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What are Roundworms?

Infection with intestinal parasitic roundworms (called ascarids) is very common in dogs. Roundworm eggs are ingested from the soil or feces. The eggs hatch and adults feed off of nutrients in the small intestines, causing digestive issues and damaging the intestinal wall. Since infection is very common in puppies, the breeder or veterinarian will normally deworm puppies as a rule. Since an infected pet can pass millions of eggs each day and the worms can also cause disease in humans, it is important to deworm pets and wash hands regularly. Dogs become infected with ascarids via ingestion of larvated eggs from a contaminated environment, such as feces, and ingestion of other vertebrate hosts that have consumed larvated eggs and thus have larvae in their tissues. All dogs should be screened for intestinal parasites, including parasitic roundworms, at least four times in the first year of life and at least two times per year in adults depending on patient health and lifestyle factors.

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Roundworms Average Cost

From 33 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Roundworms in Dogs

Roundworms live in the small intestines as adults. In the larval stage, they can reside in other organs including the lungs. Symptoms may not be observed at all with roundworm infection, however, the following gastrointestinal (GI) tract and respiratory symptoms may be observed:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Adult worms in stool and/or vomit (adult worms are a white or tan color and can be 3-7 inches long. They have the appearance of “spaghetti.”)
Types

There are two common types of roundworm that infect dogs. Each can be carried in rodents and has a unique lifecycle.

  • Toxocara canis

    – This ascarid infects dogs through 4 routes: Pet eggs on feces or vomit, pet eats a small rodent carrying larvae, pup infected with larvae from mother through the placenta, or pup infected with larvae from mother through nursing. After the dog eats the eggs, the larvae hatch and enter the bloodstream. They then enter the lungs, are coughed up and swallowed, and develop into adults in the small intestine where they feed and lay more eggs.

  • Toxascaris leonine

    – This ascarid infects dogs through 2 routes: The pet eats eggs on feces or vomit or eats a small rodent carrying larvae. After the dog eats the eggs, the larvae hatch and develop into adults in the small intestine where they feed and lay more eggs.

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Causes of Roundworms in Dogs

Dogs are able to become infected with roundworms through the following routes:

  • Eating feces from an infected animal
  • Eating an infected small rodent
  • Eating vomit from an infected animal
  • Pup infected through the infected mother in utero.
  • Pup infected through nursing from infected mother.
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Diagnosis of Roundworms in Dogs

If you have noted symptoms of roundworm infection or have seen adult worms in your pet’s stool or vomit, you will want to take your pet to the vet for treatment. If possible, bring a sample of stool less than 24 hours old for the vet to run a fecal analysis.

Physical examination will usually note a swollen abdomen often seen with roundworm infection along with reports of weight loss, inadequate weight gain in puppies or coughing. If you are unable to supply a fecal sample from home, your vet can take a sample at the clinic.

The diagnosis of roundworm infection is done through a fecal floatation. In this test, a sample of feces from your pet is mixed with a liquid solution that causes the worm eggs to float to the top of the mixture. The top layer is placed on a slide and viewed under the microscope. Roundworm eggs are easily identified. A sample of feces or vomit containing adult worms is also diagnostic.

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Treatment of Roundworms in Dogs

Roundworm infection is common and treatment is fairly straightforward. A variety of oral deworming drugs are available to kill the adult roundworm, including pyrantel, milbemycin, fenbenzadole and moxidectin.

Deworming medication does not kill the eggs of the roundworm. Depending on the medication’s length of action in the body, your pet may need to be treated one to three times to get rid of the adults and the newly hatched worms. In the case of the three-dose regimen, the pet will receive one initial dose, then two more doses 7-10 days apart (allowing time for existing eggs to hatch and become susceptible to the medication).

Puppies can be dewormed as early as 2 weeks of age, depending on the medication. It is important to clearly understand the instructions for the dewormer if you are planning to administer it yourself. Each medication varies in the age, dosage and treatment schedule. Using a dewormer in an animal too young for that medication can be life threatening.

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Recovery of Roundworms in Dogs

Follow the veterinarians instructions carefully, being sure to administer follow-up doses of dewormer on the correct schedule. For animals who are being treated for roundworms, a repeat fecal analysis is recommended at 2 and 4 weeks to ensure that no roundworm infection is remaining.

One adult roundworm can produce up to 80,000 eggs daily, so exposure is common. Puppies should have fecal tests done every 3-6 months. Adult dogs are recommended to have their feces tested for intestinal parasites every 6-12 months.

Prevention of roundworm infection can be helped by deworming puppies early, deworming any new pets, preventing pets from eating rodents, keeping bedding and dishes clean, giving a monthly roundworm prevention (included in some heartworm treatments), and running fecal tests regularly.

Human roundworm infection is rare but possible. Direct contact with animals doesn’t normally cause infection since eggs have to be ingested after resting outside of animals for 14 days. Infection in humans will normally come from ingesting soil or feces from infected animals. Washing hands regularly is the best preventative of human infection.

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Roundworms Average Cost

From 33 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Roundworms Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Baxter

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Sheltie

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5 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Roundworms

Is it necessary to deworm your dog if he is already taking interceptor plus? He was given interceptor last month and passed 2 dead worms. He had a stool sample tested this week and the vet said they found a few round worm eggs. They recommemnded giving him a dewormer even though he is scheduled to take another dose of interceptor plus in 2 weeks.

Sept. 1, 2018

Baxter's Owner

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Kate

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Golden Retriever

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9 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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5 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Roundworms

We recently got a puppy who has roundworms (diagnosed by stool sample at vet). The puppy has been given Heartguard and Strongid and will be rechecked in 2-3 weeks. The problem is that the puppy licked my children's cheeks and chin on our car ride home before I knew anything about these worms. In addition, she had two fecal accidents in the house which I cleaned with hot water and spray cleaner but I am reading that it is almost impossible to kill the eggs. My daughter accidentally bit her nail after touching the top of the puppy's head. I have read that eggs must mature in the environment in order to be able to infect someone but on the way home from where we got her she sat in the car and on the kids' laps, licked them etc. and I have no way of knowing if she was walking through or sitting in matured eggs before we got her home. I am very scared that they have contracted or will contract the worms and will develop the manifestation of the worms in their eyes and be blind. I am worrying myself sick over this and haven't slept well in 3 days. I have stressed the importance of washing their hands and they claim to be washing them every time they touch the dog but I just know one of them will forget on some occasion. I have steam cleaned my floors (laminate) but I don't know if the steamer gets hot enough to kill the eggs. I also clean up all poop immediately but since the poop is soft it is hard to get every last bit. She is currently pooping on the concrete so it will be easier to clean and receive direct sunlight. Can you please provide some reassurance?

July 21, 2018

Kate's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

While infections in humans with roundworms do occur, they are incredibly rare, especially if you consider the probability that almost every puppy born has roundworms at some point. We routinely deworm dogs and cats to get rid of these parasites, and the medications that we use are thankfully quite effective at killing them. The chances that your children have been exposed to any level of danger are very slim, although of course good hygiene is recommended, and if they are showing any signs of eye irritation or diarrhea, they should see their pediatrician.

July 22, 2018

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Roundworms Average Cost

From 33 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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