Worms In Dogs: Types, Symptoms & Prevention
What Are The Different Types Of Worms In Dogs?
Estimated Read Time: 7 ½ minutes
Summary: In this blog, we learn all about intestinal worms in dogs, what causes worms in dogs, the signs to look for, and how to help treat your dog with worms…
Worms in dogs are a very unpleasant thing for both pet owners and their pups! No one likes the idea of creepy crawlies inside their beloved pooch - but, as a responsible pet parent, understanding intestinal worms in dogs and how to prevent and manage them is all part and parcel of good dog ownership, as serious issues can occur if a case of worms is left untreated…
What Are The Symptoms Of Worms In Dogs?
Intestinal worms are microscopic, so you can’t tell a dog has worms just by looking at their butt or poop (unless it’s a Tapeworm). If a dog has worms, their symptoms can present as:
- Swollen and/or painful abdomen (or appearing pot-bellied)
- Becoming dehydrated
- Becoming lethargic
- Development of a cough (usually only seen with Roundworm, Heartworm, and Hookworm)
- Developing a nutritional deficiency
- Blood in their poop
- Weight loss
- Poor coat condition
- Bottom scooting
- Pneumonia (Serious cases only)
- Blocked intestine (Serious cases only)
Heartworms can also involve symptoms like difficulty exercising, a weak pulse, pale gums, and labored breathing.
What Causes Worms In Dogs?
There are several causes of worms in dogs which is why regular, preventative treatment is key.
- Via their mother – Both hookworms and, more commonly, roundworms can penetrate the uterine wall, so they can be transmitted to unborn pups. Puppies can also contract these types of worms through their mother’s milk.
- Fleas – Some fleas can carry tapeworm eggs, so if a flea is consumed by your dog they can then contract this intestinal parasite.
- Contaminated soil – Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms can be picked up from ingesting soil because worms lay eggs in the dog’s gut which come out in their poop (another reason picking up your dog’s poop is essential!) Eggs can remain dormant for a number of years, so even if poop doesn’t seem to be present, the threat of worms is still possible in any soil. Usually, a dog contracts worms from grooming themselves, and licking dirt off their fur.
- Eating infected animals – If you allow your pooch to get curious and sniff/lick anything they come across on a country walk, then it's time to be a little bit more mindful! Dead rodents, rabbits, and other creature’s remains can be carrying tapeworms, whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Raw dog food, therefore, can also carry a risk of being contaminated with worms…
- Mosquito bites – Mosquitos can transmit Heartworms when they bite which can be incredibly dangerous for a dog to contract.
What Are The Different Types Of Worms In Dogs?
Hookworms are very small, teeth-bearing, bloodsucking parasites which can cause anemia in dogs and can be fatal if left untreated in young puppers. Hookworms can move about the body, stripping it of nutrients, before entering the lungs to mature and then making their way back to the intestine.
A Tapeworm sets up shop in the lower intestine, grabbing onto the wall where it can efficiently suck nutrients as food is digested by the body. They are flat in appearance and can grow more than half a foot in length. Tapeworms usually go unnoticed, but tiny bits of it can be excreted in a dog’s poop and look like grains of rice. If you spot this, or your pup is doing a lot of scooting, it’s probably wise to visit the vet.
Arguably the most common intestinal worm in dogs, Roundworms usually affect puppies before birth, which have been transmitted from their mother. If left untreated, a puppy’s growth and development can be affected and in serious cases, can cause death because they can burrow into tissue and organs. Roundworms are fairly long in length, resembling spaghetti, and are white.
The most dangerous of intestinal worms (but also the most preventable!) are Heartworms, which can be transmitted by mosquitos. Because these pests are so difficult to avoid, regular preventative treatment is essential. Heartworms grow, thrive, and multiply in the heart which can cause the organ to fail as well as cause damage to neighboring organs. Treating Heartworm is very expensive and takes a long time to recover from, involving confinement of your pooch and restricted exercise regimes, so if you’re not taking preventative measures already - start now.
Whipworms make a home for themselves in the large intestine and don’t drain a dog’s body of as many nutrients as the above worms. They usually go unnoticed, unless the infection is fairly severe - this will then typically show up as blood in your dog’s stool. Whipworms don’t pose as significant of a threat as say, Heartworms, and Roundworms, but are still unwanted and unpleasant for your pooch to have.
How Do You Treat Intestinal Worms In Dogs?
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of worms, contact your vet who will most likely ask you to collect and bring a stool sample in with your dog so they can check it. If Heartworm is suspected or needs to be ruled out, your vet will want to give your pooch a blood test. If worms are detected, your vet will prescribe the appropriate de-worming treatment for your dog.
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: Although not usually requested, it can be handy to bring a stool sample along with you to your dog’s annual check-up so your vet can assess the health of their poop as part of their general examination! Lots of things can be revealed in your dog's poop… Read our blog on how checking your dog’s poop could save their life here!
If your dog is pregnant, make sure to ask your vet about how to worm her during pregnancy as they can pass worms onto their unborn pups. They’ll advise which product is safest to use, and explain when the pups will need to be wormed after birth. Some vets may advise a daily worming treatment (Fenbendazole) from day 40 of pregnancy to 2 days post-birth to help prevent worms being passed from bitch to pups. Read more on how to care for a pregnant dog here.
How Do You Prevent Worms In Dogs?
It is an essential part of owning a dog that you administer regular, de-worming treatment to them. This protects them, your home, your family, and your community from the different types of intestinal worms in dogs. Consult with your vet over which is the best course for your pooch, as there is a variety of prevention methods available from injection and tablet forms to spot-on treatments.
Effective, regular flea prevention is also vital for your dog’s health and can also help guard your dog against Tapeworms, as fleas are how Tapeworms are contracted.
Can Humans Catch Worms From Dogs?
It’s unusual, but in short, yes. Humans, including children, can contract Roundworms, Hookworms, and Whipworms from dogs and although extremely rare, there have also been cases of Tapeworm transmission. They will usually go unnoticed in a human and the parasite will die by itself after a few months, but in some cases, symptoms of headaches, a high temperature, stomach ache, and/or a cough have been reported.
Using worming prevention treatments on your dog and having good hygiene in your home (regular hand washing before and after petting your dog, before and after eating, and communal towel washing) can reduce the risk of infection occurring dramatically.
If you also have a cat, they can contract these types of worms from your dog too and vice versa, so appropriate preventative methods should be taken on both animals in your home.