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Getting to grips with worms

When we talk about the ‘worms’ that our pets get, we are of course referring to internal parasites or endoparasites, as they are also known. They adults generally reside in the intestinal tract of animals and fall into 3 main groups namely tapeworms, roundworms and hookworms. Because hookworms are not considered a problem in NZ cats, I won’t include these.

Read on to find out how these parasites affect your pet and what you can do to help.


Roundworm infections occur via ingestion of infective larvae, which are found in:
• The stools of cats that are carrying adult worms
• Prey species (e.g. rodents) that are carrying the larvae after eating them – hunting cats beware!
• The milk from mum – a significant risk for suckling kittens

NB: People may also inadvertently ingest these larvae too, which can result in larval migration through the body. This zoonotic infection (passed from animal to human) is known as visceral larva migrans and gives us good cause to remember to always practice good hygiene!
Pregnant women should avoid contact with animal faeces all together and should seek advice from a doctor if you have any questions or concerns.


Most tapeworm infections in cats come from either eating fleas or raw meat that contains the infective stages. Tapeworms can also pose a potential health risk to people.  So what does all this mean?  Worms cause a variety of problems and not just in our pets.

The most commonly reported findings from a worm infestation in cats are vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, malnutrition and a poor appetite/growth. More severe signs sometimes seen include gut obstruction and anaemia (mostly in young animals).
Most adult cats don’t show symptoms and because live worms are generally hiding where we can’t see them, it’s easy to forget about regular worming. It is however really important to regularly treat adult pets. Not only do they act as a source of infection to both animals and humans but worms make them more prone to other intestinal problems by lowering their natural defenses.

“So what can we do” I hear you ask?

It’s simple really – Worm all of your pets regularly with a good quality worm treatment and always practice good hygiene methods (thorough hand washing etc.).

In my experience the safest, easiest and most effective wormers to use are:
1. Drontal Allwormer (Tablets – all worms, use from 4 weeks)
2. Endogard Wormer (Palatable tablets – all worms, use from 2 weeks)
3. Milbemax Wormer (Palatable tablets – all worms, use from 6 weeks)
4. Profender (Spot-on wormer – all worms, use from 8 weeks)
5. Advocate (Spot-on combo flea & wormer – doesn’t kill tapeworm, use from 9 weeks)
6. Broadline (Spot-on combo flea & wormer – all worms, use from 8 weeks)
7. Revolution (Spot-on combo flea & wormer – only some roundworms, use from 6 weeks)
(Active constituents listed at bottom)


These wormers are available from vet clinics, online vet pharmacies and pet shops.

Recommended dosing schedules:
• Kittens – Initial treatment at 4 weeks then repeat at 6, 8 and 12 weeks of age. Then worm 3 monthly, as for adults. Make sure the wormer you choose is suitable for the age of your kitten (see list above).
• Breeding Queens – Treat at mating & again just before kittening. Repeat 3 to 4 weeks after the birth
• Adult Cats – Treat every 3 months
• Newly Acquired Adult Pets – Worm on arrival & repeat 2 weeks later. Continue with a single dose every 3 months

Things to remember:
• Worming regularly helps you keep your pets healthy and helps prevent infection of others
• If your cat does a lot of hunting then you could consider treating more frequently
• Most adult animals won’t show significant effects from having worms but still need to be treated regularly
• Worm treatments are generally short acting – given orally, they kill the live worms that are present, and that’s it. Meaning re-infection may occur within a few days but because it takes time for adult worms to develop, 3 monthly dosing is usually ok
• Untreated animals are an important source of zoonotic infection to humans
• Excellent flea control will also help to control tapeworms

Active constituents for the products listed above:
Drontal: Pyrantel + praziquantel
Endogard: Praziquantel + oxibendazole
Milbemax: Milbemycin + praziquantel
Profender: Emodepside + praziquantel
Advocate: Imidacloprid + moxidectin
Broadline: Fipronil + (S)-methoprene+Eprinomectin+Praziquantel
Revolution: Selamectin

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