Not all pet problems are visible, and this is the case with worms. If your pet becomes infected, they'll happily spend the whole of their adult lives hiding inside your dog or cat. There are several species of intestinal worms that can infect cats and dogs in the UK. Some feed on the contents of the gut, scavenging your pet's food, and others attach themselves to the gut wall to feed on your pet's blood. Some potentially life threatening worms live in the other organs including the heart and lungs. As well as causing serious damage to the health of your pet, some worms can infect people, giving you another reason to keep your pet worm-free.


A potentially fatal parasite that infects dog is spreading across the country. Lungworm infection, caused by the parasite Angiostrongylus vasorum, can cause serious illness, and even death if not treated correctly. A recent nationwide survey of UK vets has revealed that over 25% of those questioned had either confirmed or suspected a case of this potentially fatal condition, yet many dog owners have never even heard of the disease. At Heene Road Vets we have identified many dogs infected with this parasite, some with quite serious symptoms & tragically, one nine month old puppy which died within 24 hours of developing a cough.

Lungworm - is my dog at risk?

Dogs become infected with the lungworm through eating slugs and snails which carry the larvae of the parasite. Southern England is known to be a part of the country where infections are particularly common. While some dogs eat slugs and snails intentionally, some slugs and snails are very small and could accidentally be eaten when your dog is rummaging through the undergrowth on a walk or in the garden, or picked up from an outdoor food/water bowl or toy. With this in mind, Heene Road Vets is taking part in a 'Be Lungworm Aware' campaign to help raise the profile of this parasite amongst dog owners. The initiative aims to make a wide range of advice available, including signs of infection and how to obtain treatment, and to promote the benefits of a parasite control programme that takes into account the risk of dogs becoming infected.

What should I do next?

Lungworm is a particularly dangerous condition as if left untreated, it is often fatal. Signs to look out for include coughing, reluctance to exercise, depression, weight loss, fits, vomiting, diarrhoea, and persistent bleeding, even from small cuts. Dogs known to eat slugs and snails should also be considered candidates for a check up with a vet, even if they are showing no outward signs of infection. Speak to your Heene Road vet or nurse who can talk to you about a parasite protection programme for your dog that includes the treatment of this lungworm.




Roundworms live in the intestine, moving freely and feeding on the gut contents. Pets can pick up worm eggs if they come into contact with contaminated soil. Dog to dog contact can also transmit roundworm eggs found in their coats. The eggs can survive in the environment for a long time. Puppies are usually born infected and both puppies and kittens can become infected via their mother's milk. People in contact with infected pets are at risk from Toxocariasis where migrating roundworm larvae can cause permanent damage to human's eyes.


Hookworms attach to the gut wall and feed on the animal's blood. Cats and dogs can pick up larvae from contaminated soil and within 2 weeks these can develop into adults in your pet's gut. They can be very damaging, particularly in young animals, causing diarrhoea, anaemia, weight loss and apathy. If there are foxes in your neighbourhood, dogs are at risk of getting hookworm, which is passed on via foxes' faeces.


Given the chance, whipworms will embed their head in the lining of your dog's large intestine and feed on blood. The whip-like action of the tail will cause further damage to the lining of the gut. Whipworms are mainly seen in dogs.


Tapeworms look like long, flat ribbons or tapes, divided into segments and all tapeworms attach to the intestinal wall. The mature tapeworm segments are filled with eggs, and individual segments break off, passing via a cat or dog's faeces into the environment. The flea tapeworm uses fleas as its intermediate host and is the most common tapeworm to infect cats and dogs in the UK. Cats and dogs are infected by swallowing fleas when they are grooming and once in the gut the worm larvae carried by the flea begins to develop into an adult worm that can quickly grow to 50cm. Hunting cats in particular are at risk of being infected by the mouse tapeworm which uses mice and other small rodents as it's intermediate hosts. Cats and dogs can also become infected by tapeworms if they scavenge the carcasses of animals (e.g. livestock), or if they are fed a raw meat diet.


Heartworms are bad news for dogs and cats that travel abroad. Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworms can develop in your pet's bloodstream, then live as adults in their heart, and can be fatal. 

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Here at Heene Road Vets we are passionate about pet care. We use a caring, flexible approach to put you at ease when you are worried about your pet.

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