How to Tell if Your Dog Has Worms
Worms are one of the most common health problems for a dog. Fortunately, most cases are also very treatable. Since your dog can't speak English, you need to be vigilant and watch for any unusual behavior.
Unfortunately some types of worms do not cause noticeable symptoms until they dog's health is at risk. But the most common types are fairly obvious.
Some signs that your dog may have worms include:
- Visible worms or eggs in the feces. This is the most common sign of infection. However, not all kinds are visible to the naked eye.
- Visible worms in fur or around dog's rear. Tapeworms in particular may appear as small moving segments which later dry out to resemble grains of rice.
- Scratching or rubbing of rear. If you dog scratches their bottom on the ground or against furniture, they may be itchy due to infection. Itchiness however can also have other causes.
- Visible worms in vomit.
- Bloated stomach or belly. This is often seen in puppies who get worms from their mother.
- Weakness, increased appetite, constant hunger, and weight loss. Worms steal their host's nutrition.
- Diarrhea, particularly with blood.
How Worms Spread
- Through mother. Newborn puppies can become infected by their mothers. Roundworm eggs form dormant cysts in adult dogs. These eggs themselves are not treatable, but are activated when the host dog becomes pregnant. A mother dog's milk can also pass roundworms to puppies.
- Dirt. Roundworm eggs and hookworm larvae can live in dirt. If you dog comes into contact with infected dirt, they can become infected.
- Fleas. Young tapeworms can reside in fleas, infecting a dog that swallows fleas while grooming.
- Hunting. Wild animals may carry worms. If your dog hunts or eats wildlife, it may become infected.
- Roundworms can grow up to six inches in length. They live in the intestines and appear as small, noodle-like bits in fecal matter. They cause swollen bellies and are an especially big problem for puppies.
- Hookworms are thin and small. They bite or "hook" into the intestinal wall and are not always visible to the naked eye. Hookworms can cause internal bleeding, resulting in bloody stool or anemia.
- Tapeworms are flat, long worms that live in the intestines. Segments of the tapeworm break off and are visible to the naked eye as rice-like grains after they dry out.
- Heartworms are among the most dangerous because they are so hard to detect. They are spread by mosquito bites. Normally, until the larvae mature and congregate inside the dog's heart, they produce no symptoms or signs of illness. Heart damage can be fatal. Signs of heartworm infection are weakness, coughing during exercise, severe weight loss, fainting, coughing up blood and, finally, congestive heart failure.
- Whipworms are thin and thread-like. They live in the large intestine. Adults may be visible to the naked eye, but do not tend to appear in feces so can be difficult to detect. A microscope examination of several fecal samples may be necessary. Whipworms are one of the most difficult worms to eliminate, but they are treatable.
How to Treat Your Dog
If you think your dog has worms, take your pet to the veterinarian.
There are safe and effective treatments available, which your vet will likely prescribe. For the most common types of worms, there are some all-in-one medications in flavored chewable tablets.
- Iverhart Max tablets are used to treat common worm conditions. The tables include three active ingredients: ivermectin, to prevent heartworm, pyrantel pamoate, to treat roundworms and hookworms, and praziquantel, to treat tapeworms.
- Selamectin is also used to treat and prevent heartworms, hookworms, and roundworms.
- Milbemycin oxime is used to prevent heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and some whipworms.
- Paziquantel is used to treat tapeworms.
Some vets even recommend that especially vulnerable dogs take monthly tablets to prevent worms.