Help! My Dog Has Worms!
So you have worms! Actually, let me rephrase that, your DOG has worms! Yuck. Though worms are gross, they are a very common canine problem. In fact, they are so common that some pups are even born with them! The good news is that veterinary medicine has come a long way, and there are many different ways to rid your four-legged friend of these nasty parasites.
Most worms live inside of your dog’s intestinal tract. The most common worms are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. The most common symptoms of worm infestation are diarrhea and vomiting. Heavy worm loads (yes, I know, sounds lovely!) may cause more serious problems such as anemia, loss of appetite, and malnutrition. In a nutshell, worms tend to suck the life right out of Fido. They live off of your dog’s blood, as well as the food in your pet’s body.
Roundworms look like pasta: like strings of spaghetti, in fact. They are easy to detect, as they can be spotted in your dog’s feces or in some cases their vomit (I hope you aren’t eating lunch as you read this!). As previously mentioned, roundworms live in their host’s intestinal tract. So how does Fido get roundworms? Well, one way is through eating a contaminated substance such as old dog poop that he just so happens to find on his daily walk (as yucky as it may sound, many dogs do in fact like to eat old dog poop). Dogs can also get them if they play with, roll in, or God forbid, eat a dead rodent. Puppies get roundworms from their mothers when they are born (she transmits larvae during birth or when nursing). It is very important that you bring a poop sample to the vet when you go for your dog’s yearly check-up as they can determine if you furry friend is infested. Obviously, if your dog has signs of a possible worm problem, don’t wait for his yearly health check (make an appointment as soon as possible!).
So now that you know your dog has roundworms, how do you get rid of them? Well, you don’t…but your veterinarian will! Your vet will most likely prescribe a de-wormer such as PROWormer-2 or Safe-Guard Granules. Basically, these medications anesthetize the mature worms living within your dog which will then allow Fido to pass them. De-worming is not quick. It can take several treatments to rid your pup of worms completely.
Just like roundworms, hookworms are also a common canine problem. There are several ways that your dog can become infected with hookworms, including through the skin, ingestion (eating contaminated food and or water), through a mother dog’s contaminated milk, or through the mother's reproductive tract (when pups are born). If you are anxious to see a hookworm, don’t bother looking for one, as they are microscopic and can’t be seen with the human eye. They are virtually invisible! Symptoms of hookworms include pale gums, black poop, lethargy, and dull, dry hair. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
As with roundworms, your vet will prescribe a de-wormer in order to rid your friend of hookworms. Because hookworms can cause other problems, your dog may need supportive care while being de-wormed (such as a special diet or iron supplements).
Ah, the mighty tapeworm! Fresh tapeworms tend to look like tiny white squares in your pet's poop. They are very common in dogs and cats and can be easily treated. Tapeworms are most commonly transmitted by fleas. Though not pretty to look at, tapeworms don’t do a great deal of harm unless untreated for a long period of time (this is NOT to say that you shouldn’t take your pet to the vet!). Common tapeworm symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and anal itching (that doesn’t sound fun).
Tapeworms are treated with a medication called praziquantel (did you get that?). It is available in oral as well as injectable form. Your veterinarian will tell you what treatment is best for your dog.
Whip it, whip it good!! Sorry, I can’t help but think of the popular 80’s group Devo when I think about whipworms. Anyway, whipworms, like tapeworms, are microscopic little guys…unable to be seen by the human eye. They are common in dogs and found throughout the United States. Whipworms are two to three inches long and are very thin. A dog can become infected by ingesting food or water that just so happens to be contaminated with whipworm eggs (yummy!). Once Fido swallows the eggs, they hatch and in three months (give or take a few days) the larvae mature into adults who then begin sucking the blood out of your poor, unsuspecting pooch. Because these little worms love blood, they can cause your dog to become dehydrated and anemic. They can also cause nutritional problems.
De-wormers that are effective against whipworms include Safe-Guard Granules, Panacur, and Interceptor (which is also a heartworm preventative). Once your dog is diagnosed with whipworms, your vet will let you know the best course of treatment.
Ask Your Vet
As you have probably figured out by now, worms are nasty little buggers that can cause serious canine health issues. If you suspect that your dog has worms, take him or her to the vet as soon as possible. The faster you begin treatment, the better. De-worming medications have come a long way and there are a variety to choose from. Heartworm preventatives are also available (such as Heartgard-30 Plus), so be sure to ask your veterinarian what is best for your dog. Good luck and may you and your dog live a happy and worm-free life! Woof!