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Your Guide to Canine Worms

Canine worms are nasty little critters which come in a variety of sizes and descriptions and your dog is depending on you to protect him from them.

Weimaraner puppy looking right at the camera

Many puppies are born with roundworms or are infected with them when nursing. Adult dogs can 'catch' worms in a number of different ways. These worms grow and multiply rapidly and a couple can turn into an army in a short space of time.

Puppies need to be dewormed several times during their first few months of life and adult dogs should be dewormed annually - even if there are no signs of a worm problem.

It's also possible for some types of dog worms to be passed onto human family members, particularly children.

About Canine Worms

Worms in dogs normally affect either the intestinal tract or the heart.

Intestinal dog worms steal all the nutrition that should be going to your puppy or dog.

They can cause a variety of different symptoms and a severe infestation can be deadly.

Different types of worms in dogs include: 

  • Ringworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Whipworms 
  • Hookworms

Then there are heartworms.

As their name suggests these worms affect your dog's heart and are always deadly if not caught early and treated properly.

This is why heartworm prevention is so very important for puppies and dogs of all ages.

What about Ringworm?

Surprisingly, Ringworm isn't caused by worms at all, it's actually a fungal infection which affects your dog's skin.

It is very contagious and can even be passed from one species to another, this includes being passed to humans.

Prompt and appropriate treatment can eradicate the fungus.


Types of Canine Worms

Here's a closer look at the worms most often found in dogs, and the symptoms that give you a clue that they're there.....

roundworms

These are the most common worms found in dogs. Can be transmitted from mother to puppy in utero or through mothers milk. Adult dogs can get them from contact or from ingesting the feces of another pup/dog who is infected with roundworms.

Symptoms of roundworms in dogs:

  • Thin, scrawny or skinny appearance
  • Round or distended belly
  • Digestive upset - diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence
  • Extreme hunger or unusual loss of appetite
  • Cough
  • Lethargy

If your dog has a lot of roundworms they an usually be seen in his stools, he may even cough or vomit them up too.

Roundworms can be transmitted to people, and children are especially at risk as their hand-washing habits are often not very effective. Always ensure adequate washing after your children have played with or touched your puppy or dog.

The best approach is to have your veterinarian examine your pup and prescribe an effective dewormer if necessary. There are some options you can buy and use at home but without a stool sample test you can't be sure you're using the right medication.


tapeworms

Tapeworms are also a very common worm found in puppies and dogs. There is more than one type of tapeworm. Dipylidium tapeworms are the most common ones in dogs and can be spread by fleas. Your dog actually needs to swallow the flea, but this isn't difficult or unusual during normal self grooming or licking.

The Echinococcus tapeworm can be transmitted to a dog who eats part of an animal who has tapeworm (roadkill for example), from eating the feces of an infected animal or from eating raw meat.

Tapeworms are shed in feces and are most often in segments rather than a whole worm. These segments look like single grains of white rice, and may or may not be visibly moving. When they're dead these segments may look yellow and may be visible around the anus. It's not unusual for a puppy or dog to show no early signs of a tapeworm problem.

Symptoms of tapeworms in dogs:

  • Unusual, or excessive, licking of the anus or genital area
  • Scooting' (dragging their bottom across the ground)
  • Worm segments visible around the anus
  • Diarrhea*
  • Weight loss even with a good appetite*

* These are rare signs of tapeworm infestation but can happen.

Your veterinarian can take a stool sample and test for the specific type/s of worms your dog has and then prescribe or administer the appropriate medication. 

Tapeworms are not generally transmitted to humans but E. Multilocaris and E. Granulosus varieties can be (although rarely) and can cause very serious health issues so good hygiene is a MUST. Children should be supervised when washing their hands after touching/playing with the puppy or dog to make sure they're effective at it.

Keeping your pet flea free is the simplest and most effective way to protect him, 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.

Whipworms 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 or dog 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 whipworms in dogs:

  • Chronic diarrhea is very common, it may contain blood and/or mucus
  • Weight loss
  • Inadequate weight gain, growth and development in puppies
  • Anemia (in more 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). Over time this will kill all the worms who are at different stages of development at any specific moment.

A monthly heartworm preventative which also protects against whipworms can help keep your puppy or dog protected and safe.


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 in feces and can be transmitted in through ingestion of the feces of an infected animal, eating an infected animal (eg roadkill), licking or grooming another dog who has hookworm or from contact with ground where hookworm larvae are residing (they can then enter your dog's body directly through the skin).

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 of hookworms in dogs:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe, chronic diarrhea which may be bloody or dark and tar-like
  • Dull, dry coat
  • Irritated skin, especially on the feet (where larvae are entering the body)
  • Cough
  • Anemia** which appears as pale gums/tongue, weakness, lethargy

** This is a very common, and dangerous, symptom of hookworm in dogs.

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. 

Regular monthly heartworm prevention can prevent or control hookworm infestation.

Good personal hygiene, regular pooper-scooping' and making sure that 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 of heartworm in dogs:

  • Occasional cough (often the first sign)
  • Chronic cough
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lethargy
  • Anemia shown as pale gums/tongue, weakness, collapse
  • 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.

I highly recommend giving your puppy or dog a monthly, preventative medication to keep him safe.

Please check out my Heartworm in Dogs and Dog Heartworm Prevention pages for all the information and advice you need to keep your pet safe from this dangerous disease.




Treating Canine Worms

Dog worm medications are the most effective way to eradicate canine worms.

It is always best to have Fido examined by your vet and a stool sample analyzed to make sure you know what type of worms he has.

Each medication may treat one, or several, types of worms but be ineffective on others so it's important to make sure you're using the right dog worm medicine for your dog's specific situation.

Your veterinarian can prescribe the right treatment based on stool analysis, that way you know the little critters will be taken care of!

Puppy Worm Treatment

Since puppies often have worms from birth most responsible dog breeders start deworming their puppies when they're around 3 weeks old.

It's important to start treatment for worms in puppies early on and be consistent about repeating it on schedule.

Once you bring your puppy home that responsibility will become yours.

Veterinarian holding young puppy in his hands

A few worms aren't going to be a huge problem IN THE SHORT TERM, but this changes quickly and the longer a pup has worms the sicker he will become and the more difficult it will be to get rid of them.

Try to get your new puppy's shot and deworming record from his breeder/owner so that you know what he has already been given, it's a good starting point.

Routine deworming of puppies

Veterinarians routinely deworm puppies at the same time as they give them their puppy shots (at around 8, 10 and 12 weeks)

After that they can be dewormed annually or twice annually until adult.

If your pup shows any signs of a worm problem after his final puppy treatment, or you notice worms in his poop, have your vet check him out quickly.

If you have a litter of puppies, or just one pup/dog who isn't showing signs of a worm problem and you want to treat them yourself there are a couple of options you can try.

One of the dog dewormer medications commonly recommended/administered by veterinarians is Panacur C.

Panacur is a broad-spectrum de-wormer, effective against roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. It's also effective against Giardia parasites.

Panacur is a broad-spectrum de-worming product containing Febendazole that is approved for use in puppies over 6 weeks of age and for pregnant dogs.

Getting the dosage right is extremely important. Dose for Panacur-C is 1 gram per 10lbs of body weight and full dosage instructions are with the product

The correct dosage needs to be given daily for three consecutive days.

Panacur is available in 1 gram, 2 gram, and 4 gram packets.

Side effects of giving Panacur to puppies or dogs are generally mild and include loose stools, diarrhea or vomiting can happen.

Treating Tapeworms in Dogs

Panacur can also be used to treat the Taenia tapeworm (although it is NOT effective against the common tapeworm transmitted by fleas and most often found in dogs).  

Dogs can become infected with the Taenia tapeworm if they eat undercooked meat, roadkill or the brains of infected sheep.

To treat a common tapeworm problem in your dog, the drug recommended by veterinarians is Praziquantel, the active ingredient in products such as Droncit. 

Drontal Plus is a broad-spectrum de-wormer which contains praziquantel, as well as pyrantel pamoate and febentel, and is effective against hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, giardia parasites and the common tapeworm.

A dog worm medicine which is approved for very young puppies (as well as pups of any age and adult dogs) is Nemex-2, a non-prescription liquid dog dewormer suitable for puppies as young as two weeks of age. Nemex-2 kills roundworms and hookworms.

The active ingredient in Nemex-2 is Pyrantel Pamoate

Again, getting the dose right is crucial for safety and effectiveness. 

Dosage for Nemex-2 is 1ml per lb of body weight, or 5ml (which equals one tsp) per 10lbs of body weight.

Keeping fleas at bay is a simple way to prevent tapeworm problems and using a reliable flea/tick medication is important.

There are many different dog flea products on the market today.

These include topical products and oral products.

This article has detailed information on all the best and most effective treatments for dog fleas.... Flea Medicine for Dogs.

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

Seeing worms in your puppy's poop (or vomit) might be one of the first signs that he has a worm problem. If this happens I'd strongly recommend having him examined by a veterinarian and a stool sample taken to determine what type of worms he has. Not all worms can be seen in poop/vomit, or with the naked eye, and he may well have more than one type in his body.

AFTER your puppy has been dewormed you're also 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.


Heartworm in Puppies

A heartworm problem doesn't begin to show symptoms until the infestation is severe.

Many times a dog is too sick to recover and heartworm is often fatal.

It takes about six months to get to that point.

Obviously very young puppies will not have had a chance to develop a heartworm problem like this but it's vital to prevent the worms from ever setting up shop in your pup so that it never happens.

Puppies can start on Heartgard as soon as they are 6 weeks old.

Many vet clinics offer a free Heartgard chewable at your puppy's initial visit. It's worth asking about.


Adult Dog Worm Treatment

Adult dogs can catch worms in a whole slew of different ways, and it's perfectly possible for Fido to be harboring these little critters without you even noticing it.

You can see information above for a closer look at the symptoms for each type of canine worm.

Most common signs that your dog has canine worms may include:

  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Blood or mucus in stools
  • Vomiting (in a severe infestation worms can be vomited up)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Visible worms in your dog's stools
  • Worm eggs around your dog's rectal area

Some worms are actually visible if you look at your dog's stools (yukky but sometimes necessary).

Roundworms are long, thin and round (no surprise there).

They may look like pieces of (possibly moving) spaghetti.

Roundworms are generally 3 - 5 inches long, but can get longer. Sometimes up to 8 inches.

Tapeworms are flat and their bodies are made up of segments. An intact tapeworm could be as long as 19 inches, but it's unusual to see more than a few segments in your pup or dog's stools. These segments look a lot like little flattened grains of rice.

Tapeworm eggs can often be seen around your dog's rectum. They look like very tiny seeds, and may be moving.

Hookworms and whipworms are much smaller than roundworms or tapeworms, usually between 1/4 - 3/4 of an inch long and very thin.

It's unlikely that you'll notice them if you're not specifically looking for them, and even if you are, they can be difficult to see with the naked eye.

Your vet will take a stool sample to test for the presence of worms and to be sure of what kind they are.

If  you have a strong stomach you can collect one of the worms from your dogs poop and put it in a zip-loc baggie or glass jar to help with identification.

Dogs with canine worms are treated using the same medications that are used for puppies.

Which one your vet prescribes/recommends will depend on what type of worms Fido has.

Heartworm in Adult Dogs

If you live in a location where there are mosquitoes, the only way to keep your dog safe from heartworms is to give him a monthly heartworm preventative such as Heartgard.

Do NOT wait for symptoms of a heartworm infestation to show up because by that point Fido will be very sick and it may even be too late to save him.

Visit this page to learn all about canine heartworm including symptoms and treatment options... Heartworm in Dogs


Preventing Worm Infestations in Dogs

As I mentioned earlier, puppies are often born with roundworms or have them passed to them in their mother's milk.

That is why it's vital to deworm puppies properly.

Unfortunately once that initial problem is taken care of it doesn't mean your pup/dog is free and clear.

Veterinarian and terrier dog performing a 'high five'

It is very easy for a dog to pick up worms, from the soil, from the feces of other dogs, through flea or mosquito bites... he is always going to be at risk.

However there are a few things that you can do to reduce your dog's chances of catching worms:

  • Scoop the poop in your yard quickly
  • Discourage poop-eating (coprophagia)
  • Give monthly heartworm preventative
  • Give monthly flea/tick preventative
  • Keep his digestive system healthy with probiotics
  • Feed a nutritious premium dog food
  • Keep regular veterinary well-check appointments


Canine Worms and Humans

Because some canine worms can also transfer themselves to the human family members it's important to know what symptoms to look out for.

Little boy hugging English Bulldog puppy

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 and 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.

Pinworms and Children

Kids can get Pinworms (aka Threadworms) and Fido is NOT to blame for this.

Humans are this worms natural host and ogs don't get them.

Pinworms are tiny (only a couple of millimeters long, and very narrow), and their eggs are even smaller and symptoms include soreness and itching around the anus. 

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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