How Worms In Dogs Are Contracted
At Countryside Veterinary Clinic, we love helping educate our clients about the best detection and prevention methods for worms in dogs, and we pride ourselves on providing our canine patients in and around the Ellicott City area with the utmost in care and treatment protocols. Due to their outdoor lifestyles and social natures, most dogs will be at risk of contracting worms throughout their lives. Some of the most common ways to contract worms in dogs include:
- Drinking contaminated milk from the mother during nursing
- Rolling in, sniffing, eating, stepping in, or licking contaminated soil
- Consuming infected prey like rodents, birds, and reptiles
- Mosquito, flea, and tick bites and ingestion
- Coming into contact with an infected dog or another infected animal
- Consuming or coming into contact with an infected animal’s feces or vomit
It is very important to understand that worms in dogs can cause severe medical issues and health conditions if left untreated. This is why we recommend discussing a dog worm preventive protocol with your veterinarian. You can learn how to spot some common symptoms of worms in dogs, and also how you can go about preventing the presence and spread of worms in and around your home and family, by reading on.
Types Of Dog Worms
The following intestinal parasites are some of the most common types of dog worms:
- Roundworms: The most common dog worms. Roundworms in dogs reach 3 - 5” long in adulthood, and they resemble a piece of wet spaghetti. Roundworms in dogs can be transmitted via the nursing process, by feeding on an infected animal, or by contact with the infected feces of another animal.
- Tapeworms: Tapeworms in dogs have long and flat ⅛” segmented bodies that can grow to 8 inches in length. Dogs get tapeworms when they encounter or ingest a host that is carrying tapeworm eggs, like a bird or a flea.
- Hookworms: Hookworms in dogs are the smallest of all common dog worm varieties. Hookworms reside primarily in the small intestine. They grow to approximately 1" in length and feed on the dog's blood. They can cause life-threatening anemia in dogs of all ages, but especially puppies. Hookworms are passed in the feces and they can infect other animals and people too.
- Whipworms: Whipworms in dogs are about ¼” long and reside in the cecum and colon. Whipworms can cause severe damage to these organs, and they are considered one of the most harmful dog worms in existence.
- Heartworms: Heartworms in dogs live in the heart and pulmonary arteries. They are transmitted by infected mosquitoes, which migrate throughout the body over about six months before finally coming to rest in the circulatory system. Heartworms are transmitted only from an infected mosquito’s bite and not within or between species. They are preventable and treatable but they can be fatal if not diagnosed and arrested before the advanced stages of infestation. Because of the abundance of ponds, lakes, rivers and streams in Maryland, mosquitos are common and therfore heartworm prevention is very, very, important in Maryland.
- Ringworm: Ringworm, or dermatophytosis, is a skin disease caused by a fungus that results in lesions and sores on the epidermal (or outer skin) layer. Interestingly, ringworm is not caused by a worm at all but by a fungal infection instead. Ringworm is curable, but treatment can take time.
We recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately should you suspect or witness any symptoms of tapeworms in dogs. There are very effective forms of oral and injectable medications we can prescribe, but arresting and intervening in the early stages of an infestation is beneficial.
Symptoms Of Dog Worms
It is important for dog owners to be on the lookout for symptoms of worms because by the time your canine friend displays signs of infestation, the process is usually already well along. Some of the most common symptoms of worms in dogs are:
- Weight loss accompanied by a marked increase or decrease in appetite
- Distended abdomen, or "pot-bellied" appearance
- Diarrhea/chronic soft stools
- Chronic coughing
- Dulling of coat and/or hair loss accompanied by skin irritation/inflammation
- Rubbing or dragging the hindquarters across the ground
- The visible presence of segments of tapeworms in dogs attached to the skin and fur around the anus/hindquarters area
- The visible presence of roundworms in the stool, like tiny grains of rice
These symptoms of worms in dogs can also indicate other illnesses, so we recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately if you suspect or witness any of these symptoms of worms in your dog.
How Are Dog Worms Treated?
Dog worms are generally treatable as long as they are diagnosed, arrested, and treated before the onset of advanced stages of infestation. Your veterinarian can prescribe the proper deworming medication (anthelmintic) along with the appropriate administration protocol based on the type of parasite and the extent of the infestation.
- For tapeworms in dogs, the medication breaks up tapeworms inside of the intestinal tract, making them too small to see in the feces.
- For roundworms in dogs, the medication detaches the worms from the intestinal tract, which are then excreted into and with the stool.
- For hookworms in dogs, the medication kills adult hookworms only. We recommend another treatment in 2 - 4 weeks to treat the hookworms that were babies during the first treatment.
- For ringworm in dogs, we can prescribe antifungal medications, shampoos, lime-sulfur dips, and the shaving or severely affected areas.
- For whipworms in dogs, we can prescribe medication in 3 - 4 week intervals and then every 3 - 4 months to help prevent a re-infestation.
- For heartworms in dogs, and depending upon the severity of the infestation, we can prescribe oral and injectable medications.
We highly recommend consulting your veterinarian before purchasing or administering any over-the-counter or prescription medication for dog worms. Only your veterinarian can determine the severity of the infestation, order the proper number of treatments, and provide any other recommended instructions.
Are Worms In Dogs A Danger To My Family?
Some types of worms in dogs, like roundworms, are very dangerous to human beings, especially children who play in areas frequented by host animals like raccoons, dogs, and cats. Sandboxes and other dirt- and sand-covered outdoor play areas routinely serve as makeshift litter boxes for animals infected with dog worms, and many other intestinal parasites. In fact, approximately 10,000 children per year are infected with parasitic worms, and conditions including blindness can occur in severe cases. However, there are several effective precautionary measures you can take to help keep you and your family free from worms.
Steps To Prevent Dog Worms
Fortunately, various preventive measures can be taken to help ensure your human, canine, and other assorted family members remain at a lower risk for contracting and spreading dog worms. Some preventive measures to reduce the risk of worms in dogs include:
- Initial treatments are given to all puppies at 3 weeks of age
- Treating nursing females, to prevent the spread of worms through nursing
- Monthly dog worm preventive medication, given year round, as prescribed by your veterinarian, which is usually incorporated within your heartworn preventative.
- Fecal examinations
- Prompt detection and intervention in the form of a dewormer for dogs
- Clean up backyard feces periodically, at least 2 - 3 times per week
- In public parks, playgrounds, and dog parks, immediately dispose of feces with sanitary gloves and sealable bags
- Stressing sanitary and hygienic conditions in the home, including limiting internal exposure to contaminated soil, fecal matter, and/or host animals
- Stressing hygiene in public, and especially with children, by limiting or avoiding exposure to potentially contaminated objects, locations, animals, or people
Deworming Puppies And New Dogs
There are few thrills a family can experience like providing a forever home for a new puppy or dog. However, both newly homed puppies and rehomed adult dogs should be dewormed as follows:
- Puppies: Initial treatment at 3 weeks of age and then as directed by your veterinarian. After the initial treatment(s) are completed, we recommend a monthly heartworm preventive that also helps prevent intestinal parasites. This should be the beginning of an annual dewormer for dogs protocol, which your veterinarian can monitor and adjust if necessary.
- Adult Dogs: Once the initial dewormer for dogs has been given as a puppy, dogs should receive monthly preventives year round. Additionally, we recommend performing fecal tests annually.
- Newly Acquired Dogs: Regardless of the dog's age or documented history, we recommend a dewormer immediately upon acquisition, then again as recommended by your veterinarian, followed by monthly preventative dewormer for dogs as directed.
Treating Dog Worms In The Ellicott City, MD Area
If You Suspect Your Dog Has Worms, Schedule An Appointment
Our dedicated veterinary team is here to help answer any dog worm questions you might have and schedule an appointment for your canine friend today.