Preventing and Treating Worms in German Shepherds

Updated on July 23, 2019
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Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

German Shepherds are fantastic dogs—loyal, intelligent, and beautiful. Unfortunately, dogs are just as prone to health issues as humans are and this breed is often more prone to some conditions than other types of dogs.

One of the issues that you may have to prepare for when you have a German Shepherd is the growth of worms. There are many different forms of intestinal parasites that they can contract, and it’s important that you learn about these so that you can prepare for them and prevent them.

How Can My Dog Get Worms?

If your dog already has worms, then you might be curious as to how they would have contracted them. If they don’t have worms, then you’re probably interested in making sure that you can prevent them from getting worms as best as you can.

These are some of the most common reasons why German Shepherds contract worms.

  • Maternal Transfer

    Dogs can actually be born with worms; most often, in this case, the dog will be born with roundworms that were passed down through their mother. Dogs can also get worms by drinking the milk of a mother who has worms.

  • Eating Infested Meat

    German Shepherds like to hunt and it’s not rare to see them chasing and eating rodents, fleas, or other small animals. Unfortunately, these animals are just as liable to carry parasites, and your dog might catch them if they eat the wrong animal.

  • Being Outside

    Obviously you shouldn’t prevent your dog from going outside, otherwise, it’ll become very unhappy. But it’s important to remember that there is always the risk of picking up worms when your dog goes outside. They may ingest them, scratch themselves and pick them up, or find other ways to introduce worms into their body.

  • Bug Bites

    Mosquitos are known to be carriers of heartworm eggs and can pass these on to your pup if they get bitten.

Common German Shepherd Worms

There are a lot of different types of worms that your German Shepherd might get. These are among the most common:

Roundworms

Roundworms are common in dogs. There are two subspecies of roundworms that commonly concern dogs:

  • Toxicara canis is the more serious form of worm that can do more damage to your dog. This species can also be passed on to humans, and they can grow to be quite large (a few inches long).
  • Toxascaris leonina is less destructive but can still lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms. Much like other worms, roundworms eat the nutrients that your dog needs to grow strong.

Both types of worms are a cloudy white color and generally found in a cylinder shape.

Hookworms

Hookworms are another common parasite that can be found in dogs. They are much smaller than roundworms and they almost look like thread. Hookworms are named after their preferred feeding procedure: by hooking themselves on to the actual wall of your German Shepherd’s bowel, they are able to suck blood easily.

These can be destructive and they have sharp teeth that can lead to intestinal bleeding. Excessive bleeding can lead to anemia and other issues.

Whipworms

Whipworms might have a cool name, but they’re certainly not any less dangerous for your dog. Whipworms have very long necks attached to their bodies which are much shorter and more stout. They bury their necks into your dog’s intestinal walls, which can lead to bleeding and pain.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are segmented worms that look like long, interconnected rice grains. These are perhaps the most recognizable worm and also less dangerous than other parasites, though they can still consume nutrients and deplete your dog’s energy and comfort.

Heartworms

Heartworms aren’t as common in German Shepherds, but they take up residence on your dog’s heart. Enough heartworms can impede the heart from functioning properly, leading to death.

What Types of Worms Has Your German Shepherd Had?

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Symptoms of Having Parasites

If you think your German Shepherd has a parasite, then they are probably displaying a number of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms that can emerge as a result of intestinal worms and parasites can include:

  • Coughing. Heartworm can cause your dog to experience coughing; in some serious cases, roundworms and hookworms can cause coughing.

  • Diarrhea. Diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of worms.

  • Vomiting. Vomiting is also quite a common occurrence among dogs with worms.

  • Lethargy, lack of energy. Worms eat the nutrients that your dog needs to have energy, and thus dogs with worms are often lethargic.

  • Big belly. If your dog has a lot of worms, their stomach can appear swollen or larger than normal.

  • “Booty scooting.” If your dog is scooting around on the floor to scratch their behind, this could be an indication of worms.

  • Sudden weight loss. Weight loss is one of the most telling signs of a parasite infestation.

  • Lack of appetite or increased appetite. Some dogs lose their appetite as a result of pain caused by worms; others eat more in an attempt to compensate for what nutrients the worm is sapping from them.

Preventing and Treating Worms

The first thing to know is that there’s no sure-fire way to 100% prevent your dog from getting worms. Humans are at risk of getting worms, and dogs are at risk as well. Aside from confining your dog to an unhappy life, you’re always going to run the risk of getting worms.

Some dogs are more susceptible to it than others. We had two German Shepherds at the same time, having very similar lives, one never got any worms, the other did every couple of years.

  • Avoid letting your dog eat raw meat that you are unsure of. When in doubt just cook the meat.

  • You can use natural, dog-safe, essential-oil based bug repellent to prevent mosquito bites. We never had serious mosquito problems so we never use any repellents, but we probably wouldn't use DEET if the risks for parasites are small since it can be harmful to your dog.

  • Make sure that your dog gets regular worming and heartworm prevention treatment from your vet.

If your German Shepherd does get a worm, you’re going to want to go to your veterinarian and make sure that you can get the proper pharmaceutical treatment for them. When you have a puppy and you see him getting thinner don't wait to go to the vet to get worm treatment medication. You don't want to hamper your dog's growth.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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