A significant component of being a reliable dog owner is ensuring that the pet always remains healthy. No one can intentionally risk their dog’s health. However, sometimes worrisome issues like worms can develop inside your furry friend without you realizing it.
A dog can develop serious health issues if it stays with these untreated parasites. For this reason, every dog owner should know the risks, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for worms in these pets.
Types of worms in dogs
- Types of worms in dogs
- Signs and symptoms
- Final thought on worms
Five different types of worms can affect domestic dogs.
These are the most common dog worms. They resemble wet spaghetti and can grow up to 3-5 inches long. Toxascaris leonin and Toxocara canis are the two common roundworm species affecting dogs. They absorb nutrients from the pet’s organs.
In the early development stages, roundworm larvae infect the animal’s intestinal tract. As they mature, they move into other tissues and organs. For example, the Toxocara canis larvae migrate into the lungs and airway. A dog can acquire roundworms by contacting another animal’s infected feces or milk from its infected mother.
Tapeworms have flat, segmented bodies that can grow up to 8 inches long. They live in the dog’s small intestines and their six rows of teeth to grab the intestine walls and absorb nutrients during digestion.
A dog can also acquire these worms by ingesting a host, such as a bird, carrying the tapeworm eggs. When excreted, the worm usually split into tiny rice grain-like segments.
They are the smallest dog worms. They primarily reside in the small intestines and feed on blood. For this reason, a dog with hookworms can develop life-threatening anemia. They affect dogs of all ages but are fatal to puppies. Hookworms pass from one dog to another through feces.
These worms live in the dog’s cecum and colon. Vets consider whipworms the most harmful dog worms because they are more geographically distinct and can severely damage these animals’ organs. They can also move into the small intestines if they stay for an extended period without treatment.
As the name suggests, heartworms reside in the dog’s heart and pulmonary arteries. They travel through the body for approximately six months and finally rest in the circulatory system.
They can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated before reaching the advanced stages of infestation. Heartworms’ primary mode of transmission is the bite of an infected mosquito.
Also referred to as dermatophytosis, ringworm is a fungal skin disease that causes lesions and sores on the dog’s epidermal layer. The interesting aspect of ringworm is that it is caused by an infection of the dead skin and hair layers. This condition is quite painful.
Signs and symptoms
The following are the warning symptoms that indicate that your dog has worms.
Coughing is the most common symptom of heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms in dogs. This cough is usually dry and persistent. Your pet can cough after exercising if the heartworms and roundworms are in the early stages of development. This is because these worms move into the lungs and block the oxygenated blood.
Dogs with hookworms cough only if the infestation is severe. Therefore, homeowners should contact a vet immediately if they notice their dog coughing more frequently, persistently, and weakly. Ignoring the sign can lead to fatal cases.
Vomiting is a common symptom of different types of worms in dogs. For example, a yellow-green substance signifies whipworm infestation. On the other hand, roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms can cause a dog to vomit visible worms.
However, you should remember that your furry friend might be vomiting due to other health issues, such as stomach upset or indigestion. Therefore, you should ensure that you consult a vet if your dog is vomiting frequently.
In most cases, canines have diarrhea or develop soft stool from worms. Seeking treatment from a vet as soon as possible is necessary and can prevent dehydration that prolonged diarrhea causes. You might also notice some bloodstains in the stool if the dog has hookworms.
If left untreated, bloody diarrhea causes chronic bloody diarrhea. Blood loss is a severe risk for your pet, especially if it has a worm infestation. For instance, it can lead to lethargy, heart failure, or high blood pressure.
Having a belly that looks bloated or pot-shaped is another sign of worms in dogs. This symptom is more common for roundworms because they usually block the pet’s intestines. You are also more likely to notice it in puppies that have picked the parasites from their mothers through the placenta before birth or during nursing.
Shortness of breath
Lungworms affect a dog’s breathing system. This means that they can easily cause shortness of breath because the air does not flow smoothly in and out of the body. However, this symptom can also signify other health issues like asthma. Consulting a vet about this issue can help you define whether these parasites are the primary causes.
A dog that is less active and energetic than usual may be showing signs of worms. Roundworms, tapeworms, heartworms, and other different types of internal parasites take away the pet’s blood and nutrients and hence decrease its energy.
Hookworms are more dangerous because they can cause high blood loss in puppies and cause their death. If your dog is acting weak or less energetic, you should consult a professional vet promptly to prevent potentially life-threatening situations.
A sudden change in appetite
Worms, especially roundworms, can cause the dog to change its appetite suddenly. The dog can lose its appetite or have increased hunger. The dog might also lose weight despite increasing its appetite.
Rapid weight loss
Several factors can cause your furred friend to lose weight rapidly. Worm infestation is one of those causes. These parasites feed on the blood and vital nutrients that sustain the dog’s healthy weight.
In the case of worms, the weight does not depend on the increased dog’s appetite because the added nutrients benefit the parasites and not the pet. Consulting an experienced vet when you notice a drastic weight loss in your dog will help you determine whether it is due to worms or other health issues.
It is correct to say that a healthy dog has soft, shiny, thick skin and fur. On the contrary, the presence of worms in the dog’s stomach, lungs, or circulatory system can cause its coat to dry out and become dull. Pets with ringworms have such pale fur.
Worms can also cause pets to experience significant hair loss. Some dogs even lose their rashes. Worms are not the only factors that can cause the pup to lose hair. For this reason, you should consider consulting a vet to define the specific issue and the proper treatment.
Itching and skin irritation
Severe worm infestation can also cause severe itching and skin irritation in dogs. For example, you might notice that the pet has a rash.
Visible worms in the fur or feces
Tapeworms can leave the dog’s internal body and settle on its fur or anus. They also appear on the pet’s stool. Dog owners should look out for small, flat, and moving segments in these areas. They often look like small pieces of rice or hard yellow specks.
A dog can scoot because of different issues with its anal glands. This problem is also common among dogs with worms. These parasites cause itching in the bottom area, and the pet has to rub its rear end on the floor to relieve the itch. You might notice the pet licking or biting its bottom in severe cases. Frequent scratching or biting can cause this area to swell.
A dog’s skin is likely to swell when the intestinal worms migrate through the skin and other body organs. A dog cannot have healthy skin without adequate nutrients.
Lack of growth
This sign and symptom are more common in young puppies, especially those born with worms in their bellies. They are less likely to grow normally because the worms suck their blood and take nutrients from their systems.
When diagnosing worms, vets usually evaluate these signs and symptoms. They also look for the parasites’ eggs through a microscopic examination. When you contact a vet, he or she will request you to bring them a stool sample to detect the worms or rule them out as a cause of the identified issues.
Vets also conduct blood tests to diagnose the infestation of heartworms in dogs. In some cases, an ultrasound, radiograph, or echocardiogram is required for diagnosis when the infestation is in its early stages, and the dog shows few or no symptoms.
Dog worms are treatable. The treatment is more effective when these parasites are diagnosed in the earlier stages of infestation. Treating worms improves your dog’s health and prevents loss of unconsciousness, damage to internal organs, and death. It also prevents the pet from spreading these parasites.
The appropriate treatment method depends on various factors, such as the type of worm and the vet’s diagnosis. The most effective treatments that dog owners should know about include;
When the veterinarian concludes that your pet has worms, he or she will prescribe the right deworming medication. Ensure that you follow the appropriate administration protocol for the treatment to be successful. The drugs can be oral or injectable.
According to vets, puppies should take dewormers for the first time when they are 2-3 weeks old. The mother can pass worms to the puppy before or after birth. In most cases, the puppies take two deworming doses to ensure that the worms that hatch after the first treatment also die.
The deworming medication works differently for different types of worms. For example, it breaks down tapeworms in the intestinal tract. It is difficult to see the small pieces in the feces. It also detaches the roundworms from the intestinal tract and enables the dog to excrete them into the stool.
The medication also kills hookworms, but only those at the adulthood stage. Vets usually prescribe another treatment after 2-4 weeks to kill the hookworms that were young during the first medication.
For the medication to be effective, dogs should take the deworming medicines at 3 or 4 weeks intervals. They should also repeat the dose after 3 months to prevent re-infestation.
Professional veterinarians indicate that dogs with heartworms should take dewormers, heart medications, diuretics, and eat special diets, depending on the severity of the infestation. The cheapest high-quality dog food will meet your puppy’s nutritional needs and boost its overall health during and after the treatment.
Dog owners can also use natural alternatives to treat and prevent dog worms. These deworming agents include pumpkin seeds, coconuts, carrots, turmeric, and apple cider vinegar. Most of these products paralyze the parasites and make them easy to eliminate. They are also excellent sources of nutrients and help replace the nutrients that the worms take from the dogs.
Always remember that prevention is the best and most effective medicine for dog worms. Dog owners should administer preventive medication at least monthly to protect their furry friends from infestation.
Besides preventive medication, dog owners should also take various preventive measures to ensure that their pets and people in their homes are not at risk of contracting dog worms.
These measures include;
- Performing fecal examinations at least two times per year
- Cleaning the backyard as regularly as possible
- Maintaining hygienic conditions inside and outside the home compound
- Limiting the dogs’ exposure to fecal matter, contaminated soil, and infected locations, animals, and objects
Dog owners should consider consulting a professional vet before purchasing and administering any medication for the worms. The expert will determine the severity of the worm infestation and advise you on the proper treatment and instructions to follow.
Final thought on worms
In summary, every dog owner should be responsible enough to understand dog worms’ signs, symptoms, risks, and treatment options. Worm infestation affects the pet’s appetite, fur, weight, and general health. Receiving the proper worm treatment as early as possible can prevent serious consequences like death. They should always take their pets for annual worm testing because early diagnosis and treatment increase the success rate.
Brad cannot remember life without dogs around, and he simply can’t live without them! He created Dog Nerdz to provide owners with crucial tips and essential info to be the best dog owner they can be. He has learned so much over the years about how to look after his precious pup Boogie!