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Roundworms are likely the most common worms found in dogs and cats. Surveys indicate that in some areas, 30% of dogs and 25% of cats are infected with roundworms.
There is one species of dog roundworm, two in cats, and both dogs and cats can become infested with raccoon roundworms. Roundworms are the spaghetti type worms that are seen frequently in puppies and kittens when they are dewormed. Puppies and kittens can be born infected with roundworms or they can also receive them from their dams when they nurse. Adult dogs and cats can become infected by contact with stool contaminated areas when they ingest worm eggs.
Roundworms hatch in the stomachs of animals or humans and cause severe tissue damage as they migrate through the host's body. Eventually, they are coughed up and swallowed back to the stomach.
Fortunately, these worms are easily controlled with many common parasiticides and heartworm preventions.
Hookworms are likely the second most prevalent intestinal worms in the United States. Prevalence of these worms varies from 1 to 20% of dogs and cats being infected with them in various geographical regions.
The small hookworm ranges from 10-20mm in length and is a blood sucking worm that resides in the small intestine. They are rarely seen in stool because of their small size. Even though they are small, they have a large appetite for blood frequently causing the host to become severely anemic. Hookworm eggs pass out of the host cat or dog in the stool and infect the environment. Animals or humans are infected when they ingest the live larvae or the larvae penetrate the skin of a barefooted child, a dog or a cat. Larval migration in the new host's tissues can be severe.
There are several parasiticides and heartworm prevention, such as Heartgard, that are used to treat and prevent Hookworm infestations.
Whipworms are mostly seen in dogs, foxes, and coyotes in the U.S. Cats can get them, but the incidence is so rare that they are not considered a problem.
Whipworms are smaller than other worms, usually only reaching 2" in length, and therefore are rarely seen in stool. As you can see in the picture, whipworms have a distinctive whip shape. They live in the small and large intestines where they chew at the mucosal lining, causing hemorrhage. The most common sign that a dog is infected with whipworms is diarrhea with blood and mucous.
The prevalence of whipworms can be as high as 10-14% of dogs in the U.S. being infected. Whipworms are not zoonotic, meaning they are not a threat to humans. Specific parasiticides are needed to control whipworms and there are some Heartworm preventatives that prevent whipworms.
Tapeworm infestations are very common in both dogs and cats in the U.S. In our area there are 8 different species of Tapeworms that can infect our dogs and cats. Tapeworm segments are frequently seen in the stools of our pets or attached to the fur near their rectum. They are small, white in color, and resemble a piece of rice. These little segments are part of a much larger segmented tapeworm attached to your pet's intestinal wall.
Prevalence of tapeworm in the U.S. ranges from 2-50% of dogs and cats infected in a specific area. Tapeworms require an intermediate host such as fleas, rodents, or rabbits to reproduce. When your dog or cat passes the tapeworm segments, which are actually egg sacks, an intermediate host then consumes them. Next, the egg hatches in the intermediate host and an infective cyst forms on the body tissue of the host. Finally, your dog or cat consumes the intermediate host and becomes infected with an adult tapeworm.
Certain types of tapeworms can create a human health risk if the eggs are ingested. Tapeworm treatments and prevention should be directed by your veterinarian so that they are designed for your pet and their environment.