What are Intestinal Worms in Dogs & Cats?

What are Intestinal Worms 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. These species of parasite can also be transmitted to humans.


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

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

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 always visible to the naked eye and you would need a microscopic examination of the faeces to detect the eggs. Excessive scratching is normally a first indication of a problem.

Non-prescription treatments are available at your local Petmania store which will kill and prevent the most common forms of intestinal worms. Giving your dog a preventative treatment every three months is advised to prevent an issue occuring.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, make sure to contact your veterinarian immediately as prolonged delay could be life threatening.

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;

Exitel provides options that will protect your cat or dog for the most common worms including tapeworm and roundworm, and with the added flavours, this will go down a treat with your pet as a lovely little snack and added with food. Recommended every 3 months.

A tasty, pork flavoured tablet for dogs, from 10kg to 20kg, typically used every 3 months to treat a range of worms commonly found in dogs.

This liquid wormed is suitable for puppies, adult dog and cats. Given through a syringe or added to wet food, it is recommended every 3 months for adult dogs and cats, but more frequently for puppies.

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