Do you remember the last time you treated your pet for worms? Routine treatments such as this are extremely important but are often forgotten amidst busy family life, and your pet could be uncomfortable without you realising. Dogs, cats and rabbits are all at risk of catching worms and some are even transferable to humans, so it's much better to be safe than sorry and ensure you keep your pet up to date with preventative treatments.
Dogs are at risk of contracting heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms, and these are easy to pick up on a walk as they come into contact with dirt and other animals that could infect them. The first easy-to-spot sign of roundworms in your dog is a 'pot belly', which is commonly found in puppies and young dogs. Their stomach becomes swollen and distended as a result of the worms taking up so much space in their belly, which is very uncomfortable for them. Dogs can also lose weight when they have worms, as they are not taking in any nutrients from their food so ensure you keep an eye on your dog's appetite, which is likely to increase. Lethargy can also be a sign of an infestation, as they don't get enough energy from their food when the worms are absorbing most of it. Look out for worms in their faeces, as this is the most obvious sign of an infestation! Dogs often drag their bottom along the floor when they are close to passing a worm, as the itching causes them to try and scratch due to the irritation. Lungworm is a parasite passed by slugs and snails, and can be fatal in dogs if it isn't diagnosed quickly and properly. It can cause breathing problems and sickness, and can be prevented by lungworm treatment.
Cats are most at risk of contracting roundworms and tapeworms, usually through contact with infected faeces. It can be difficult to notice worms in cats, as they don't display such obvious signs of discomfort unlike dogs. Large infestations of worms can cause weight loss, vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy in cats, but they don't tend to itch the same way dogs do. You will also notice small white worms or blood in their faeces, so make sure to check every time you clean their litter tray! Kittens are also likely to develop a pot belly if they have worms, and it's important to treat them as soon as possible to ensure they can put weight on and thrive to become healthy adults.
Rabbits can also contract intestinal worms, which many owners are unaware of. Pinworms are small worms, that are not overly obvious in the faeces of rabbits, so it's best to take a good look when you clean your pet out and note anything abnormal that you find. These can cause severe itching and skin irritation around their back end, and even weight loss, poor coat and diarrhoea if they are not treated swiftly. Rabbits that are kept outdoors are more prone to catching worms as they come into more contact with dirt and other animals (such as mice or rats) that can act as carriers and infect the rabbit without you realising. However, house rabbits are also at risk, especially in multi-pet households. Remember to wash all vegetables thoroughly before you give them to your rabbit, to reduce the risk of passing on tapeworms to them from infected soil.
If you suspect your pet has worms, you will need to consult advice from a vet. They should be able to work out the type of infestation and start your cat, dog or rabbit on a course of medication to help. It's a good idea to keep a record of the date you treated your pet on a calendar as a reminder to continue in the future - prevention is better than cure!