Understanding and Preventing Worms in Dogs
One of the last things you want to hear is that your dog has worms. Not only can intestinal parasites cause disease in your dog, they can also infect you and your family.
Taking Care of your Pet
As a dog owner, one of the last things you want to hear is that your dog has worms. Not only can intestinal parasites cause disease in your dog, they can also infect you and your family. For this reason, is essential that your dog be checked for parasites at least once a year. Your pet also needs to receive medications to prevent infection with the most common canine parasites. If any infections are discovered, you need to treat them promptly. Treating and preventing infection by hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms and other parasites will help keep your dog and your family safe and healthy.
These worms live in your dog’s small intestine, feeding on blood. Dogs can become infected by contacting hookworm larvae in the womb, nursing from an infected mother, eating larvae or having larvae penetrate their skin. In young puppies, hookworms can cause serious illness. Symptoms of this illness include bloody or tarry diarrhea, weakness and lethargy. With severe infections, puppies can die due to rapid blood loss. Adult dogs infected with hookworms, on the other hand, often show no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include pale gums, weight loss and bloody diarrhea. Humans can also be infected by hookworms when the parasites penetrate the skin, causing a creeping rash.
Veterinarians diagnose hookworms by finding eggs on fecal examinations. However, infected dogs do not shed eggs for two to three weeks after they become infected. For this reason, veterinarians will often treat dogs with suggestive symptoms even if no eggs are discovered. To protect your dog from hookworms, you should make sure your veterinarian performs a fecal examination on your dog at least once a year, and use a monthly preventative medication. Fortunately, some heartworm medications, such as Heartgard for dogs and Interceptor, also prevent hookworm infections in dogs.
The most common type of tapeworm in dogs, Dipylidium caninum, is spread by fleas. Fleas eat tapeworm eggs, so when dogs eat infected fleas, dogs contract tapeworms. Your dog is most likely to eat fleas when biting or licking its skin and coat due to irritation and itching. If your dog is infected with tapeworms, you might notice wriggling white segments near your pet’s anus. The segments are about ¼ inch in size and resemble grains of rice when dry.
Dog at the Vet
If you suspect tapeworms, you should take your dog to a veterinarian. Treatment involves a course of deworming medication such as Droncit, Drontal Plus or Cestex. To prevent tapeworms, the best thing you can do is to keep your dog free of fleas. Monthly flea preventatives, such as Comfortis, Revolution and Frontine, are very effective at preventing flea infestation and, by extension, tapeworm infection.
Your dog can become infected with roundworms by eating roundworm eggs in the soil or by eating a small animal, such as a rodent, that is an intermediate host for the worms. Additionally, almost all puppies are born with roundworms acquired in the womb or through nursing from an infected mother. Humans can also be infected with roundworms by ingesting contaminated soil. Usually infections involve small children who do not wash their hands after playing outdoors. In people, canine roundworms burrow through the intestinal wall, migrating to the liver, lungs, skin, brain, eyes and other tissues. Because of this, these worms are a serious public health risk.
Symptoms of roundworm infection in dogs vary by age. Infected puppies are often weak, lethargic and have pot bellies. They also have poor coats and may suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. If not treated, puppies can die from severe roundworm infections. By contrast, dogs over two months of age rarely show any symptoms of roundworm infection. Occasionally older dogs may have mild diarrhea or bouts of vomiting. They also may vomit or defecate live roundworms, which resemble wriggling spaghetti strands. If you see a roundworm, you should take your dog to the veterinarian for treatment. Your veterinarian can diagnose roundworms by finding eggs or live worms in your dog’s feces. The worms are treated with an oral dewormer such as Panacur or Nemex. To prevent roundworm infections, give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative, like Heartgard for dogs or Interceptor, that also prevents roundworms.