Some types of intestinal worms can live for years in the soil at an egg stage of development, safely protected from the environment within a hard shell. They can survive freezing wintery conditions, scorching summers, and even long term exposure to extreme dry and wet conditions within the soil. The eggs remain dormant until they are ingested by a host animal.Dogs and cats initially become infected with the eggs of intestinal worms by ingesting them when eating soil, raw meat/offal, faeces and licking their coats when grooming.
Once inside the host, the eggs hatch, and the worm larvae migrate to different areas of the host’s body, only returning to the intestine when they have matured. Once they are settled back in the intestine, they remain there to feed and reproduce. As their eggs are laid, they are shed by the host, as they pass out with the faeces into the pet’s environment.
Intestinal worming medications only act on the worms living and breeding in the pet’s digestive tract, they do not act on the worm larvae that are migrating and living in other areas of the host’s body or the worm eggs. The medication causes the worms to detach from the wall of the intestine and then be passed out of the body with the faeces when the host goes to the toilet.
Since the medications don't act on the larvae or eggs, these are a source of reinfection for the host pet.
Since worms are able to remain dormant in the environment for long periods of time, and the host can be reinfected by larvae or eggs, worming needs to be done at 1 or 3 monthly intervals, throughout the year.
An important parts of preventing intestinal worming infections, is taking additional action to help reduce your pet’s risk of intestinal worm infection, by managing your pets living environment, throughout the year, and reducing their exposure to sources of infection:
- Remove faeces from the yard regularly, removes eggs and dormant cysts.
- Keep your pets coat clean and well groomed, to manually remove any worm eggs that could be ingested by your pet, when licking and grooming themselves.
- Any area where the pet will be kept needs to be regularly swept/vacuumed and hosed/mopped to manually remove eggs and dormant cysts.
- Wash pet bedding in hot water, and consider disposing of and replacing bedding on a regular basis so the pet is not lying in bedding that is harbouring eggs.
- Prevent unsupervised access to hunting and eating wildlife that could contain worms or eggs.
- Do not feed offal that could contain intestinal worms or eggs.
- Wash your hands after contact with animals from outside your home, before playing with your own pet.
- Don't feed raw meat that could contain intestinal worms or eggs; base your dog's staple diet on a high quality dog food.
If a pet is not treated regularly for intestinal worms, the population of worms living in their gut will become very high, eventually harming the health of the pet, and in some cases, causing death.
The cost and inconvenience of routine worming is really relatively small. If you compare the annual cost of intestinal worming treatments, to expensive vet bills for trying to rid your dog of severe infestations or save their life, it is really worth the small cost of year round intestinal worming treatments.