Does your dog have worms? Worms in dogs are not just gross, they can be harmful to your pet if they go untreated. Learn How dogs get worms, how to treat worms in dogs, and how to prevent your dog from getting worms in the first place!
Worms are not uncommon in dogs. Canines have a proclivity for eating gross things that they find on the ground, in the garbage, or may even eat “waste” from wild animals. This leaves plenty of chances for opportunistic parasites to sneak into your dog's gut.
In this article, we'll help you learn to identify the symptoms of intestinal worms, how to treat them, and, most importantly, prevent worms from coming back.
Types of Worms in Dogs
There are numerous types of worms in dogs that you should be aware of, but the most common types you'll see in your dog's gut are roundworm eggs and hookworm larvae.
Worms in dogs are typically caused by parasitic infestations. There are several types of worms that can affect dogs, including:
Roundworms (Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina): These are the most common intestinal worms in dogs and are usually passed from the pregnant dog or from the mother to puppies during nursing in the mother's milk. Dogs can also become infected by ingesting infected soil or feces of other infected animals that contain the microscopic eggs. Canines can also contract parasites when they sniff infected dog stool.
Hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum, Uncinaria stenocephala): Hookworms are intestinal parasites that can enter a dog's body through the skin, by ingestion of hookworm eggs in soil or through nursing from an infected mother. The internal parasites can make affected dogs very sick.
Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum, Taenia species): Dogs can get tapeworms by ingesting infected fleas or eating wild prey, like rats or mice, that host these parasites.
Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis): These worms are ingested when a dog eats soil or cat feces infested with the parasites. The whipworm eggs then infect dogs.
Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis): Unlike the previously mentioned worms, which primarily affect the digestive system, adult heartworms affect the heart and lungs. They are transmitted through mosquito bites and can cause severe health issues, including heart and lung damage.
Roundworms in Dogs
Roundworms rank as the most prevalent type of worms found in both adult dogs and puppies. These insidious parasites are usually ingested in the form of eggs or larvae, primarily through contaminated soil or by consuming feces from infected wild animals.
Once inside a dog's system, the roundworms establish themselves in the digestive tract, where they undergo a complex yet efficient lifecycle. This lifecycle encompasses three stages: eggs, larvae, and adult roundworms.
When your dog ingests the eggs, they become infected, and within 2-4 weeks, the eggs transform into infective larvae. These larvae skillfully navigate through the intestinal wall, making their way to the liver and then migrating to the lungs.
Some dogs may even suffer from an intestinal blockage if the worms ball up in the intestines. The worms do not affect all dogs in the same manner, but some are in danger of serious disease.
Once in the lungs, the roundworm larvae find their way to your dog's trachea and are subsequently swallowed. Reaching the small intestine again, they reach maturity, start reproducing by laying eggs, and the entire cycle starts anew. Diagnosis is made via a fecal examination.
There are certain species, such as pinworms, that can infect humans
Hookworms in Dogs
This aptly named parasite is shaped like a hook about the size of a penny and has multiple sets of teeth that allow them to latch onto the walls of your dog's small intestine to feed on your dog's blood.
The life cycle of hookworms is similar to roundworm infection but typically a little faster, as the larvae can reach their infectious stage in about a week. Infected dogs then start shedding the hookworm sections.
The biggest difference between these two common intestinal parasites, besides their food source, is that hookworms can also penetrate the skin to infect your pet. Dog owners who regularly take their four-legged friend to the dog park or for walks put their pup in danger of exposure to other dogs who might also have hookworms.
Whipworms in Dogs
Adult whipworms in dogs, though less common, are another type of intestinal parasite that can be found in adult dogs. They are ingested as eggs and develop in the intestinal tract like other worms, but these guys don't travel outside of the dog's intestines as round and hookworms do.
Additionally, whipworm infections have a longer developmental period, about 3 months. Whipworms in dogs are usually not diagnosed in young puppies under 6 months of age.
Tapeworms in Dogs
Another type of worm that can infect your dogs is a tapeworm. Tapeworms can't just be ingested to infect your dog, unlike other intestinal worms. They are passed through a third-party pest, like external parasites such as an infected flea or mites. Eating infected fleas can easily lead to severe infections of the internal parasites.
Tapeworm eggs are also different in that they have self-sufficient segmented bodies, each able to survive and reproduce independently. As the tapeworm grows, the mature worm segments of the worm infestation are gradually shed into the dog's stool.
Tapeworms get much bigger than other common types of intestinal worms. They can grow from 4 up to 28 inches long in length, though the parasite is usually treated well before it gets to this size. An infected dog can end up suffering from severe anemia and weight loss when enough of the worms build up in the large intestine and attach to the intestinal wall.
Heartworms in Dogs
The most deadly worm on our list is heartworm infection. These parasites attach to both your dog's heart and lungs, reproducing and growing until permanent damage is done to the organ. Heartworm, like tapeworm, is spread through an intermediary pest, in this case, mosquitoes, but instead of being ingested by the pest, the larvae travel through your dog's bloodstream.
Left untreated, heartworm disease is fatal, so if you live in an area of high risk, like Ontario, talk to your vet about different options for preventing heartworm infestations. Pet parents must take a proactive approach to prevent internal parasites in their adult dog or pup.
There are now many veterinary medicine options to help prevent dangerous worms and rid your dog of them during the early stages.
Symptoms of Intestinal Worms
Symptoms of a worm infestation in dogs can include weight loss, a pot-bellied appearance, vomiting, diarrhea, and a dull coat. In severe cases, worms can cause serious health problems and even be fatal, especially in young puppies.
You'll want to practice disease control and seek veterinary assistance immediately if you suspect that your furry friend has internal parasites to prevent damage to the dog's internal organs.
Dog symptoms of parasitic worms include:
- Bloody in Stool
- Poor growth in puppies
- Abdominal pain from infestation in the large intestine.
- Thin worms and worm eggs in the dog's feces.
- Potbellied appearance
- Butt Scooting - dog scooting across the floor
Signs of Worms in Dogs
How can you tell if your dog has worms? Unfortunately, dog worms aren't the easiest things to diagnose at home. The signs of dog worms are often subtle at first, but if you know what to look for, you can treat them before they cause too much discomfort.
Worms in Dogs Poop
The number one way of identifying worms in dogs is through their stool. Depending on the type of worm, you may see small worms present in dog poop. This doesn't happen for every type of worm, though.
Roundworms and hookworms can sometimes be found in a dog's stool samples, and tapeworms shed fully autonomous segments into the stool or around the dog's anus as they grow.
Most worms release their eggs into the digestive tract, and they will end up in your dog's poop. Don't count on spotting the worm eggs, though. The eggs are too small to see with the naked eye but can be seen under a microscope. This means you can bring a stool sample to the vet to confirm a worm diagnosis.
Worms in Dogs Vomit
Another way to see visible signs of worm activity in your dog is in their vomit. Many varieties of dog worms travel through your dog's bloodstream during their larval stage and make their way to your dog's trachea so they can be swallowed to finish their life cycle.
This often ends in the worms being either coughed up or puked up. Worms in a dog's vomit may be extremely unpleasant, but at least you can confirm your diagnosis and begin treatment immediately.
5 Common Ways Dogs Get Worms
Worms and parasites are a natural part of your dog's environment, and most dogs end up with a worm infestation at some point in their life.
While you can't protect them from every possible parasite, bacteria, or danger, you can help reduce risk by knowing how your dog is most likely to come in contact with worms.
1. Soil and grass - Adult parasites need a host to survive, but their eggs can survive in soil for much longer. Infestations can occur when your dog eats, licks, or even sniffs the soil. Larvae of hookworms can even affect your dog through skin contact, as these tiny worms burrow through the skin.
2. Wild animals - Dogs that frequently come in contact with wildlife are also at a higher risk. Rodents, birds, and other scavengers can be infested and transfer parasites if your dog decides to snack on some wild prey.
3. Feces - Poop is a very common way to transfer worm eggs and larvae. If your dog likes to snack on rabbit poop, bird poop, or even poop from fellow canines, they are more likely to come in contact with worms.
4. Insects - Insects like fleas and mosquitos are also carriers of parasites. Without proper precautions, like heartworm medication or dog-safe bug sprays, your dog is likely to be at risk of a parasitic infection, especially during warmer seasons.
5. Mom - Some of the most common worms in dogs can actually be passed from mom to pup. Both roundworms and hookworms can be passed on in the womb or during nursing.
Worm Treatment Medications
Regular deworming and preventive measures, such as keeping your dog's living area clean, practicing good hygiene, and using flea control methods, can help reduce the risk of worm infestations.
If you suspect your dog has worms or to establish a proper deworming schedule, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian who can diagnose the specific type of worm and recommend appropriate treatment.
A good dewormer has to get rid of worms at all life stages.
Naturally Treating Intestinal Parasites in Adult Dogs
Some of the most effective deworming medications are also some of the harshest options for your dog. While dewormers are generally considered safe, some of you may be looking for more natural options to treat your dog's squirmy intruders.
Look like most supplements, natural alternatives are typically effective for most dogs, but that doesn't mean they are guaranteed to work for every dog.
Additionally, natural options often don't work as quickly, especially if you don't follow the recommended instructions or continue the treatment for long enough. You may find the dog worms make an unpleasant comeback.
Diatomaceous Earth for Parasite
Well known for its pest control properties, diatomaceous earth works best internally. The small, sharp particles are harmless for your pooch but are small enough to pierce the dog worms, causing them to dehydrate and die off.
It's not the fastest method of deworming your dog, but it is one of the safest. Like most dewormers, the treatment should be done twice, with a seven-day break in between to allow eggs to hatch.
This is one of the most popular preventative dewormers, as it can be done often throughout the year without any negative effects.
Coconut Oil for Worms
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a natural anti-parasitic worm. Feeding coconut oil regularly can be a useful preventative for many types of dog adult worms and other parasites, including giardia. The standard recommendation is about ½ tsp of coconut oil per 10 lbs of body weight loss.
Frequently Asked Questions About Worms in Dogs
How Often Do You Have to Deworm a Dog?
Preventatively deworming your dog is a good way to keep worms away, but how often do you have to deworm your dog? Deworming 2-3 times per year is average, but you may need to deworm more frequently if your dog spends lots of time outside or around other animals.
What are the Side Effects of Deworming a Dog?
Some dewormers can cause temporary side effects. Some dogs are lucky and have no issues, while others can have some minor digestive issues due to the deworming process. Effects are typically short-lived and mild. They should clear up on their own by the time the treatment is completed.
Are dog worms dangerous to humans?
Some dog worms, such as roundworms and hookworms, can infect humans, especially children, through contact with contaminated soil or feces. These worms can cause health issues, including skin irritations, eye problems, and even organ damage.
How can I prevent my dog from getting worms?
Regular deworming treatments recommended by your veterinarian can help prevent worm infestations in dogs. Maintaining a clean living environment, proper disposal of dog feces, and preventing exposure to infected animals can reduce the risk of worm transmission.
Can worms kill a dog?
If left untreated, worms can start to damage your dog's organs, leave them malnourished, and lead to serious injury and even death. Some worms are more deadly than others. Heartworm, for example, rarely shows common symptoms until severe and sometimes irreversible damage is done.
What are white worms in dogs' poop?
White worms in a dog's poop may indicate the presence of tapeworms as the worm segments are shed in the stool.