I found a loose stool with blood and what looks like jelly on the kitchen floor this morning – what do I do?

What is Acute Colitis?

Acute colitis is a common condition in pets and is characterised by a sudden onset colonic inflammation with a diarrhoea that may contain mucous and/or fresh blood.

Clinical signs

The most common symptoms are straining when defecating, mucous (the jelly you noticed) and/or blood in the stool, and increased frequency of defecation. Systemic signs of illness are generally absent and most animals are still alert, active and have normal appetites in spite of having colitis.

What causes acute colitis?

Various parasitic (like worms), bacterial, fungal and dietary causes can be identified as the cause of acute colitis in animals.


Firstly a physical examination is performed which includes the vet feeling thoroughly and as deeply as possible without hurting the animals which his or her hands up and down the stomach area (abdominal palpation) as well as physically checking the animal’s backside with their finger (digital rectal examination) and the collection of stool, if there is any present. Parasites like worms can be diagnosed with relative ease by doing a fecal flotation to check for worm eggs under the microscope. The vet may also decide to do what is called a wet prep where a small stool sample is put on a microsope slide and either examined as is or with a special stain and then examined. The main causes of acute colitis in puppies and kittens are dietary indiscretion (garbage), bacterial infections and parasites. Puppies and kittens, the same as human babies, tend to explore the world with their mouths, chewing and biting on many things in their environment, some of which are not always clean or hygienic.


If parasites are diagnosed during the faecal examination, the veterinarian will treat your pet with the needed medication to kill the parasites. If a dietary cause for colitis is suspected the veterinarian might start your animal on a bland diet for 3to 5 days. It is best to avoid all treats and food supplements during this period. These diets are highly digestible and reduces the workload on the gastrointestinal tract. Fiber supplementation may also be beneficial in the healing and repair of colonic tissue. Bacterial colitis is best treated with antibiotics based on faecal culture results. The use of probiotics for 3 to 5 days can be beneficial. If an animal fails to respond to therapy based on initial tests, further advanced tests may need to be performed.


The prognosis for discovery from colitis is generally excellent with most animals recovering in a short period of time (3 to 5 days) if the correct treatment is given.

What is chronic colitis?

Chronic colitis is characterised by persistent colonic inflammation for longer than a 3 weeks duration.

What causes chronic colitis in pets?

Middle-aged and older dogs and cats are affected by infiltrative mucosal (the superficial surface of the colon) disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and cancer (neoplasia). Infectious causes (bacteria, worms and parasites) are usually seen in younger dogs and cats, but are less common causes in chronic cases. Some diseases that affect the motility of the colon (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome in dogs and colonic constipation/obstipation in cats) can mimic signs of colonic inflammation and cause animals to present with signs such as loose stools and straining (diarrhoea and tenesmus). These symptoms are due to functional defects in the motility of the colon and there is no mucosal disease present. Colonic cancer can also cause large bowel diarrhoea in dogs.

What are the clinical signs of chronic colitis?

The most classic sign is an animal that keeps trying to pass stool but only passes a very small amount or alternatively no stool. There is continuous straining, many times looking as if something is stuck in the back end which they cannot pass.

If they manage to pass something it may contain mucous and/or blood.

Large bowel diarrhoea is the most common clinical sign noted in dogs and cats where food intolerances are the cause for chronic colitis.

How is chronic colitis diagnosed?

The veterinarian will start off by doing a physical examination, where the abdomen is palpated, a rectal examination performed and a stool sample collected. The stool sample will be examined under a microscope. Abdominal imaging can be done to aid in the examination of the colon and the rest of the abdomen either through X-rays or ultrasound or sometimes both. Advanced diagnostic tests include colonoscopy and proctoscopy. Blood tests may also be performed to determine the extent of infection or to rule out other possible conditions which may present with similar symptoms. During these procedures biopsy samples of the colon can be obtained.


The most simple and straight forward approach will be that suspected parasites must be treated. Follow-up faecal examinations are done to confirm efficacy of treatment. If your animal has a more serious condition like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which may be related to an immune condition or a diet responsive disorder, a hypoallergenic diet is fed. Animals that do have colitis but don't need a hypoallergenic diet will benefit from being fed a low-fat, fibre rich diet. The vet will be the best person to advise on a suitable therapeutic diet and there is not a one size fits all as some animals need higher fibre whilst other may need a different type of carbohydrate or protein. Antibiotics can be used in cases that have confirmed bacterial causes of colitis. In animals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), immunosuppressive drugs are the first  choice of drugs for therapy.

Chemotherapy and radiation can be considered for certain colonic cancers, but surgical resection would be the treatment of choice.

Anti-fungal treatment is indicated for chronic colonic diarrhoea of fungal origin. 


The prognosis for chronic colitis depends on the underlying cause. Acute bacterial infections tend to have a better prognosis than dietary responsive disorders and normally respond to short term treatment which may resolve the condition completely compared to dietary responsive disorders which tend to require a much longer and more intensive treatment approach where the condition may never be resolved but at the very least contained and managed. Colon cancer, as in humans, carry a much more grave prognosis and the stage and extent of the cancer at the time of making the diagnosis will determine the outcome of treatment.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd



Can humans get worms from dogs and cats?

Have you ever wondered if humans can get worms from dogs and cats? You don’t have to wonder any longer, the answer is ‘yes’.  In this overview we look at which worms can be transmitted between pets and humans, what diseases they cause and how to prevent this potential health risk.

Firstly when a disease or parasite can be transmitted from animals to humans it is called a zoonosis. It is often a concern when a pet is diagnosed with intestinal worms whether the family is at risk of contracting the parasite. The concern is valid but the good news is that it is easily managed with education, proper precautions and a well organised deworming program for your pets.

There are two main categories of worms that can infect people, round worms and tapeworms. For both these worm types humans can act as either definitive (or final) hosts, intermediate hosts or paratenic hosts. The definitive host is the host when the worms are adults in the intestinal system and when they shed eggs. The intermediate host occurs when the eggs are ingested and form cysts in various organs and tissues of the body. A paratenic host is one that is not necessary for the life cycle of the worm but is similar to an intermediate host in that it is a temporary host where the worm does not develop further in its life cycle until such time it can find a suitable permanent host where it can complete its life cycle. Certain larva can also penetrate and migrate through the skin. All hosts are infected by larva which are the immature parasite that come from eggs.

Zoonotic round worms:

Ascarids: Toxocara

The way that the parasite enters the body is when a human ingests or eats the eggs of the worm. The source of these eggs can be from contaminated soil, playgrounds, geophagia (eating soil) or direct contact with dogs. Not washing hands properly after working or playing in soil and having soil stuck under the nails and then touching and eating food, can lead to humans getting the eggs in through their mouths. Proper personal hygiene therefore can prevent such infections.

Once the eggs have entered the body, the larvae hatch from it and the immature stages of these round worms cause damage by burrowing through the intestinal wall and into the internal organs of the body called visceral larva migrans. Further to this the larvae also targets the eyes of humans, which is called ocular larva migrans. Some of the burrowing larva land up in the bloodstream the blood stream and cause clumps of damaged cells called disseminated granulomas in various tissues and organs in the body including the eyes, lungs, liver, brain and heart. Most of these go clinically unnoticed but sometimes you can get loss of vision (ocular larva migrans), fever, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle pain and respiratory signs (coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing). If any of these signs occur, immediately seek the advice of a medical practitioner.

Hookworm: Ancylostoma

One of the most important and common worms in dogs and cats is hookworm. It is a frequent cause for ill thrift and diarrhoea in puppies and kittens. The infection usually occurs through the skin (percutaneous) from direct contact with contaminated ground (beaches, sand boxes, garden soil etc.).  The immature stages of this worm or larvae burrow into the skin but lack certain enzymes to break through the deeper layers of the skin resulting in an infection which is isolated to the surface of the skin. This is called cutaneous larva migrans. The larvae cause progressive skin lesions characterised by tingling initially which progresses to intense itching and redness of the skin with lines appearing in the skin. These lesions often occur in the feet, between the toes, hands, knees and on the buttocks. It is recommended to seek the advice of your medical practitioner as lack of treatment may result in the infection continuing for several weeks before your immune system is able to kill the larvae.

Hookworm infection can also happen when the larvae are ingested and localise in the intestinal tract of humans, causing inflammation of the intestines (enteritis).

Whipworms: Trichuris vulpis (rare)

Although rare, humans may become infected by whipworms originating from dogs. Humans act as definitive or final hosts in the case of this worm.


Zoonotic tapeworm infections associated with dogs and cats include the flea tapeworm, Dipylidium caninum. Infection occurs when someone accidently eats or swallows a flea carrying the larva of this worm. This is more often a problem in young children. This infection can cause diarrhea and anal itching in infected humans.

Taenia species is another Typeworm. Humans act as paratenic or intermediate hosts for Taenia tapeworms. Infection by the larvae, following accidental ingestion causes wide spread cyst formation in the muscles, organs and tissues. These fluid filled cysts can range from a few millimeters in size to more than two centimeters in size. The symptoms of this kind of infection are due to the physical presence of the cyst and depend on the site of localisation. Cysts found in muscle and tissues that are not essential go unnoticed, but rarely these larva may migrate to the brain and eye causing severe symptoms. This infection is often difficult to diagnose and treat.

Echinococcus granulosus – Hydatid disease (important)

Infection with this Tapeworm is through direct contact with infected dogs (not washing hands after being in contact with the infected dog) or indirectly through contaminated water or unwashed fresh produce. Humans act as intermediate hosts. Once ingested the larvae penetrate the intestinal tract and migrate to mainly the liver and lungs forming multiple cysts (fluid filled sacks). The symptoms depend on where the cysts form. If it is in the liver you will find symptoms of liver disease which may be quite unspecific like an animal losing appetite, losing weight, and becoming sluggish. If it is in the lungs you may notice shortness of breath, or coughing. If a large cyst bursts it can cause an emergency and even lead to death.

Prevention of zoonotic worm infections

A regular and up to date deworming program is one of the best ways to prevent your pets and family from getting infected with worms. Puppies and kittens are extremely susceptible to worm infections. The mother should be dewormed prior to having a litter and all the babies should be dewormed at weaning before they are sent off to their new homes. With each puppy/kitten vaccinations they should be dewormed. From then on all animals should be dewormed every three to six months. This is dependent on their exposure to potentially contaminated areas as well as other animals. Should you walk your dogs frequently, allowing them to interact with other dogs in the park or running off the lead unattended, they should be dewormed every three months. The same applies to cats, the more cats they potentially come into contact with and the more roaming they are allowed to do, the more frequently they should be dewormed. Apart from tablets given by mouth there are also spot-ons available for deworming cats. This makes the process of deworming a cat a bit easier. If between these periods you are concerned about your pet being infected with worms, you can ask the veterinarian to check for worms by performing a stool exam called a faecal flotation and prescribing a suitable treatment.

Controlling fleas on your animals, as well as in their environment, is an important preventative measure for worm infections. There are a variety of top spot, shampoo and tablet flea treatments and with so many options one can find the one that will most suit your lifestyle and environment. The majority of the tablet and shampoo flea treatments do not have a long lasting or residual effect and only kill fleas which are on your pet at the time. It does not have any impact on the fleas in the environment or the thousands of flea eggs which are waiting to hatch. The top spots tend to last for up to four weeks.

The courteous and correct thing to do is to clean up after your pets when taking your dogs for a walk or to the park. Stools should be picked up and disposed of correctly.

All sand boxes and pits should be covered and regularly cleaned. Do not allow children to play in areas contaminated by animal waste.

It is essential that your children are taught to wash their hands after playing outside or handling animals. This promotes good hygiene and prevents the transmission of disease, including worms.

Do not feed your pets raw meat or organs as these may be a source of Tapeworms.

It is always a good idea to deworm yourself and your family on a yearly basis especially when you have young children. Should you be concerned about any risk or illness you think may be associated with worms, you should contact your medical professional for information and treatment.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.

Breeding with your dog

Understanding the female’s cycle

A female dog will only come into heat for the first time between the age of seven months and anytime up to a year of age. Occasionally this period may be longer. The age at which they first come into heat is governed by a combination of factors but usually smaller breeds start at a slightly younger age than the larger breeds. This is by no means a set rule as there is a great variation. Once she has started to cycle, a female dog will then come into heat every 4 to 7 months but your giant breed dogs may only cycle once every 12 to 18 months. It can take up to 2 years for them to develop regular cycles. Once started the heat cycle can last 2 to 3 weeks. There are two main parts to a female’s cycles namely pro-oestrous and oestrous. Pro-oestrous is the period during which her vulva will be very swollen, she may have a bloody discharge (volume varies greatly) and she will not allow any males to mount her. This is essentially the non-receptive part of her cycle. The second part is known as oestrous. At this point her vulva is still swollen, any bleeding has stopped and most importantly this is the period during which she is receptive to males and will allow mating. It is essential to understand this to avoid unwanted pregnancy. It is only when the bleeding stops that she is in full heat and at her most fertile.

Age at which to consider to start breeding

As mentioned before most females will start their cycle in the later part of their first year of life. It is not recommended to start breeding with a female on her first heat cycle. She is still young and her hormone cycles may not be completely regulated and she is still immature. Most females will come into heat again just before or after 2 years of age. Some breeders feel that breeding should only be done on her third cycle but provided she is full grown and healthy, starting on the second cycle may be considered. Keep in mind that occasionally these litters may be smaller. She can then be bred with until she stops cycling although, as with humans, the older a female the smaller the litter and the higher the risk of complications such as still births etc. It is recommended to stop breeding when they are about 7 years of age.

Selecting an appropriate mate

Finding a suitable mate for the female is important. The basics apply such as choosing the same or desired breed with which you want them to mate. The correct age of both the male and female is also important. Placing two inexperienced dogs together can have some undesirable consequences and it is usually recommended to mate an inexperienced dog with a more experienced older bitch or vice versa. The size difference between the male and female is especially important and one should never breed a large male to a small female as this may lead to oversized foetuses resulting in an inability for the female to give birth without assistance or severe consequences. This is very rarely a problem with dogs of a similar breed unless a very young female is bred to a larger older male. For factors such as breed standards and registration it would be best to contact the relative breed clubs for guidance and regulations.

Health Concerns

Let us start with the basics; any breeding pair should be well grown, not too young or old (as mentioned previously), healthy and fully up to date with their vaccinations and deworming schedules. Your pair should have all their puppy vaccinations and have been vaccinated within the last 12 months. Tick and flea treatment should be up to date, to avoid any health concerns as well as transmission to the other dog. Often both animals should be tested and vaccinated for herpes virus as this can be a cause of death in new born pups. It is also recommended to avoid contact with other dogs to avoid possible transmission. One can also test for brucellosis although the causative agent has not yet been found in South Africa.

Deciding how to go about breeding

There are two main options for breeding, namely natural breeding and artificial insemination. With natural breeding there is very little you as a breeder need to do other than place the pair together and let nature take its course. The main thing is to place them together at the right time, when she is in full oetrus and receptive to male attention and allows mating. This, as mentioned earlier, will be the period after which she has stopped bleeding. It is also advisable to allow the pair to mate several times to ensure optimal conception. If time is a limiting factor then it is ideal for you to visit your veterinarian for oestrous monitoring, where using response to stimulus, vaginal cytology and appearance of the reproductive tract will help determine when a female is at her most fertile stage. For males one can do a breeding soundness examination. This is especially relevant in older dogs but also if there is any concern about his breeding soundness i.e. small litters, failure to conceive etc.

For artificial insemination it is imperative to do oestrous monitoring as one will only have a limited amount of time and fertile semen to work with. The advantage of this technique is that semen evaluation forms part of the process to determine whether there are sufficient normal motile sperm for insemination and fertilisation to take place. The whole process is strictly monitored and performed by a veterinarian. This process is normally reserved for animals with either breeding issues or time limitations of the breeding pair coming together.

Caring for the puppies for the first 6 to 8 weeks

It is important to prepare an area for the female to whelp (give birth). This should be an area separated from any other dogs and it should provide an area where the puppies can be kept warm but where the mother can move away to a cooler part if she needs to. She should have fresh water and food available at all times. It is advisable to start feeding the mother puppy food (small and medium breed puppy food only) in her last trimester of pregnancy and especially during lactation (where her energy requirement to feed her pups by producing enough milk increases significantly). To ensure the pups are eating enough and growing well it is a good idea to weigh them several times and record the weights during the first 2 weeks. It is important to deworm the mother and puppies starting at two weeks of age and then every two weeks until the puppies are eight weeks old. Consult your veterinarian for when dewormers are suitable at what age. All puppies should be vaccinated at 6 weeks of age, before they are sent to a new home. All puppies should be taken to a vet for a health check, vaccinations and deworming. Before sending a puppy to a new home be sure that the new owners are given advice of what to feed their puppies. A well formulated and balance puppy food made for the breed (NB always feed large/giant breed puppy food to those breeds) is essential. Explain that the puppies still needs a full set of vaccinations (generally 6, 9, 12 and 16 weeks of age) and they need to be dewormed accordingly.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.


The worm you did not know about – Spirocerca lupi

Most people do not know about this little worm. It has a strange and difficult name and an equally strange life-cycle. Normal deworming remedies do not kill this parasite and most people do not even know when their dog is infected with it. This article will try and shed some light on the how, what and where of Spirocerca lupi.

Spirocerca lupi is a roundworm. It is red in colour and 40 – 70 mm long. The eggs contain the larvae and have the shape of a paperclip. The eggs and larvae are passed from one host to another and this process normally starts when an animal passes the eggs in its stools. For example, a dung beetle ingests the eggs while working with or rolling in infected stools. The larvae then hatch inside the dung beetle and develop into more mature forms. A bird, lizard or another small animal might eat the dung beetle and then become infected with the larvae. Your dog will then become infected by eating the bird or lizard, called an intermediate host. This disease has not yet been seen in cats.

Once the dog has eaten an intermediate host, the larvae are released in the dog's stomach and then travel via the small arteries in the stomach to the aorta (this is the main artery in the body). This process takes about 3 months. The small larvae will then pass through the wall of the aorta into the wall of the oesophagus (the muscular tube which takes food from the mouth to the stomach. The aorta lies very close to the oesophagus in the chest.

In the wall of the oesophagus the larvae form a swelling called a granuloma where the worms live and mature. As the worms grow, so does the granuloma which can then become big enough to put pressure on the windpipe and/or aorta and cause a partial blockage and irritation of the oesophagus. The pressure and irritation will cause coughing/wheezing and even breathing problems in your dog. If the blockage in the oesophagus is big enough you may also notice vomiting soon after eating. Other signs include loss of appetite and as a result also weight loss. These signs might not sound very serious, but this worm can cause life-threatening secondary changes to organs and tissues inside the body.

The difficulty in breathing or swallowing can become quite noticeable and distressing for the animal. In long-standing cases the granuloma can become cancerous and if it stays in the oesophagus this growth is called a fibrosarcoma. It can also spread to the long bones (i.e. tibia, femur, radius and ulna). This will be seen as abnormal, and in some cases painful, swelling of the dog's legs. This is called hypertrophic osteopathy and over time this may become cancerous as well – normally a very malignant bone cancer called an osteosarcoma.

As if this is not bad enough, the worms can also damage the wall of the aorta, causing the wall to become weak and thin forming an aneurism – a thinning and ballooning of a blood vessel wall. If this thinning is severe enough, the aneurism may burst, causing the dog to bleed to death within minutes. Unfortunately it is often at this very late stage when vets see these infected dogs for the first time. People bring in a dog that died suddenly during the night and Spirocerca lupi is diagnosed on post mortem.

How is Spirocerca lupi diagnosed?

It is not easy to diagnose a Spirocerca lupi infection partly due to the symptoms mentioned earlier indicating many different diseases. The most common presenting symptom is constant vomiting directly after eating. If your vet suspects Spirocerca lupi, an x-ray photo of your dog's chest will be taken where the granuloma may sometimes be visible. Spirocerca lupi eggs may also be seen in your dog's stools. If the vet cannot make a positive diagnosis this way, the next step is an oesophagoscopy. This is a test where a camera with a light source (called a scope) is passed into the dog's oesophagus through its mouth (for this procedure your dog will need a general anaesthetic). The granuloma or even the worm (protruding out of the granuloma) may be seen on the oesophagoscopy.

How is Spirocerca lupi treated?

The treatment is unfortunately not always successful as vets mostly see cases when the secondary changes have become very advanced. The medication your vet will use is not registered for the use in dogs (it is used in sheep as a deworming medicine), but is the only effective remedy available. For this reason if your dog is diagnosed with Spirocerca lupi, it can ONLY be treated by veterinarian and should be supervised closely. Many times the disease process is too advanced to treat in which case your vet will prescribe treatment to keep your pet comfortable. Some of the treatment could include ways to feed your dog to minimise vomiting, antibiotics (many infected dogs can develop pneumonia due to coughing and with subsequent inhalation of food particles) and even pain medication (in those patients with bone cancer).

How can you prevent your dog from getting infected?

The most important way to prevent this “disease” is to remove stools daily. It must also be disposed of in such a way that none of the intermediate hosts can get to it. You should also try to prevent your dog from eating any of the intermediate hosts. This might not always be easy in terriers or hunting breeds, but training from an early age should prove helpful.

Fortunately there is now a registered spot-on product mainly used for tick and fleas available from the vet, which has been proven to be effective against Spirocerca Lupi. Please ask the vet about this product.

If you are inclined to feed chicken or red meat to your dog, ensure that it is always properly cooked. Never feed raw meat to your dog, it might have been part of an intermediate host!

In the end doing small things like regular parasite control with good quality products, picking up stools on a regular basis, following a proper feeding regimen with the correct dog food, and even puppy training can all contribute to a long and happy life for your dog and prevent them from picking up nasty infections.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.

The no-good, the bad and the ugly

Few people can hear the word “worms” without cringing – especially if it is related to a beloved pet. Unfortunately, parasites living in the stomach and intestines occur all too common in our dogs and cats. These parasites live in the digestive tract, causing damage and robbing your pet of much needed nutrients. The amount of damage they cause depends on the type and number of worms your pet has.

The signs associated with worm infestations are fairly non-specific. They include a dull hair coat, vomiting, diarrhoea, slimy or bloody stools, loss of appetite, not gaining weight (puppies and kittens), an itchy bum and dried up worm segments around the anal area.

There are four common intestinal worms found in dogs and cats: Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. Each worm type is “contracted” differently and has different effects on your pet and on humans.


Roundworms are long white worms that look like strands of spaghetti. They are very common in puppies and kittens because they are often directly infected by their mother – through the womb or through the mother's milk. This is why most puppies and kittens can be born with worms! Adult pets can become infected when they ingest eggs that were deposited in infected stools. The adult worms live in the pet’s intestines, where they use the animal's nutrients and cause irritation. The worms can become so many that your pet may vomit them up, or worse, in puppies and kittens they can cause a blockage in the intestines, threatening the puppy/kitten’s life. More often these little ones have trouble gaining weight and may have a pot belly and dull hair coat. Proper weight gain is one good way to see whether a puppy or kitten is healthy when you buy them from a breeder – a good breeder will always deworm from an early age.

Importance in humans:

Visceral larval migrans (worm life stages which burrow their way through human tissue) and ocular larval migrans (worm stages which burrow in the eyes) are diseases caused by the migration of roundworm larvae through the tissue of people, more so in children. These conditions in humans occur after ingestion of the roundworm eggs. The eggs hatch in the intestines and the larvae from these eggs are then released into the bloodstream and find their way to all parts of the body, including the liver, lungs, heart, brain and eyes. Most human patients are children between the ages of 2 and 4 years who become infected after playing in sandboxes or soil contaminated by pet stools.


Hookworms are small worms that attach to the inside of the intestinal wall where they attach and feed on blood. Infection is often passed directly from mother to the puppies or the kittens, but pets also become infected by eating infested soil, or even coming into skin contact with infested soil. These worms can consume large amounts of blood. If the infestation in the pet is severe enough, anaemia (lack of blood) can occur. The pet's stools will appear black (digested blood) and like tar. If too much blood is lost (especially in very young animals) it can be fatal.

Importance in humans:

These worms are again transmissible via soil contaminated with dog or cat stools. The hookworms eggs hatch in the soil, the larvae then hatch from these and infect a human either by ingestion or by penetration of the skin. In skin penetration, humans can develop an itchy rash called cutaneous larval migrans or otherwise also known as “Sandworm”.


Whipworms are long, whip-shaped worms that live within the wall and lining of the large intestine. Pets must ingest whipworm eggs to become infected. Luckily whipworm infestations cause relatively mild symptoms, but exceptions do occur. Heavy infestations can result in bouts of diarrhoea and stools may be streaked with fresh blood and appear to have a slimy layer. Kittens, puppies or animals with a chronic infection can lose weight and become anaemic (lack of blood).


Tapeworms are long, segmented white worms that live in the small intestine. Two types of tapeworm exist, with the most common one being acquired by swallowing fleas. The second one is more common in cats where they become infected by eating infected rodents or other prey. These worms consume nutrients from your pet’s food in the digestive tract. Many pets infected with tapeworms do not show symptoms, but signs may include abdominal discomfort, nervousness, itching around the anus, vomiting and weight loss.

Humans can become infected, but seldom do, as they also have to swallow a flea!

Ringworm – the exception

People often ask their vet about deworming their animals against ringworm. Ringworm, however, this is NOT a type of worm. It is actually a fungus which grows on the skin of animals and people. The treatment for it is completely different to that of worms. It is very common in puppies and kittens and initially presents as a small circular area of hair loss on the skin. It is quite contagious to other, mostly young, animals and humans and needs treatment by a veterinarian.

How do you prevent a worm infestation in your pet, yourself and your children?

Preventing children’s contact with contaminated soil and/or sandboxes will reduce the risk of infection. This means prohibiting children to have access to the cat’s sandbox and preventing pets from defecating in the children’s sandpit. Also teach your children to wash their hands after playing with your pet, as well as before eating.

Prevent your pet from hunting (if possible) – remember that small prey carry worms. Also be sure to treat your pet for fleas on a regular monthly basis with a quality product which you can get from your veterinary practice.

Do not let your pet eat stools, not his own or that of other animals. This is especially important in puppies as they tend to eat anything! Clean up straight after they have passed a stool and keep a good eye on them when you take them for a walk. Also, remember that dogs love to eat cat stools – it is suspected that it tastes good due to their high protein content – which means the daily removal of stools from a sandbox is necessary. If possible restrict access for your dog to the area in the garden your cat uses as a toilet.

Scooting (dragging the bum along the floor) might also be an indication of worms. This is normally seen in dogs as a result of an itchy bum. This symptom can also be related to blocked anal glands and it is therefore important to ask your veterinarian if you are unsure. Treatment for blocked anal glands requires a visit to the vet (fortunately it is a quick and easy problem to fix).

The best way to prevent worm infestations in your pet is by regular deworming. In an adult animal this means deworming 3-4 times per year. Treatment for puppies and kittens are slightly different (more frequently during the first few months of their lives) and your vet will explain their deworming schedule when you take them for their first vaccination. It is also important to note that not all deworming medicines treat all types of worms and therefore it is strongly recommended that you buy the deworming medication from your vet rather than using products on a trial and error basis if you diagnose the problem yourself. Most of the dewormers sold by vets treat all the worms and there are even newer products available from your vet which treat worms AND fleas at the same time!

To prevent mother to baby transmission of worms, it is recommended to deworm your bitch or queen when they are pregnant. Your vet will be able to best advise you on the correct time during the pregnancy to do the deworming.

If you are at all unsure whether your pet has worms (especially if you see some of the above symptoms), ask your vet! There is a very easy non-invasive way to check where the vet will take a stool sample and do a faecal float. This is a special test where a specific fluid is added to the sample which causes the worm eggs to float to the top of the solution. The vet will then look at this under a microscope and can determine exactly if your pet has worms and if so, which type of worms. Deworming medicine is sold over the counter in veterinary clinics and is therefore easily available. It is a good idea though to weigh your pet before you purchase a dewormer, as it is sold according to the weight of your pet.

Worms are unfortunately a part of being a pet owner. We cannot control everything our pets eat even if we try, and they will therefore most likely ingest a worm egg or two at some stage in their lives. Fortunately it is very easy to treat. Most of the time it simply involves giving a tablet every 3 months. Cats are not that easy to give tablets to and fortunately a new product has come on the market that will prevent you from losing an arm or a leg while trying to get a pill into your cat. It works as a spot-on, meaning that the product is applied on the skin between the shoulder blades. It works just as well as regular dewormers, without the potential blood, sweat and tears.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.