It’s a fact- dogs get worms. All animals are susceptible to internal parasites, even our cuddly best friends. But if you have spotted worms in your dog’s feces, chances are you are a bit freaked out! Now relax, and take a deep breath, because worm infections are completely preventable, even in your four-legged explorer who may get their nose into everything. With knowledge and the right tools, your dog can live worm free!
First, you’ll need to know the enemy, and the ways your dog can contract them.
Types of Worms
Generally, worms that infect dogs are divided into three broad categories, namely nematodes, cestodes, and other worms.
Nematodes are cylindrical cream-colored worms that live in the intestines, heart, lungs or other organs. Roundworms, or ascarids, are the most common worms found in dogs, and live in the intestinal tract. Hookworms latch onto the lining of their host's intestines and live off the host’s blood. Whipworms are thread-like parasites that inhabit both the colon and the small intestines.
Cestodes, more commonly known as tapeworms, are flattened worms that live exclusively in the intestines. These internal parasites can cause severe diseases as they consume the essential nutrients in the host's food, block the intestinal tract, or damage its walls. The most recognized dog tapeworm uses fleas and lice as their intermediate hosts.
include heartworms which spread through mosquito bites and live in the heart and
pulmonary arteries. Dogs can contract lungworms from eating earthworms,
crayfish, or through their mother’s saliva. The rare worm Spirocerca lupi creates
nodules in the dog's esophagus and impairs swallowing, while the rare worm Dioctophyma
renale lives in the kidney and causes deterioration.
Signs of Worm Infestation
If your dog has been infected with worms, you may see:
- Diarrhea, with or without blood
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Poor coat quality
- Skin irritation
- Persistent cough
- Weight loss
- Increased or reduced appetite
- Severe abdominal pain
- Pale gums
- Diminished overall health
- Rubbing or dragging anal area on ground
- Presence of worms around anal area
- Presence of worms in stool, visually ranging from grains of rice to spaghetti
Methods of Infection
Your dog can contract worms by ingesting parasite eggs or having direct contact with parasite larvae. This can occur through contact with or ingestion of contaminated materials or animals, such as:
- Feces or vomit
- Mother's milk, placenta or saliva
- Flea or mosquito bites
- Wildlife, including earthworms, crayfish, birds, reptiles, and rodents
No matter which worm your dog may come into contact with, they are all dangerous invaders that can cause serious health problems for your best bud. But you can protect your dog from these parasites through routine prevention strategies.
Let’s face it- dogs love to explore their environment with their mouths. They love to eat, lick, and taste everything from sticks and rocks, to bugs and other animals, to anything they think may be yummy. The larvae of many types of worms are transmitted by ingestion. Some worms can be transmitted through the mother to her puppies, and even others, like heartworm, can be transmitted by a simple mosquito bite.
Using routine prevention methods can help guard your dog against these foreign invaders, and keep your pup healthy and happy. Here are some ways you can protect your pup from a worm infestation.
- Deworming - Most dogs go through a deworming as puppies, or when adopted. Whether an oral medication or injection, a dewormer will kill any worms present so that they can be expelled from the body. If a dog becomes infected throughout its lifetime, a dewormer will be used again.
- Routine Checkups -
Your dog should go in for routine health checks yearly with your veterinarian, who can keep an eye on any possible infestations. A stool sample can catch nematode and cestode
worm infestations, while a blood test can detect other worm infestations, such as
heartworm. In some cases, such as in certain geographical locations or for hunting
dogs, worm testing can be done 2 to 4 times yearly.
- Routine Prevention - Using a monthly parasite control product approved by your veterinarian is the best prevention method against a worm infestation. Topical spot treatments and oral chews are available for monthly dosing of your dog to keep them protected from fleas, mosquitoes, and many types of worms. Injections are also available to prevent worms.
- Keep the Environment Clean –
This means to pick up dog feces as soon as possible. It’s best to do a stool
check in the yard, or areas your dog frequents, 1 to 3 times weekly to
eliminate this possible mode of transmission. Be sure to wash your hands often
after you pet any animals, handle raw meat, or pick up feces, as you can transfer worms too. Cover sandboxes to
keep wildlife from getting in and possibly contaminating that environment.
- Keep Your Dog From Possible Contamination– Prevent your dog from eating wild animals, like rodents, and away from places that breed contamination, such as dumpsters. Be sure that you immediately dispose of any feces in sealable bags when visiting parks and public areas, and keep your dog away from other animals’ feces.
By routinely practicing these simple prevention methods, you can keep your dog healthy and living a worm-free life.