Types Of Worms In Dogs And Cats


Did you know that many cats and dogs will get worms at some point? These troublesome parasites are prevalent and can affect pets of any age. By understanding the different types of worms, symptoms, and treatments, you can take proactive steps to safeguard your pet from serious health issues.

When we talk about worms, we're usually referring to intestinal parasites. However, it's important to note that pets can also be affected by worms that target other parts of the body, such as heartworms and lungworms.

worms in dogs


Roundworm is the most common intestinal parasites in dogs and cats. These worms are typically white or brown and several inches long, making them easily visible when expelled in your pet's feces or vomit. Unlike other worms, roundworms do not attach to the intestinal walls but live freely within the digestive tract. They feed on undigested food, which can lead to malnutrition, particularly in young animals.

How Roundworm Are Transmitted

Roundworms are commonly transmitted through:

  • Contact with contaminated feces
  • Eating small animals infected with roundworms
  • From mother to young through the placenta
  • Through the mother's milk

Due to their widespread nature and ease of transmission, nearly all cats and dogs will contract roundworms eventually. Many animals are born with roundworms or acquired through their mother's milk shortly after birth. Adult pets can become infected by eating infected animals such as rodents, birds, or cockroaches. Roundworms can also be transmitted by simply sniffing contaminated feces.

Roundworm Symptoms 

Roundworms typically don't pose a significant danger to adult animals, but a severe infection can lead to weight loss, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a dull coat.

Roundworms are more concerning in puppies and kittens. These parasites consume partially digested food in the intestines, leading to malnutrition and hindered growth. Symptoms in young animals include vomiting, persistent diarrhea, a plump appearance, and stunted growth.

Prevention And Treatment Of Roundworm

Your pet can come into contact with roundworms in many ways, but you can take several steps to help prevent their spread. Maintain a clean living area for your pet by regularly picking up feces in the yard and cleaning your cat's litter box. Control pest populations, such as cockroaches and mice, and keep your pet indoors at night to prevent them from eating wild animals.

Since roundworms are common in young animals, kittens and puppies should be dewormed every 2-3 weeks starting at two weeks old. Ensure the dewormer is suitable for young animals. Adult pets should be treated for roundworms at least every three months. Still, ideally, they should receive a monthly broad-spectrum worming medication like Sentinel Spectrum for dogs or Revolution for cats. Your Veterinarian may also recommend a fecal examination every 6-12 months.


Hookworms, these tiny intestinal parasites, typically measure ½ to 1 inch long and can infect dogs and cats. They earn their name from the hooks in their mouths, which they use to attach to the intestinal lining. Once connected, they feed on the host's blood, leading to blood loss, anemia, and inflammation of the intestines. This blood loss can be difficult for puppies and kittens, sometimes requiring a blood transfusion. When hookworms reproduce, their eggs travel through the digestive tract and are expelled in the animal's feces.

How Hookworms Are Transmitted

Hookworms can be transmitted from other hosts or the environment in several ways:

  • Orally
  • Through the skin
  • From mother to young in the womb
  • Through the mother's milk

Hookworms and their larvae are hardy creatures capable of surviving outside an animal host for several months. They can be found in feces, dirt, and water and pose a constant threat. Your pets can easily contract these parasites by sniffing feces or cleaning their paws after walking on contaminated soil. The worms or larvae in the soil can attach to your pet's skin or fur when they lie down, and then they burrow through the skin to reach the intestines, where they feed and reproduce.

Hookworms Symptoms 

When hookworms feed on the intestinal walls, they release an anticoagulant, leading to continuous bleeding. This blood loss can lead to symptoms like anemia and visible blood in the feces. Other signs may include weight loss, lethargy, a dull coat, and stunted growth.

If larvae enter through the skin around the feet, you might notice your pet's irritated, itchy, or sore skin between its toes.

Prevention And Treatment Of Hookworm

Maintaining a clean environment is crucial for preventing hookworm infections. Regularly picking up feces in your yard and during walks helps reduce the risk. Additionally, control the rodent population, as rats and mice can be hosts for hookworms, and prevent your cat from eating them.

Since pets can quickly come into contact with contaminated soil or water, using a dewormer is recommended for their protection. Adult cats and dogs should be treated monthly with hookworm dewormers, often part of broad-spectrum medications that address various intestinal and external parasites. Popular brands include Advantage Multi and Heartgard Plus (for dogs only).

It's essential to start worming treatments early, as hookworms can be passed from kittens and mother to puppies. Veterinarians recommend treating puppies and kittens at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age and simultaneously treating the mother to prevent reinfection.

These medications help both prevent and treat hookworm infections. In severe cases of blood loss, puppies and kittens may also require blood transfusions.


Tapeworms, known as Dipylidium Caninum or "dog tapeworm," affect both dogs and cats. These parasites are long and flat with segmented bodies, and as they grow, segments break off. These segments are commonly visible in an animal's stool and are often the first sign noticed by pet owners.

How Tapeworms Are Transmitted

Tapeworms are not contracted directly from the environment or other pets, unlike other intestinal worms. They require an intermediate host and are transmitted through:

  • Ingesting infected fleas
  • Ingesting infected rodents

The tapeworm lifecycle involves the following steps:

  • An infected pet passes worm segments through its feces.
  • These segments lay eggs in the feces, then ingested by small animals like mice or fleas.
  • Inside the flea, the egg matures into larvae.
  • If your pet swallows an infected flea, the larvae will become adult worms in their intestines.

Tapeworms Symptoms 

Fortunately, tapeworms are generally not harmful to dogs or cats. Signs of tapeworm infection include seeing worm segments in your pet's feces or noticing your pet scooting behind on the floor due to irritation caused by these segments. In cases of severe tapeworm infestation, your pet may experience weight loss.

Prevention And Treatment Of Tapeworms

Since fleas typically transmit tapeworms, it is crucial to keep your pet and its environment flea-free if your pet contracts tapeworms, a single dose of a dewormer like Drontal is a safe and effective treatment to eliminate the infection.


Named for their tapered, whip-like shape, whipworms primarily infect dogs but can also affect cats. Whipworms reside in the large intestine, where they attach to the mucosal lining, unlike other intestinal worms.

How Whipworms Are Transmitted

Whipworms are contracted exclusively through oral ingestion, typically in the following ways:

  • Eating infected meat
  • Ingesting contaminated feces or soil
  • Drinking contaminated water

One reason whipworms are so common is their resilient eggs. These eggs can remain unhatched and survive without a host for up to five years, resisting heat and drying out. Once your pet ingests contaminated water, soil, or other matter, the eggs hatch and develop into adult worms in the intestine.

Whipworms Symptoms 

If your pet has a mild whipworm infection, they may not show any symptoms. However, more severe infections can lead to bowel inflammation, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and dehydration. If untreated, whipworms can be fatal.

Due to the difficulty in diagnosing whipworms, particularly in the early stages, an annual fecal test is recommended.

Prevention And Treatment Of Whipworms

Whipworms have a high reinfection rate due to the resilience of their unhatched eggs. It is recommended that your pet be treated regularly with a worming medication that targets whipworms explicitly, such as Sentinel Spectrum for dogs or Advantage Multi.

Additionally, keeping your pet's environment free of potentially contaminated materials will help reduce their exposure to the parasite.


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