There are five main types of worms in dogs; tapeworms, heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Each has both common and unique symptoms. Often times, symptoms of worms in dogs will not appear until the infestation is quite serious. Once symptoms are present, it is very important to seek proper treatment because dog worms can cause serious complications such as anemia, anorexia and even seizures and death.
Treatment for worms in dogs is usually very effective but does require a few times to completely clear the worms and the worm larvae from your dog’s system. Not only that, but re-infestations are very common when it comes to dog worms, because they can live in soil around the yard for up to 7 years. It is important to keep your home clean while dealing with dog worms, as well as keep the yard free from any feces during treatment. Usually worm eggs will remain in your dog’s system for a few months while in treatment, so cleaning up after your infected dog will help to prevent re-infestations and infecting other animals in the home.
Some worms in dogs are contagious to humans. It is important to be able to tell the difference between different worm infections and how to protect your dog, your children, as well as yourself. Be informed about worms in dogs today.
What will you find here?
We cover symptoms and treatment options for all five different types of worms in dogs. We discuss how your dog may have contracted a specific worm infection, as well as provide a list of common and uncommon symptoms for each.
From minor worm cases such as tapeworms to severe infections such as heartworms. We provide readers with information regarding treatment options for each worm infestation, and how you can help to prevent worms in your dog.
Although dog worms can affect any breed of any age, the most vulnerable to worms is puppies. Puppy worms are very common, about 90%-98% of puppies are actually born with worms in their system. Puppies are very vulnerable and can very easily die if they are not dewormed and treated as soon as possible.
Worms in dogs should never be ignored, as they will not go away on their own. Even though your dog may not show symptoms for a few months, it is important to keep up on veterinarian exams and vaccinations, as well as protect your dog from possible worm infections.
What kind of worms do dogs get?
Worms are an internal parasite that usually lives in the intestines of a dog. There are many different types of worms that may affect dogs. There are two main categories of worms in dogs; the intestinal parasites, as well as a fungal infection. The 5 main types of dog worms are:
Each of these types of worms in dogs has both common and unique symptoms. Common symptoms of worms in dogs include bloated stomach, weakness, diarrhea containing worms and poor skin and fur condition. Some are very easy to diagnose and are actually visible to the eye, whereas some are a little more difficult to determine and treat.
what causes worms in dogs?
Dogs can become infected with worms in many different ways. Some may remain dormant with no symptoms until awakened by stressful situations, pregnancy, and illness. Some worms may be caught by mosquitos, consuming feces and rotten garbage, even from wild animals and other dogs.
Puppies may actually be born and infected with worms. Some parasitic worms will remain dormant in the pregnant mother until she is due to give birth. Unfortunately, you cannot get rid of these worms until they have infected the pups. Some mothers will even pass worms to their puppies through their milk.
Symptom of Worms in Dogs
Dog Worms Symptoms of worms in dogs can be beneficial in diagnosing which type of worm may be affecting your dog. Some worms have unique symptoms, and some do not portray any symptoms at all. It is important to regularly check your dog’s stool for any signs of worms if his behavior seems to be off. Most symptoms of worms in dogs will include the following:
- Diarrhea, sometimes containing blood
- Weight loss
- Vomiting, sometimes containing worms
- Bloated stomach
- Dragging his rear on the carpet
- General unhealthy appearance
- Worms in dog poop
It is important to determine which type of worm your dog may be infected with in order to seek proper treatment. If you notice any symptoms of dog worms, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and a list of treatment options based on your dog’s particular case.
Dog Worms Treatment
When you bring your dog to the vet for worm treatment, there are a few steps he will take. The vet will observe what symptoms of worms in dogs are displayed and likely take a stool sample to determine the exact type of worm affecting your dog. These fecal tests will determine if there are larvae and eggs in your dog’s intestines as well. They will also be able to rule out the possibility of a different illness.
Once your dog has been diagnosed with worms, the vet will prescribe a deworming product for his specific case. Often times, you will not need a prescription to purchase deworming products, but it is not recommended to use dewormers until you have been properly diagnosed by a veterinarian.
It is known that certain internal parasites can only be controlled, but not eliminated. This process takes many examinations of fecal matter to keep the worms under control and ensure they do not worsen.
For more information about treatment for dog worms, you must first determine what kind of worm your dog may have. Once determined, See our list below for the proper treatment of each type of worm.
1. Tapeworms in Dogs
They come from your dog consuming a flea that has eaten tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms are flatworms that vary from a few inches to a few feet in length. They are segmented worms and each segment contains eggs.
The head of the tapeworm will latch onto the wall of the small intestine and feed. It will detach a body segment containing eggs to be passed through with your dog’s feces. Often times, they resemble grains of rice attached to the anus or in the feces of your dog.
The most common type of tapeworms in dogs is known as the Dipylidium caninum. The most common cause of tapeworms in dogs is when your dog swallows a flea that has eaten tapeworm eggs. It is known that fleas eat tapeworm larvae.
If your dog is infested with fleas and bites at the itching fur, he can very easily eat a few fleas that may carry tapeworm eggs. Once the flea is digested, the tapeworm eggs then hatch in the intestines and latch on to start feeding and reproducing. Fortunately, tapeworms in dogs are very easy to treat and do not usually cause serious illness.
Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs
Often times, you will not even realize that your dog has tapeworms. They do feed on the blood and nutrients in your dog, but no immediate symptoms or changes in your dog are usually present. Normally, symptoms will begin to show over a longer period of time, compared to some other types of worms in dogs.
The most common symptoms of tapeworms in dogs are the following:
- Persistent anal itching. You will likely see your dog licking or dragging his anus on the carpet in your home to try and relieve the itching. Small, rice-looking particles in the feces or around the anus.
- Increased appetite
- Diarrhea. This is a good time to look for the possible tapeworm larvae.
- Poor fur and skin conditions. The fur will likely be dull with no shine, and the skin may be dry and flakey. This is because the tapeworm is sucking out all the beneficial nutrients in your dog.
- Weight loss
- Bloated stomach area. Sometimes there are many tapeworms in your dog’s intestines. This may show by a bloated belly area. This is often seen in new puppies.
The best way to determine if your dog has tapeworms is to observe how often he scoots on the carpet. Examine the anus for tapeworm larvae. Next time your dog eliminates, be sure to check his feces for the same small, white larvae.
If you notice anything, it is important to take your dog to the vet immediately to seek proper treatment. Although tapeworms are not generally a very serious condition, they can lead to one if left untreated too long.
Treatment for Tapeworms in Dogs
When it comes to treatment for tapeworms in dogs, the most important thing to remember is that you must get rid of the head of the tapeworm. This is the part that is attached to the inside of the intestines and that feeds on the blood and nutrients of your dog. If the head of the tapeworm is not detached, it will continue to feed and grow, which means it can lay eggs over and over.
Fortunately, there are medications that rid your dog’s body of tapeworms fairly easily. Often times, it will only take one dosage of deworming medication to treat ringworms in dogs.
Veterinarian prescriptions for tapeworms in dogs
Most treatments come in chewable, tablet or liquid form. The way most treatment options work is by causing the parasite to lose grip on the intestinal wall, and damaging the parasite’s skin, causing it to disintegrate and pass through naturally. The main ingredient in most deworming medications is called Praziquantel.
Side effects of medical treatment for tapeworms in dogs are usually very rare, but do include increased bowel movements, nausea, and increased salivation. Always talk to your veterinarian before committing to a certain type of deworming medication, or if your dog’s condition changes or worsens.
You should always consult with your veterinarian before giving tapeworm treatments to puppies and pregnant dogs. It is important to note that other parasite treatments will not get rid of tapeworms in your dog.
2. Heartworms in Dogs
The only way your dog may get heartworms is from an infected mosquito bite.
Heartworms in dogs are easy to prevent. However, if a dog is infected with heartworms, it can be very difficult to treat. Heartworms are parasitic creatures that live in the heart and blood vessels that supply blood to the lungs and other vital organs in your dog.
The only way that a dog may contract heartworms is through an infected mosquito. Infected dogs may not transmit it to other dogs, animals or humans. When a mosquito carrying heartworm parasites bites a dog, it injects the worm eggs into the tissue through its saliva.
Once the worms have entered your dog’s system, they will begin to feed and grow, eventually making their way to the lungs and heart. Once they have reached their final destination, they will mature into adult worms and begin to reproduce.
Heartworms in dogs can grow up to 30 centimeters and adult worms can produce hundreds of new larvae daily. Dogs infected with heartworms will eventually die of organ failure, unless treated properly. It is a horrible experience for any dog and dog owner.
Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs
Often times, dogs infected with heartworms will show no signs in the early stages. Some dogs may go months or even years without showing symptoms of heartworms in dogs. Heartworms are usually detected during a routine blood test or a blood test for another illness.
Some symptoms of heartworms in dogs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid or shortness of breath
- Weight loss, most visible around the chest and ribs
- Wheezing and coughing
- Weakness or excessive lethargy
- Enlarged liver
Often times, heartworms may cause sudden death without any symptoms. Usually, outdoor dogs, such as hunting dogs or dogs who spend the majority of their time outdoors are much more at risk for heartworms. Warmer climates, or warm temperatures when mosquitos are most active are higher risk. Dogs between the ages of 3 and 6 are most affected, and males are much more prone to heartworms than females.
It takes about seven months for larvae to turn into adult worms. Only then will symptoms begin to show and affect your dog. Once more worms begin to affect the heart and lungs, the coughing and other more apparent symptoms of heartworms in dogs will begin. This is the time to seek treatment immediately.
Treatment for Heartworms in Dogs
Treatment for heartworms in dogs can be very difficult and dangerous. There are a number of different ways heartworms may be treated. It is important to note that regular deworming medications will not cure heartworms in dogs.
Treatment for heartworms in dogs includes preventing more worms from reproducing, treating secondary illnesses and resolve any current health concerns associated with heartworms.
Oxygen – Dogs who have severe breathing problems due to heartworms will likely be put on oxygen to help them breathe with less struggle. Often times, dogs will be hospitalized overnight and kept on oxygen while going through treatment.
Steroids – Steroids may also be given to help reduce any inflammation in the lungs and other organs. This type of treatment may be difficult because not all dogs can handle steroids in their system. These dogs may be elderly or have a weak immune system. In the case that your dog cannot handle steroids, he will be given aspirin.
Antibiotics – Antibiotics may be given to help prevent any secondary illnesses, as well as treat any current secondary illnesses caused by heartworms in dogs.
Heartworm medication – The severity of your dog’s case of heartworms will depend on the type of medication he may be given. Heartworm medication is given to help eliminate the adult worms. Some things your vet will discuss include cost, risks of treatment and the overall health of your dog. Some dogs cannot handle heartworm medications whatsoever. Heartworm medications may cause diarrhea, vomiting, liver damage and kidney failure.
These medications are usually given in the form of two injections. Although new medications have been developed that do not contain arsenic, only a very skilled and licensed veterinarian may prescribe heartworm treatments.
Surgery – Surgery is a very drastic form of treatment that may need to be done if your dog does not respond well to heartworm medication and other therapy. Surgery is usually only done in very serious cases and can be very risky. The surgery involves making an incision in the dog’s neck to remove the worms through the jugular vein. The worms are pulled out one by one and can be a stressful and time-consuming process with very serious risks.
After your dog’s initial treatment for heartworms, he will need to return about a month later to receive treatment for the microfilaria. This usually requires an overnight stay at the hospital to be properly monitored.
Prevention of Heartworms in Dogs
There are a few ways you can prevent heartworms in dogs. There are vaccinations available for dogs and puppies that frequent the outdoors and live in high-risk areas. These vaccinations last up to a year and maybe given after 6 months of age.
Another method of prevention is to be sure that you take preventative measures to keep mosquitos out of your home and yard. Although you cannot prevent your dog from going outdoors and mosquitos do appear inside, you can protect your home by removing bodies of water around the home and keeping your yard clean and groomed.
If your dog has been diagnosed and treated for heartworms, he will usually be given chewable tablets that can be added to his food a few times a month to help prevent a re-infestation of heartworms.
3. Round Worms in Dogs
Roundworms in dogs, also known as Toxocara canis or Toxascaris leonina, are parasites that live and reproduce in the stomach and small intestines of your dog. Roundworms are commonly found in newborn puppies shortly after birth. This can be caused through the placenta or passed through the mammary glands during feeding.
Roundworms in puppies can be fatal and need to be treated as soon as possible. Deworming puppies is very important, and deworming again at 6 months is generally a good idea as well.
Roundworms in dogs can become up to 8 inches in length, and female roundworms can lay thousands of eggs in a single day. Roundworms can be found in feces, which can pass through to the soil. They can live for months, sometimes even years without dying.
Dogs may contract roundworms from consuming feces, whether it be direct or indirectly. Dogs can also contract roundworms from eating dead rodents who are infected with the parasites.
Symptoms of Roundworms in Dogs
Roundworms are one of the most common worms in puppies. Puppies are at a higher risk of contracting roundworms from their mother. The risk can be especially high if the mother was never vaccinated for worms.
Unfortunately, puppies will often die because of roundworms. It is important to know what symptoms of roundworms in dogs to look for in order to seek immediate treatment.
Some symptoms of roundworms in dogs include:
- Vomiting. These can be mild or severe cases, and may actually contain worms. These worms may be up to 7 inches in length.
- Diarrhea. Much the same as vomiting, it may range from mild to severe and may contain worms. They may also be attached at the anus after elimination.
- Bloated stomach, especially closer to the lower intestine area.
- Loss of appetite, leading to extreme weight loss.
- Obvious signs of pain such as whimpering, or yelping when touched at the belly.
- Weakness and lethargy.
- Dull skin and coat condition.
Often times, these roundworms can lead to anemia, pneumonia and even death. Puppies can develop parasitic pneumonia, which is not usually treatable at birth. Any dog of any age may become infected with roundworms, but puppies are usually at higher risk than full-grown dogs.
Roundworm Treatment for Dogs
Treatment for roundworms in dogs begins with the proper diagnosis. To diagnose your dog, your vet will likely perform a physical exam and look for any symptoms displayed. She will then take a blood and feces sample to examine. Your veterinarian will be able to tell if your dog has roundworms by the blood cell count as well as by finding the parasitic materials in his feces.
Treatment for roundworms in dogs is simple and effective. It is the same for any breed of any age and can come in a few different forms. The most popular form of deworming treatment is chewable tablets that contain ivermectin, which is an antiparasitic medication used to prevent roundworms.
Unlike tapeworms, roundworms do not latch onto the inside of your dog’s intestines, so they will often be seen alive in the feces when eliminated.
Dewormer medications do not kill the parasites in their larval stage. This means that treatment for roundworms in dogs may take more than one dosage. Many heartworm medications will also treat roundworms, so talk to your veterinarian about the best options for your dog’s case of roundworms.
It is important to note that humans may become infected with roundworms from their dogs. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your infected dog and when cleaning up feces in the yard. Keep floors vacuumed and washed, and keep the infected dog isolated while going through treatment.
4. Hook Worms in Dogs
Hookworms in dogs are intestinal parasites that are usually found in the intestines of your dog. Unlike most other worms, hookworms are very small in length, about an inch long. They do not feed on the nutrients in your dog, but rather the blood and tissues inside the intestines. Hookworm will even detach from one part of the intestine and latch onto another part to feed again. They usually leave ulcers in the intestines when they are finished feeding.
Hookworms in dogs can be contracted in a few different ways. The first and most common way your dog may contract hookworms is by consuming hookworm eggs through feces itself, or feces particles on the fur. Hookworms can also burrow into the skin.
The most common areas for hookworms to burrow are the paws and belly area. Another way your dog could contract hookworms is by indirectly consuming them through a dead rodent or other infected animals. Puppies may also contract hookworms from their mother’s milk.
Often times, the larvae will enter the lung tissue, which will cause the dog to cough up and swallow them again. This helps them to enter the intestines, where they can become adults and feed and reproduce. Often times, hookworms can stay in the body for years and remain dormant, until they are reawakened, usually during pregnancy. They are then passed to the puppies through the placenta or through the mammary glands.
Symptoms of Hookworms in Dogs
Hookworms can affect any dog, but the most commonly affected are young dogs and puppies. Dogs with a weakened immune system may also be more prone to hookworms. Symptoms of hookworms in dogs are very similar to other worm symptoms, but there are a few distinguishing characteristics of hookworms in dogs.
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms of hookworms in dogs:
- Pale gums.
- Weight loss and your dog will not be gaining weight even if he is eating.
- Hacking cough.
- Sores on the paws, in between the toes may be red and infected. This is caused by hookworms directly entering the skin.
- Diarrhea, sometimes containing blood.
- Dark, tar colored feces. This is caused by blood that has been digested and is known as melena.
- Poor skin and fur condition, often dry and flakey. Sometimes contain sores.
- Signs of abdominal pain.
The severity of these symptoms may vary depending on the number of worms and larvae in the system. For example, there may not be any coughing if the larvae is not in the lungs. Often times, severe symptoms may be caused by many hookworms in the body. Your dog’s overall health will usually determine how severe the infestation becomes.
Treatment for Hookworms in Dogs
Diagnosis of hookworms in dogs may be done by an examination of the feces. Usually, hookworm eggs can be found in the feces under a microscope. Once hookworms have been properly diagnosed, it is time to begin treatment as soon as possible to avoid serious illness.
Treatment for hookworms in dogs needs to be given every one to two weeks in order to kill the live hookworms, as well as kill the larvae that may hatch. A fecal examination may be done after a few weeks to check for hookworm larvae as well. Most deworming medications will help with hookworms. These are given orally or in the form of injection.
Along with deworming medications, your veterinarian may prescribe other supplementations and antibiotics to help fend off secondary infections. Iron supplements, anti-nausea, and anti-diarrhea medications may be given to help ease the stomach and boost the immune system as well. In more serious cases of hookworms in dogs, blood transfusions may be required. IV fluids may also be given along with an overnight stay to monitor your dog’s vital signs.
Always be sure to keep your environment sanitary and clean during treatment. This means cleaning up any feces in the yard and washing bedding and floors as often as possible. Since hookworms may be transferred to humans, always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your infected dog.
5. Learning About Whipworms in Dogs
Whipworms are parasites that can be found in the large intestine of an infected dog. They are very small, thread-like parasites that have a larger head than the rest of their body like a whip, hence the name ‘whipworm’.
Whipworms in dogs will attach their heads into the intestinal wall and feed on blood and tissues and reproduce. The eggs are usually hatched in the small intestines and feed there as well. Once they become adults, they will migrate to the large intestine, where the cycle begins all over again.
Dogs contract whipworms by consuming whipworm eggs. Whipworm eggs can live in dirt, water, and fecal matter for months at a time. They do not die in freezing or hot temperatures, and dogs that are infected with whipworms often pass it on without even knowing.
Once your dog consumes the whipworm eggs, they will hatch after 2-3 months and begin to feed and reproduce. Whipworms are only about 3 inches long and are very rarely seen in the feces. They are usually found with routine blood tests and fecal examinations.
Symptoms of Whipworms in Dogs
Whipworms in dogs tend to affect adult dogs more than puppies. This is actually unusual because worms in puppies are very common. Often times, dogs with whipworms will not display any symptoms for months. During this time, whipworms can reproduce and spread at a very high rate.
There are a few common symptoms of whipworms in dogs to keep an eye out for:
- Diarrhea, often containing mucus and blood.
- Difficulty in eliminating feces.
- Frequent flatulence.
- Weight loss.
- Bloated belly area.
- Obvious symptoms of pain in the abdominal area.
- Weakness and lethargy.
- Loss of appetite.
- Anemia, which is accompanied by pale gums.
- Poor skin and coat condition.
These symptoms may range from mild to severe, depending on the whipworm infestation. Some symptoms may never show up, whereas some may be very frequent. Whipworms can affect any breed, age, and gender, although it is more common in older dogs.
Dogs who frequent kennels or have recently come from a shelter may be more prone to getting whipworms, and may already carry them. It is important to keep an eye out for any irregularities in your dog in order to seek proper diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for Whipworms in Dogs
Whipworms are easy to treat, but the frustrating thing is that the eggs can live up to 5 years in your yard, even when your dog is free of whipworms. This means he can easily become reinfected again. Treatment for whipworms in dogs is a tedious task and requires lots of cleaning and patience.
Your veterinarian will perform a few different tests to diagnose whipworms in dogs. A physical exam, as well as blood work, fecal tests, and even a urinalysis, may be performed to diagnose whipworms.
Often times, whipworms are misdiagnosed for Addison’s disease because of the sodium and potassium levels in your dog’s system. In order to properly diagnose whipworms in dogs, your vet will likely perform a fecal floatation to inspect for eggs in the feces.
Treatment for whipworms in dogs is usually one dosage per month for three months. This ensures that any eggs in the system will be killed over time. These medications are usually oral tablets but maybe injected as well.
Deworming medications are usually very effective, but whipworm treatments may not be suitable for puppies or pregnant dogs. Additional fluids, supplements, and immune boosters may be given to help fight off secondary illnesses and rehydrate your dog’s system.
Keep the yard and home clean and free of feces. You can use bleach to kill off any eggs around the home and in the yard as well. Keep bedding clean and carpets vacuumed regularly. If a re-infestation occurs, seek secondary treatment plans right away.
Catherine Bono is a blogger, who is passionate about dogs and cats. She created Crittersitca.com to shares her experience as she studies to become a qualified vet.