Dog worms are an unfortunate fact of life.
All dogs will probably have them at some point, and dealing with worms in puppies is the most common situation of all.
Canine worms are quite common and can usually be easily controlled and cured.
However, some of them can cause serious dog health issues.
That's especially true if your pup's immune system is weak, or if the infestation becomes severe.
That's why it's good to know what to watch for, so you can get prompt treatment for your dog if he does become a victim of parasitic worms.
Different Types of Worms In Dogs
There are several different types of parasitic worms in dogs. (They're called parasites because they feed off the dog instead of living on their own.)
Some of the more familiar types are tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and heartworms. The first four are intestinal worms which infest the digestive systems of dogs. In the case of heartworms, they take up residence in a dog's heart and surrounding blood vessels.
Some of these parasites can also live in other animals, including humans, potentially creating a situation in which the worms can be passed around repeatedly.
Where Do Dog Worms Come From?
Unfortunately, dogs start out at a disadvantage, worm-wise.
Many puppies are already infected with roundworms when still in their mothers.
Or they get them immediately after birth, through their mother's milk.
When infected dogs have a bowel movement, millions of eggs are passed out of the body along with the poop.
They then get scattered around the soil, grass, bedding, or other areas.
The fact that these eggs can survive in soil for several years makes it easy to understand how these parasites can spread far and wide.
These often-microscopic parasites are all around us, but they usually enter a dog's body when he eats infected poop, soil, dead animals, or contaminated raw meat.
Dogs can also be exposed to the parasites by simply playing in contaminated grass or by coming in contact with the coat of an infected dog. All your dog has to do is eat something on the contaminated grass (including the grass itself) or even inhale some worm eggs while taking a good whiff of something interesting.
Once inside your dog's body, the eggs will hatch and continue their life cycle until interrupted by medical intervention. Worms can spread even more quickly in communal environments like animal shelters, doggie daycares and large kennels.
Symptoms of Worms In Dogs
Some dogs can have worms with no outward signs. In fact, some worm eggs or larvae can remain dormant in a dog's body until activated during times of stress or in the case of roundworms, until the latter stages of pregnancy, when they infest the soon-to-be-born puppies.
It's also important to understand that symptoms may vary from one dog to another, as dogs react differently when they're under physical stress. Keeping that in mind, here are some common symptoms of canine worms to watch for:
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss in spite of eating well
- Anemia (pale gums)
- Swollen belly (especially in puppies)
- Mild to severe coughing
- Weak and lethargic
- Sleeps a lot
- Dry, coarse, dull coat
- General poor appearance
- Dog scooting on his rear end
- Dog continually licking his rear end
- Scratching, especially around the base of the tail
- Worm segments around the anal area (look like small grains of rice or sesame seeds)
Diagnosing Canine Worms
Evidence of roundworms and tapeworms can be seen without the aid of a microscope, but other worms are not so easily diagnosed. The best way of checking for possible worm infestations is with a fecal (poop) sample that your veterinarian looks at under a microscope.
He'll check for worm eggs that aren't usually visible to the naked eye. He'll also look for any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms that your dog might be exhibiting.
Treatment For Dog Worms
Let's begin at the beginning. Since most puppies either already have worms at birth or contract them soon after, it's important for them to be treated early.
Your puppy's breeder (or wherever you obtained your pup) should have begun the process to eliminate puppy worms.
He can advise you about further treatment.
If your dog is infected with worms, it's important to get him treated promptly in order to help him feel better and to avoid the chance of re-infection.
A number of worming (also called deworming) products are available to help cure and control the most common types of worms in dogs. More than one type of medication may be required if different kinds of worms are present in your dog's system.
Prevention of Dog Worms
A good course of action to follow is to get your dog started on a monthly heartworm preventative that also prevents other types of worms. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best product for your pooch.
All dogs should undergo annual fecal exams in order to catch worm infestations early. Many veterinarians include the stool check as part of the annual health examination.
It may be difficult to completely prevent dog worms, no matter how clean you keep your dog's environment, but simple hygiene, common sense, and widely available medications can all help.
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