They might be one of the most common canine problems, but worms are still nasty little critters that can cause a lot of damage to your dog’s health.
The good news is that even though most dogs are infested with worms to some degree, the condition is nearly 100% preventable and dogs can and do build up immunity to it. Worm infestations that reach a high level, though, can cause lethargy, anemia, poor appetite and, in extreme cases, death.
Here’s everything you need to know about recognizing worms in your pet and what to do about it.
The Different Types of Worms
There are five main types of worms that commonly affect domestic dogs:
- Roundworms are the most common parasitic worms and most dogs get them at least once in their lifetimes. Easy to spread and difficult to control, roundworms are white or light brown in color and live in your pup’s intestines. Though some dogs show no symptoms, others exhibit weight loss, vomiting, dull hair, and a “potbellied” appearance.
- Heartworms are preventable but potentially fatal if left untreated. They’re usually caused by bites from infected mosquitoes. Heartworm larvae enter the body through the bite, but you might not notice symptoms for six months or more. In addition to roundworm symptoms, fatigue and a cough can also indicate a heartworm condition.
- Hookworms are small, thin parasites that attach themselves to the wall of a dog’s intestine and suck blood. As with roundworms, hookworm larvae can be transferred to a nursing pup through the mother’s milk. Sadly, puppies are susceptible to death from a severe hookworm infestation due to extreme anemia.
- Tapeworms come in several varieties. These flat worms also attach to your pup’s intestines. Symptoms are minimal and dogs with tapeworm infections generally don’t get sick or lose weight. Your vet can deliver an accurate diagnosis and go over treatment options.
- Whipworms cause inflammation of a dog’s intestine which usually causes recurring diarrhea. Transmitted by ingesting eggs that live in soil, serious cases can cause dehydration, lethargy, anemia, and weight loss.
Can Dogs Pass Worms to Humans?
Not all canine worms can be passed to humans, but roundworms do pose a significant risk. If ingested, the worms can cause eye, heart, lung, and neurological problems in people. Together with hookworm, roundworm can be passed from dog to human through licking. Fever, cough, swollen lymph nodes, a stomachache, itchy skin, a rash, swelling around the eye, or vision changes are the most common signs of a human worm infestation.
What Happens if Worms Go Untreated
Serious health problems can occur if worms in dogs are left untreated. Fortunately, almost all types of worms can be detected by your vet and treated with medication. Treatment for puppies and adult dogs are the same but older dogs get higher doses.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Since dogs easily pick up worms from the soil, the feces of other dogs, and through mosquito or flea bites, they’re always at risk for being infected. But there are some things you can do to lower your dog’s chances of catching worms:
- Discourage poop-eating.
- Quickly scoop the poop in your yard.
- Give monthly heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives.
- Use probiotics to keep his digestive system healthy.
- Keep regular veterinary wellness check appointments