It is always painful to lose a loved one, especially when you could have done something about it. Dogs suffering from worms can experience a wide variety of problems as the worms burrow into the dog and rob it of much-needed resources, starving the dog while causing irreparable tissue damage, and eventually causing the death of the animal. However, as debilitating as they can be, worms in dogs can be relatively easy to deal with, especially if you take the basic preventative steps and keep up with those steps throughout the life of the dog. In this post, let’s explore the different signs of worms in dogs and deworming tips for your furry family member.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Worms in Dogs
Worms are parasites that use the bodily resources that a dog requires to live for their own purposes. While most worm infestations are merely uncomfortable, some – such as hookworms – can be fatal to puppies.
The basic symptoms of a dog with worms to look for are:
- Diarrhea, possibly bloody
- Small segments of tapeworms in the stool – hey resemble grains of rice
- Abdominal pain
- Nutritional deficiencies and/or anemia
- Pneumonia or intestinal blockage
- Weight loss
- A change in appetite
- Coat is dry and rough
- Scooting across the floor on their bottom
- Eggs near the anus or on the fur nearby
- Vomiting; this applies to roundworms especially
- Pot-bellied appearance
- The appearance of the animal is especially poor
These are pretty universal symptoms of dogs having worms. This applies just as to determining worms in puppies (signs/symptoms) as it does to older dogs. You should obviously be looking harder for signs of worms in puppies as they can suffer more and are more likely to die from worms. But there are no real differences in the signs of worms in dogs. Also, the growth of puppies can be stunted thanks to worms, and anemia caused by some worms can hit puppies and older dogs harder.
Worms can make existing diseases – such as diabetes – worse, as well as increase inflammation and make any immune system problems worse. An unchecked infestation can be deadly to any pet.
Also bear in mind that some of these symptoms are common to other diseases as well. So if they do show up, take your dog to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.
How Worms In Dogs Are Contracted
Tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms are transmitted when your pets eat the feces of an infected animal, usually the feces from rodents or other dogs. Puppies are also susceptible to catching worms from their mother.
Hookworms can also burrow into your dog’s skin to lay eggs. Worms can live in the soil where they were deposited, making them a threat to other dogs as well as children.
Intestinal parasites are not only contagious among animals but can also infect humans as well, usually due to accidental infestation.
Types of Dog Worms
These are some of the most common parasites attacking dogs and can be transmitted to humans.
Roundworms can be transferred to puppies via their dam, making it vital that puppies receive the necessary veterinary care as soon as possible. If the worms untreated they can lead to stunted growth and possible death.
Dogs are usually infected by eating the feces of infected animals, such as rodents, rabbits, and other dogs. The easiest way to prevent roundworms is to avoid ingesting the feces of infected animals.
As the roundworm can spread from animals to humans, early diagnosis of infestation is paramount in order to treat the infestation as quickly as possible.
Tapeworms are acquired by eating fleas with the parasite in them or animals infected by the parasite or fleas. Once the flea or egg itself is eaten, the egg hatches and quickly attaches itself to the animal’s intestinal lining. Infected dogs can pass segments of the worm to other dogs that eat their feces, and they can actually be seen, resembling pieces of rice. Sometimes infected dogs may scoot their bottoms on the floor or ground.
Besides avoiding eating feces and animals, a good anti-flea regimen can stop tapeworms in their tracks.
If you notice either the segments or scooting, take a stool sample to your veterinarian for analysis. If the veterinarian finds eggs or segments, the dog can receive a treatment regimen to eliminate the infestation. Not only does this involve an injection or oral medicine, but the owner must also rid of any fleas from the dog and home.
While these are dangerous enough for adult animals, they are especially dangerous for puppies if left untreated. They are only an eighth of an inch but can digest ridiculous amounts of blood when they finally attach themselves to the intestinal wall.
Hookworms are a hard parasite to avoid as a dog can not only get them from the environment, from having the eggs flicked on the animal or eating the infected dirt, but also even just sniffing infected feces. One species can even pass from a female animal to a puppy via milk. Humans can also become infected by hookworms.
Hookworms are diagnosed using fecal flotation, where the stool is mixed with a solution that causes the eggs to float. Dogs are treated with deworming medications twice: once to catch the current adult worms and another two to four weeks later to deal with any newly developed worms.
Hookworms are hard to prevent, requiring the pet and humans to make sure their environment is kept clean.
Whipworms live in the colon and cecum (the beginning of the large intestine), where they pass their eggs into the feces of the dog. Dogs get them from ingesting anything infected, such as food, water, feces, or even animal flesh, making prevention difficult. Making it worse is that the eggs can survive for up to five years in suitably warm and moist environments; this makes cleaning up after your dog important for the health of other dogs.
They do not cause obvious symptoms in mild cases, but in more severe cases they can lead to inflammation, diarrhea, weight loss, and sometimes anemia. A veterinarian can diagnose whipworms with a fecal sample and will recommend a monthly treatment plan of three treatments if he finds an infection. As whipworm eggs are not easy to find, false negatives are common, possibly requiring repeat fecal exams if the dog is exhibiting any blood in its stool.
While they are the scariest, heartworms are also the most preventable.
Heartworms grow and multiply near the heart, causing heart failure, severe lung damage, and damage to other organs, possibly leading to death if left untreated. They are transmitted primarily by mosquitoes, making prevention hard in some areas, but they have been found in all 50 states. Coyotes, foxes, and other dogs can be carriers.
Treatment can be lengthy, expensive, and carry serious side effects. Worse, it generally requires confinement and restrictions on exercise, something that can be hard on the dog and its owner.
Regular testing is recommended as preventives do not kill adult heartworms, and may even be harmful to an infected dog.
Prevention is the key to dealing with heartworms, and there are a number of good ones available on the market.
Diagnosis of Worms by Vet
The first step to diagnosing worms is the careful observation by the owner. By keeping an eye on the animal and its behavior and discharge, an owner can be aware that something may be off.
Most worms can be diagnosed with a simple fecal sample; the veterinarian just looks for eggs in the sample.
Hookworms are the easiest to find as a solution can be added to the feces that makes the eggs float. Only tapeworms with their grain-sized segments are easier to detect. A veterinarian can also take a blood sample to look for DNA markers of various worms, but this can be difficult as it requires putting a needle into the animal.
It should be noted that heartworms are a little more complicated, as diagnosis requires a blood test as well as x-rays. This makes testing for heartworms the most expensive but worth it considering the potential problems they carry with them.
However, as noted, the first diagnosis will usually be done by the owner. The obvious signs are blood in the stools, vomiting, and diarrhea. The animal looking a little more haggard than normal, especially due to weight loss and a rough coat, are also good signs to look for. The animal scooting around the area is another good sign to watch for, as well as a generally active animal losing its energy.
In short, while the veterinarian can use stool and blood samples to diagnose worms, the owner is usually the first to know that something is wrong.
Preventing Your Dog From Contracting Worms
A little paranoia is a good thing when it comes to the health of your dog. This means that you need to clean up after it, make sure that it does not eat anything that you are not aware of what is in it, especially strange outside debris. You must bathe your dog regularly, preferably using an anti-flea shampoo. This also means that you should make sure that the dog is wearing a flea collar at all times and that the flea collar is relatively fresh. You can also give them anti-flea medication that effectively keeps the pests away.
Just apply the same level of care that you would for one of your kids and the dog should do okay. As noted: A little paranoia is a good thing here and will help to ensure that your dog will have a long life.
Regular worming of your dog
This means that you will also need to regularly deworm your dog. You need to find a product that you like, that has as few side effects as possible for the dog, and comes recommended so that you can use it on a regular basis.
Check with your veterinarian for what they recommend, and make sure that you actually use it. Medications cannot do their job if they never leave the package.
For those looking for ways to keep their pets safe from worms, Amazon offers several options.
- Triple Medium and Large Dog Wormer comes in chewable tablets and works against seven varieties of tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms.
- PetArmor 7 Way De-Wormer offers protection against seven different types of the most common worms and is marked as safe for puppies.
- Excel 8in1 Safe-Guard Canine Dewormer is made for large breeds and is safe for pregnant dogs, puppies over six months, and those dogs with heartworms.
- Bayer Chewable Quad Dewormer is for large dogs but prevents the standard worms as well as whipworms.
You should also pick up a flea and tick preventive as well. As a lot of worms are spread by fleas and ticks, protection against them helps defend your pet against worms as well.
- FRONTLINE Plus Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs kills fleas and ticks and helps prevent future infestations.
- TevraPet Activate II Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs also offers protection against mosquitoes as well.
- Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Dogs offers eight months of protection against small pests.
Treatment for Worms
Before treating a dog for worms, talk to your veterinarian. You need to determine which type of worm you have before you can actually start treatment, especially as a medicine that works for one type of worm will not work for another. For example, a medicine that works against roundworms will not work against tapeworms. Without knowing the specific sort of worms that the dog is suffering from you may actually be doing more harm than good.
Excluding heartworms, most worms can be dealt with with a simple oral or injected dewormer, usually given by the veterinarian. This dewormer is usually a general antibiotic, making it good to get rid of the pests inside your dog but not likely to affect the dog itself. Heartworms are a little more complicated and require several months of expensive treatments.
Eliminating worms may be very difficult, but it must be done for the health of the animal.
Deworming puppies and new dogs
Puppies can get worms from the milk of the mother feeding it, making it mandatory to deworm them within two to three weeks of birth, and then again a few weeks later to make sure that you got them all.
The same should be done for new dogs as well unless you are confident that they have been properly dewormed.
Frequently Asked Questions about Worms in Dogs
Can I test my dog for worms at home?
Yes, there are numerous home test kits available that allow an owner to test a dog for worms.
However, the obvious word of caution: remember that even the best home test kit should be treated as a basic diagnostic tool. If the test detects worms in your dog then it should be taken to an actual veterinarian for a proper test and possible treatment. Treatment should never be attempted without the advice of a veterinarian.
Can you catch worms from dogs?
Yes, but it does not happen that often. In order to limit the risk, always wash your face and hands after playing with your dog, especially if you were licked. You should never eat or drink what your dog does just as you avoid letting a dog eat from your plate or drink from your glass, no matter how much you love your animal.
My dog is showing symptoms of worms, what should I do?
If your dog is showing signs of worms, then you should either use a home test kit to check for worms or take the animal straight to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis, preferably with a stool sample. Bear in mind that some of the symptoms are shared with other diseases and conditions, so while it may not be worms it is likely to be something. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
How long does it take for a dog to get rid of worms?
After your dog has taken a dewormer it can usually take at least a few days for the worms to leave the animal, and in some cases, it may take a bit longer. Also, some dogs and especially puppies may be given the treatment a few weeks later in order to make sure that the worms have been completely dealt with.
Do dogs poop out worms after Dewormer?
Yes, they do. While most worms are small enough that you are likely to not see them, you may see some worms. Also, some of them may still be alive. Do not fret as this at least means that the worms are no longer in your dog. Make sure that you properly dispose of the feces so as to avoid potential issues.
Signs of worms in Dogs and Deworming: A Recap
Worms can be a potentially devastating disease for dogs, as the worms used more and more of the resources that dogs require to live, as well as destroy the living tissue. It is incumbent upon the owner to do their best to eliminate the worms as quickly as possible as well as to prevent the animal from catching them in the first place. This can be a simple process, especially given the products are readily available.
The only problem is creating a schedule and sticking to it. Do that and your dogs will live a long, healthy life.
Check out our post on preventing heartworms in your cat on the blog.