Strategic Deworming of Cats and Dogs

Strategic deworming is a practice recommended by the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The plan consists of treating your pet for worms at regular intervals that are specifically designed to prevent parasite disease and the shedding of parasite eggs in your yard and home which can then re-infest your pet or family members. Almost all puppies and kittens are born with intestinal parasites. Therefore, it is recommended that your pet be treated every two weeks until three months of age, then monthly until six months of age. The interval should be adjusted based on the prepatent period of any parasites seen in a fecal sample.

We recommend that adult dogs and outside cats have fecal samples tested twice a year; adult indoor cats have fecal samples tested annually; and deworming be done twice a year on pets belonging to immunocompromised individuals.

Adults and children can be accidentally infected with roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm, which are common parasites of dogs and cats. It is estimated that 10,000 children in the United States are infected annually with roundworm. People are exposed when they work or play in contaminated soil (garden or sandbox) and then accidentally put dirty hands in their mouth. Sometimes fruits and vegetables that grow close to the ground are contaminated.

Besides deworming your pet regularly, and washing your hands often, there are other measures you can take to decrease exposure to intestinal parasites:

  • Clean up after your dog! Don’t leave feces in our parks or parkways, or in your yard. Daily maintenance is best!
  • Control fleas! Fleas spread tapeworm.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Do not allow children to go barefoot or sit on playgrounds or beaches where they are exposed to pet feces. Hookworm larvae can penetrate the skin and cause serious inflammation.
  • Clean cat boxes daily and wash hands afterward.

If you or your child experience symptoms including fever, malaise, cough, rash, wheezing, appetite loss, or weight loss, consult your doctor immediately. The majority of intestinal parasite cases in humans are asymptomatic; however they can also affect the eye, skin, or nervous system.