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Intestinal worms

Intestinal worms are common in puppies and kittens, but also occur in adult pets. Puppies and kittens can be infected from their mothers before birth, after suckling milk, or from their environment.

Many intestinal worms can be transmitted from pets to people, therefore effective, regular control and prevention is essential to protect not only your pet, but also the health of other dogs, cats and people that may be in contact with it.

The 4 types of intestinal worms



Hookworms feed on blood from the lining of the intestines in dogs and cats. They can cause anaemia, diarrhoea and even death in puppies and kittens. Hookworms also pose a health risk to humans.



Puppies and kittens can be infected from their mothers during pregnancy and may be born with roundworms. They can also pick up these worms after birth through their mothers’ milk. Roundworms may cause –

  • Pot belly
  • Dry coat
  • Stunted growth
  • Coughing
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Death

Roundworms also pose a risk to human health.



Immature Dipylidium caninum tapeworms – the most common tapeworm affecting puppies – are found in fleas. Dogs ingest these fleas during grooming and the tapeworm then develops in the dog's small intestine.

Segments of the tapeworm, full of eggs, are eliminated with faeces or may emerge from the anus on their own. After drying out, they look like rice grains stuck to the hair around the anus.

As fleas are the intermediate host for this species of tapeworm, treatment for tapeworm infestations must be combined with flea treatment. While tapeworm infestations usually cause few problems in adult dogs, they can slow the growth of puppies and cause poor coat condition and anal irritation. People can also become infected with this tapeworm.

In rural areas, ask your vet about controlling hydatid tapeworm, as it can have serious human health implications.


Whipworms (dogs only):

This parasite of the large bowel is more likely to occur where multiple dogs live together and have access to faecal material. Whipworms feed on their host's blood and heavy infestations may lead to anaemia and bloody diarrhoea. Dogs of all ages can be infected by ingesting whipworm eggs, which are highly resistant and survive in the external environment for several years.