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Worried About Puppy Worms?

Puppy worms are nasty little critters who come in lots of different shapes and sizes.

Puppy with worms - illustration

They can be transmitted in different ways too.

  • Roundworms - transmitted from momma to puppy or through feces
  • Tapeworms - transmitted by fleas
  • Whipworms  (& Hookworms) - found in soil
  • Hookworms - found in soil, feces
  • Heartworms - transmitted by mosquitoes

CLICK HERE to jump straight to detailed info. on the worms above.

Although mostly a problem for your puppy, it is possible for little Fido to pass some types of worms on to his humans, especially children.

Most often roundworms, tapeworms or hookworms are the ones that are passed onto the human family members. Usually indirectly through their eggs or from the soil.

Depending on the type of worm involved, your pup can catch them from eating the poop of another pup/dog who has them, from the soil, from eating raw or uncoooked meat, fish or carrion (roadkill or vermin), from other parasites such as fleas or from mosquitoes.

Most newborn puppies have at least a few roundworms which they get from their momma while in the womb, or through her milk when they nurse.

Because puppies often often don't show any symptoms during the early stages of a worm infestation, it's especially important to make sure that your little guy (or girl) is routinely treated with a reliable dog worm medicine several times.

This is often done at the same time as his vaccinations and routine health puppy health checks - starting at about 3 weeks old (the breeders's responsibility) and followed up at least at both the 8 and 12 week appointments.

The good news is that it's easy to treat worms in puppies, but the bad news is that if left untreated just a few of them can turn into a major infestation surprisingly quickly... and lead to some serious health problems.


About Puppy Worms

Worms steal all the nutrition that should be going to your puppy.

They also multiply and grow rapidly, and a few puppy worms can turn into quite an army in a pretty short space of time!

If you bought your puppy from a responsible breeder they will most likely have started him on a schedule of de-worming several weeks before ago.

Abandoned, neglected or puppy-mill/back-yard-breeder puppies are most likely going to be starting from 'scratch'.

Here's a quick look at the different types of dog worms you're likely to come across....

Types of Canine Worms

Roundworms

Roundworms are the most common type of dog worms and are often transmitted from mother to puppy.

In puppies, symptoms of a roundworm problem can include:

  • A thin, scrawny (or skinny) appearance
  • A round, distended tummy
  • Digestive upset - diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence
  • Extreme hunger or unusual loss of appetite
  • Cough
  • Lethargy

Roundworms can usually be easily seen in your puppy's stools, and if he has a lot of roundworms he may even vomit or cough up worms too. Not nice.

Roundworms can be 'caught' by people too, and children are especially at risk because they're not known for their effective hand washing techniques!

It's really important to make sure that your family members always wash their hands after playing with, or handling, your new puppy.

Although you can buy over-the-counter worm medicines at many pet stores or superstores, many of them are ineffective and can even be dangerous.

In most cases it's best to have your veterinarian deworm your puppy, or prescribe medication for you to give him at home.

But there are a few medications which kill dog worms which you can buy and use yourself.

One of these that I can recommend using is Panacur C - Canine Dewormer because it's both safe and effective and you don't need a prescription.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are another very common type of dog worms. There is more than one type of tapeworm.

Dipylidium tapeworms are the most common type and can be spread by fleas.

Your dog actually needs to swallow the flea, but this isn't difficult or unusual. When your dog is grooming himself, or licking himself or another dog, it's easy for him to swallow these tiny parasites!

Your puppy or dog can also 'catch' a different type of tapeworm (Echinococcus) by eating part of an animal who has tapeworms, from eating the feces of a tapeworm infected animal (including other dogs), or from eating raw meat.

Tapeworms are shed in your puppy or dog's feces... they're usually in segments which look a lot like single grains of white rice. They're usually still 'mobile' at this point. Ugh.

If you check your puppy's poop you will most likely be able to tell whether or not he has tapeworms.

It's not unusual for a pup/dog with tapeworm to show no outward symptoms, at least during the early stages of infestation. But there are a couple of things to look out for:

  • Unusual licking of the anus, genital area (the worms can make Fido's bottom itchy!)
  • 'Scooting'. This is when your pup drags his bottom across the ground to relieve the itching
  • Worm segments around the anus, either moving, or yellowed and dead
  • Diarrhea (uncommon, but possible)
  • Weight loss even with a good appetite (also uncommon, but possible)

As with all worms, the definitive test needs to be done at your veterinarians office. You need to know exactly what type of worms your pup has so that you get the correct medication to treat it.

Tapeworms can be transmitted to people, children are especially at risk. The most common type of tapeworms are not usually a big health risk to humans and can be effectively treated with the right medications (your doctor will know exactly what to prescribe).

But there is a variety (E. Multilocaris and E. Granulosus) which can cause serious health problems and even death in humans so again, good hygiene is a MUST. This is very rare, but is possible.

Treating your puppy with an effective topical flea preventative is very simple and effective way to protect both your puppy, and your family, from tapeworms.

Whipworms

Whipworms are more common in dogs than most people think, perhaps in part because they're difficult to diagnose.

They get their name from their distinctive shape. Thicker at the front, and long and very narrow at the rear... like a whip.

These worms don't shed a lot of eggs, neither to they shed segments of themselves (the way tapeworms do. In fact even veterinarians have difficulty diagnosing whipworms from stool samples, it often takes several tries to get a positive result.

Whipworm eggs are very hardy and can remain infective in dirt/earth for years. Public areas and dog parks are prime locations for infestation.

Your pup is at risk of catching whipworms if he eats something that's been in contact with contaminated soil or feces, or the soil/feces themselves!

Symptoms of an infestation can include:

  • Chronic diarrhea (this is most common). Often contains blood and/or mucus
  • Weight loss
  • Inadequate weight gain, growth and development
  • Anemia (in severe cases)

To treat a case of whipworms effectively, the right medication needs to be given, and then repeated at specific intervals (usually over a period of months) in order to get rid of all the worms who are at different stages of development.

A reliable heartworm preventative such as Sentinel icon can help protect your pup from becoming infested in the first place.

Hookworms

Hookworms are another of the most common types of dog worms, and are found all across the US.

There are four species of hookworms in the US, and one of them (Ancylostoma Caninum) can cause severe, potentially fatal blood-loss (anemia), especially in young puppies.

They can thrive outside of animals, in warm soil, or feces and can be transmitted in several ways:

  • When your dog ingests the feces of another dog, or animal, who has hookworms
  • From eating an animal who has a hookworm infestation (roadkill, hunting and so on)
  • When your dog ingests whipworm eggs from licking the ground or grooming other dogs
  • These worms can actually enter the body through a host's skin (animal or human)

Because people can get hookworms too it's best not to walk barefoot in the yard or parks where dogs eliminate.

Hookworms cause a variety of symptoms and can be fatal in young puppies. Even in older pups or adult dogs they can cause severe anemia due to internal blood loss, severe diarrhea, pneumonia and more.

Sometimes, instead of attaching themselves to the intestinal wall, hookworms can migrate to other organs and parts of the body, causing more diverse (and often dangerous) problems.

Symptoms can include:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe, chronic diarrhea (may contain blood) or dark, tarry feces (indicates blood loss)
  • Dull dry coat
  • Irritated skin, especially on the feet (due to the migration of larvae through the skin
  • Cough
  • Anemia (very common symptom, also very dangerous one). Pale gums and tongue is the most obvious sign. Also weakness and lethargy.

Your veterinarian is the best person to diagnose and treat an infestation by taking and testing a stool sample, then prescribing the appropriate medication.

It's not unusual for a puppy or dog to need several rounds of treatment to make sure that all eggs, larvae and adult hookworms are eliminated.

A regular monthly heartworm preventative such as Heartgard icon can prevent or control a hookworm infestation.

Good personal hygeine, regular 'pooper-scooping' and making sure that the human family members don't run around barefoot can all help protect them against these nasty little worms too.

Heartworms

Heartworms are the most dangerous type of dog worms.

As the name suggests this isn't an intestinal worm, but one that attacks your dog's heart. It's always serious, and often fatal.

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes.

A heartworm infestation isn't easy to detect in the early stages, and by the time symptoms appear it's often well established and putting your dog in real danger.

Symptoms include:

  • Occasional cough - this is often the first sign
  • Chronic cough
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lethargy
  • Anemia. Pale gums and tongue, weakness, fainting
  • Heart failure

Treatment for heartworms is long, painful, complicated and expensive so this is definitely a case where effective prevention is MUCH BETTER than the cure.

See my Canine Heartworm and Heartworm Prevention pages for all the information and advice you need to keep your precious pup safe from this dangerous disease.

I highly recommend giving your puppy a monthly, preventative medication (such as Heartgard Plus icon) but you should always check with your own veterinarian before giving your puppy any kind of medication.

Here's a short video that summarizes the whole puppy worm situation pretty well. I think you'll find it helpful....



Help - there are worms in my puppy's poop!

Not all types of worms are visible to the naked eye, or are likely to be seen in the stools of an untreated puppy who has an infestation. But they can be.

Roundworms and tapeworms often are visible (but not always). If the infestation is severe then worms may be passed in poop, or in vomit.

However, AFTER your puppy has been dewormed you're very likely to see worms being expelled from his body - in his poop.

This is perfectly normal, and is proof that the medication is working, so don't panic.

Deworming needs to be done several times - usually three times, with three week intervals in between - and most pups are routinely treated for worms by their veterinarian at the same time as vaccinations are given.


Dog Worms In Humans

When a person contracts dog worms the condition is called Toxocariasis.

Children are much more likely to find themselves playing host to these parasites than adults are.

Roundworms and tapeworms are usually ingested (yes this sounds horrible!) but this is because kids are likely to touch stuff that adults won't and then put their hands into their mouths.

Plus they don't think to wash their hands in the same way.

Hookworms can burrow through human skin and as they tend to be in the soil as well as in feces, if a child is running around barefoot or spending a lot of time digging in the dirt, they are at risk.

When worms  normally found in one species infect another, often the symptoms are quite different.

The most common signs of a worm problem (predominately dog worms) in people include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Stomach ache
  • Skin rash or itchy  skin
  • Swelling around the eye, eye inflammation or vision changes

Any, or all, of these need to be taken seriously and if you're at all worried then make sure you have get a doctor's appointment quickly.

Of course, these symptoms can also be caused by a lot of other illnesses and diseases, and kids are well-known for the number of 'bugs' they can bring home. 

But if you have a puppy, dog, cat or kitten that your child plays with regularly, who hasn't been properly (or regularly) treated for worms, and your child shows any of the above symptoms and tests negative for other illnesses, a parasite problem isn't out of the question.

Luckily, your doctor can diagnose a worm problem and treat it with the correct medication fairly easily. BUT the sooner the better to avoid potentially dangerous consequences.

One last thing... I'd just like to make it clear that not ALL worms that children can get are not necessarily 'caught' from the family pet.

There's an intestinal worm called a 'Pinworm' (or sometimes a 'Threadworm') which is surprisingly common in children.

Humans are this parasites natural host and they don't pose the same dangers that dog worms do in people.

But of course, it's something you need to deal with should your child catch them!

Pinworms are tiny (only a couple of millimeters long, and very narrow), and their eggs are even smaller. 

The symptoms of a Pinworm infestation are usually soreness and itching around the anus because the worms lay their eggs right there. 

A child scratching at an itchy bottom and then touching their fingers to their face/mouth, can start the whole cycle all over again.

These tiny eggs also cling to underwear, clothing, bedding and so on.

Luckily, treatment is simple with the right medication from your doctor.


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