingest infected tiny slugs if they are on a toy or their fur.

Once the lungworm larvae has been ingested, they then grow inside your pet and adult lungworms move through their body to live in their heart and blood vessels. This can cause heart problems, breathing problems and pneumonia.

Symptoms of Lungworm

Dogs and cats experience similar symptoms when they have been infected with lungworm, such as;

  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Resisting exercise and lethargy
  • Weight loss

If your dog or cat is displaying anything listed above, it’s important to take them to the vet. In some cases, they may not experience any symptoms at all, but if you suspect they may be infected, it is best to get them checked out right away. Your vet will most likely ask you to bring a faeces sample in so they can under the microscope to help diagnose the problem.

Prevention is better than cure

The best way to avoid an infestation of worms or other nasty parasites is by regularly deworming your dog and cat, such as;

This dewormer effectively shields you and your family from possible infestation. Simply add to your pets food every 3 to 6 months to ensure they stay protected from worms. The dose should be administered by mixing into the feed.

Exitel covers your cat for the most common worms including tapeworm and roundworm, and with the added flavours, this will go down a treat with your cat as a lovely little snack and added with food.

FLEATIX Combo is a powerful all-in-one solution for fleas, ticks, lice and their eggs. Fleatix Combo provides your pet with up to four weeks of protection and can be used with a traditional wormer to give your dog complete cover from external and internal nasties.

Just like the treatment for dogs above, FLEATIX Combo Cat helps protect againsf fleas, ticks, lice and their eggs. Fleatix Combo provides your pet with up to four weeks of protection and can be used with a traditional wormer to give your cat complete cover from external and internal parasites.

FLEATIX Flea & Tick Protection for Cats, 3 Pack
Fleatix Flea & Tick Protection For Cats, 3 Pack

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