If you are a dog owner, you’ve probably found yourself worrying a time or two about your dog having worms. It is not the harmless earthworms in your backyard that you worry about. It is the parasitic type that can wreak havoc on the digestive system of your furry pal that causes concern. Unfortunately, many dogs will find themselves victims to these parasitic creatures. And, as your dog’s ‘parent,’ it is up to you to help your dog get better. Both prevention and treatment are important parts of dog ownership. The most common types of worms in dogs are tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, heartworms, and whipworms. Luckily, if your dog has worms, there are things that you can look out for to help your dog return to their happy, healthy self.
The five most common types of worms all present themselves a bit differently, but there are some common symptoms of worm presence that you should know how to identify. If you notice any of the following signs in your dog, they may have intestinal worms:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Lackluster coat
- Abdominal pain
- Appearance of a pot belly
Heartworms present a little bit differently and cause more problems in the respiratory system. These problems may present as weak pulse, weight loss, coughing, intolerance to exercise, labored breathing, and pale gums.
Easily the most troublesome, yet most preventable worms that can occur in dogs are heartworms. As the name suggests, they grow within the heart. If left untreated they can cause death. They are transmitted by mosquitoes, which are nearly impossible to avoid. For this reason, it is essential to give your dog heartworm preventatives. In the case of heartworms, prevention is the best way to deal with the issue. Treatment for existing heartworms can be costly, time-consuming, and come with very serious side effects. Treatment usually requires restrictions on exercise, which can make dogs irritable.
Dipylidium caninum, the most common type of tapeworm, is transmitted through fleas. Other types of tapeworms can be transmitted when a dog eats wild animals that are infested with fleas or tapeworms. This intestinal parasite is treatable, but once again, prevention is preferred. By minimizing your dog’s risk of a flea infestation (through anti-flea medication), you can greatly reduce the likelihood that your furry friend will contract tapeworms. If you think your dog may have tapeworms, you can bring a stool sample to your veterinarian’s office. They will check for eggs or pieces of tapeworms.
The most common form of intestinal worms, roundworms come in two forms: Toxocara Canis and Toxascaris Leonina. Toxocara Canis, or T Canis, is commonly found in newborn puppies. These worms can actually be transmitted to humans, so it is important that your puppy gets to a vet’s office soon after they are born.
The scariest thing about whipworms is that their eggs can survive up to five years in warm, moist environments. This makes it essential that you clean up any fecal matter that your dog may deposit, as the eggs are present in the stool of dogs that have these worms. While mild cases of whipworms may not show any symptoms, more severe cases can lead to weight loss, diarrhea, inflammation, and even anemia. As with the other worms, whipworms can be diagnosed by a veterinarian via a stool sample.
Sometimes fatal in young puppies, hookworms live in the intestine and can cause anemia, as they survive by consuming the blood of your dog. They are transmitted via the environment, or, in some cases, when a puppy consumes their mother’s milk. Hookworms can be diagnosed with a stool sample and treated with medication.
Worms in dogs and any other animal are no joke. It is important that, as a dog owner, you monitor your dog’s behavior and keep an eye out for symptoms. It is also important that you have preventative measures in place. Make sure to clean up any fecal matter immediately, regularly give your dog preventative medication for fleas and heartworms, and visit the veterinarian on a regular basis. If you have a newborn puppy, make sure to get them to the vet every 3-4 weeks during their first 16 weeks of life. A yearly visit is recommended for adult dogs, and twice yearly is recommended for dogs 10 years or older.