Dog Intestinal Worms
There are a number of worms that your dog can contract, and it is important that you get your dog dewormed at the appropriate age, as a severe infestation can become fatal in young puppies.
Puppies and youner dogs are more succesptible to contracting worms than adult dogs are, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't have your adult dog checked during his regular vet exam.
Although, you can see some worms in a dog's stool or vomit, not all worms can be identified that way. A vet will take a fecal sample during a routine vet exam to check the stool under a microscope for signs of worm segments or eggs, so that your dog can be treated sooner than later.
Types of Worms
Hookworms: Hookworms are small, thin worms. Hookworms hook to the walls of the small intestine and suck the blood. Dogs can contract hookworms from contaminated soil, when the dog, or puppy, digs and plays in the dirt, he can come into contact with the larvae, which become adults once in the intestine. Young puppies can also contract hookworms from the mother dog, either while in the uterus or from the milk while nursing; severe hookworm infestation can be fatal to puppies, but generally hookworms is not a problem with older dogs. You want to look for diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and weakness. A vet can properly diagnose hookworms by looking at a fecal sample under the microscope.
Roundworms: Roundworms are typically long and round; they can reach an average of about 7 inches long. Roundworms are very common in puppies, and this type of worm is what causes the plump belly in a young puppy. Dogs can contract roundworms by contaminated soil. Basically, the larva crawls up the windpipe and the dog swallows it; once the worm eggs are in the body, they hatch in the intestines, the worms grow into adults. Female roundworms can produce up to 200,000 eggs each day, which can travel to the lungs by the bloodstream. Puppies are more commonly susceptible to roundworms, as the larvae can encyst in the mother's tissues and activate during the last stage of the pregnancy. Roundworms can be seen in the dog, or pup's, stool or vomit, so it's not 100% necessary to see a vet in this case, although a vet can prescribe the best wormers. However, you can use over-the-counter dewormers to rid your pup of roundworms; just remember that if you're not using the proper dosage, you can harm your pup.
Tapeworms: Tapeworms are a smaller worm, but like hookworms and roundworms, they are a small intestine parasite. Dogs and puppies can contract tapeworms from ingesting fleas or eating wildlife infected with fleas or tapeworms. You can normally see segments of tapeworms in your dog's stool, which are typically flat and look like rice when dried. A vet is the only place where you can get a good wormer against tapeworms.
Whipworms: Whipworms look like pieces of string with one enlarged end. Whipworms live in the cecum, which is the first section of the large intestine. A vet is the best person to diagnose and treat whipworms, as they typically cannot be seen in the stool or vomit, but only under a microscope.
Other common types of worms include:
- Flatworms which inhabit the intestines, lungs, and liver
- Lungworms which are a type of round worm found in the lungs
- Heartworms which are a type of roundworm found in the heart, and is commonly found in adult dogs
Signs of Worms
Although, some types of worms will not show any signs of infestation until in the later stages, such as in a pregnant female dog where roundworms activate during the last stage of pregnancy where the puppies are then infested.
In many cases, the worm larvae will lie dormant until times of stress where they are then activated, which can be the case of some roundworms- again the example being a pregnant female dog.
Common signs of worms can include:
- Anemia (pale skin and gums)
- Bloody stool
- Dry hair
- Dull coat
- General poor appearance
- Pot-belly (mostly in pups)
- Skin lesions
- Tail skidding (dog rubs butt on the carpet)
- Visible signs of worms or worm segments in stool, vomit, or around the anus dried in the fur
- Weight loss
Treating Intestinal Worms
There are a number of different treatments for worms, mostly depending on the type of worm and the severity of the infestation. But, the best treatment for worms is prevention, which can easily be achieved by worming dogs under one year, puppies especially should follow the schedule of deworming medicines. Heartworm medicine should be provide for puppies 4 months and older, and a flea and tick preventative should also be used.
Regular vet exams can catch intestinal worms sooner than later, which is the ideal situation for treatment. After a fecal sample is taken, and the vet determines what type of worms your dog has after looking under the microscrope, a treatment will be prescribed accordingly.
There are several drugs that your vet may prescribe and depending on the severity of the infestation, your dog may only need a heartworm pill to start flushing his body of the worms, and then of course regular heartworm pills. Heartworm pills contain anti-parasite medications (varying depending on the type of heartworm prevention), so they can be used to treat even roundworms.
Medicines used as treatment for intestinal worms include:
- Roundworms: Pyrantel pamoate (Nemex) or fenbendazole (Panacur)
- Hookworms: Pyrantel pamoate or Fenbendazole (Panacur)
- Whipworms: Fenbendazole (Panacur)
- Physaloptera (stomach worm): Pyrantel pamoate (Nemex)
- Strongyloides: Fenbendazole (Panacur) or pyrantel pamoate (Strongid T, Nemex)
- Tapeworms: Praziquantel (Droncit), epsiprantel (Cestex) or febantel + praziquantel (Versom)
- Coccidia: Sulfadimethoxine or trimethoprim-sulfa
- Giardia: Metronidazole (Flagyl)
Regular Worming Schedule
Prevent Intestinal Worms
Again, the most important for treating intestinal worms is preventing it. You can take simple steps to preventing your puppy or dog from contracting an intestinal parasite.
- Stick to routine vaccinations, dewormings, and vet exams
- Keep any area where the puppy or dog will be kept clean, such as outdoor kennels and sleeping areas
- Use a flea and tick prevention
- Use a heartworm prevention
- Prevent unsupervised hunting
- Remove feces from your yard regularly
- Wash your hands after playing with another dog
- Don't feed raw meat or offal; base your dog's staple diet on a high quality dog food
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.