Learn about worms in dogs

Worms in Dogs is Serious if Untreated

January 5, 2015

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Heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms are fairly common internal parasites or worms in dogs. And although any worm infestation can make your dog uncomfortable, some, like hookworms, can be fatal in puppies.

What should I look for?

The main sign for worms in dogs include:

  • Coughing – coughing can indicate an advanced heartworm condition. Dogs with hookworms and roundworms may also cough.
  • Vomiting – dogs with worms will often throw up and roundworms can sometimes be found in a dog’s vomit
  • Diarrhoea – soft stools and canine diarrhoea can result from a worm infestation. dogs with hookworms may also have blood in their stools.
  • Lethargy – dogs with low energy levels and exhibiting less activity than normal may be displaying symptoms of having worms.
  • Pot belly – If your dog starts to look bloated or pot bellied, it may have worms. This is more commonly visible in puppies that have contracted worms from their mother.
  • Changes in appetite – sudden changes in your dog’s appetite may indicate a roundworm condition. Worms usurp a dog’s essential nutrients, so a dog with worms may also display a rapid increase in appetite.
  • Losing weight – if your dog displays signs of a rapid weight loss, there may be a tapeworm or a whipworm infestation.
  • Coat dullness – a healthy dog will usually have a shiny coat. If your dog’s coat shows signs of dullness or drying out, it may be that it has a form of worms. Loss of hair and skin rashes can also be symptoms of worms.
  • Skin irritations and itching – signs of skin irritation may result from an infestation of worms.
  • Bottom rubbing or “scooting” – whilst this is usually associated with problems with the anal glands, dogs with worms will occasionally rub or “scoot” their bottoms on the ground to relieve themselves of a worm-related itch.
  • Worms in fur or stools – Some worms such as tapeworms can sometimes appear as small movements in the fur or around a dog’s anus. Roundworms can also be seen in a dog’s stools.

What are the main risk factors for worms in dogs?

  • Newly-born pups – roundworm eggs can form cysts in adult dogs. These eggs can remain dormant for long periods and cannot be treated with medication. When a female dog is pregnant, dormant eggs can activate and infect the puppies. The mother’s milk can also pass roundworms to puppies.
  • Contact with infected soil – roundworm eggs and hookworm larvae can remain dormant in soil. If your dog comes in contact with infected soil, it can easily contract worms.
  • Fleas – juvenile tapeworms can reside in fleas. If your dog swallows fleas while grooming, it can readily ingest tapeworms and become infected.
  • Hunting or eating wildlife – wild animals often carry worms. If your dog regularly hunts or eats wildlife, it can easily contract worms.

Left untreated, worms in dogs can cause permanent damage to internal organs. They can also lead to a loss of consciousness and even death. If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, you should take it to a vet immediately.

Remember, most worms in dogs are relatively easy to treat once diagnosed. The best way to keep your dog safe and worm-free is to use a year-round heartworm disease preventive every month.

Some of the symptoms of worm infestations, such as stomach irritation, can easily be misdiagnosed as another health problem. Being constantly alert to warning signs for a range of problems, not just worms, is an essential part of maintaining good health for your dog. The first line of defence against any illness is to ensure your dog’s health, and its environment, are always well maintained.

Further reading about worms in dogs.

Tell us about your experiences with worms in dogs and any tips for other dog owners you may have to cure worms or maintain a healthy environment for your dog.

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