Intestinal worms are a common issue that can infect your dog and cause a number of health concerns. Parasites can be easily transmitted to your furry companion by consuming soil, water, feces, or food that has been contaminated with parasite eggs or spores. Although the thought of parasites in your dog may make you feel sick to your stomach, just remember that this is a very common health concern that is easily treatable after a brief assessment with your veterinarian.
So how do you prevent your dog from becoming infected? After all, most pets have a tendency to get into things that they know they shouldn’t. So how do you stop them from eating whatever catches their attention? And where exactly are dogs most at risk for getting infected with parasites?
If you find worms in your dog’s poop, your dog is most likely suffering from some type of parasitic infection. While finding worms in your dog’s poop may be quite alarming, just know this is a health issue that can be easily treated with professional help.
In more cases than not, your dog will not show actual worms in their poop, but solely fragments of white specks or small abnormalities in their stool. As you will learn, most of these parasitic infections are accompanied by physical signs or changes in gastrointestinal health.
This article will review the various types of parasites that can infect your dog, the symptoms, and what you should do to help. If your dog has worms in their poop, seek veterinarian help as soon as possible. Although most cases of parasites are minor, severe infestations can still occur, which can cause major issues if left untreated.
Types of Intestinal Worms Found in Dogs
Roundworm, also known as ascarid, is a type of larvae that lives within an animal’s tissues. This form is often passed down to puppies and kittens by their mothers while they are still in the womb. Once a puppy is born, they can also get roundworm through their mother’s milk if she is infected herself. Roundworms can lay dormant in a dog’s tissue for quite some time and eventually come back during or after pregnancy.
When a parasite infects a dog, it will host within the puppy’s small intestine and will eventually produce eggs. After some time, some of the eggs will be passed through the dog’s stool and can potentially spread to other household pets. Roundworms are commonly spread from one animal to the other through the consumption of stool, which is why it’s especially important to clean up after your dog.
These eggs can also live for years in soil, which is another way dogs become infected with intestinal worms later on in life. In severe cases, dogs that have a high infestation of roundworms can suffer intestinal blockage, leading to severe health complications or even death.
Although rarely spotted in a dog’s stool, whipworms are another common parasite that can live inside your pet. You can find whipworms in the cecum, which is the first section in your dog’s large intestine.
This type of parasite can be difficult to diagnose because, unlike the roundworms that can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, the whipworm can only produce a few eggs at a time. This means that even after several stool samples, a whipworm infestation can be challenging to diagnose.
Most dogs who become infected with whipworm have consumed whipworm eggs through soil or other substances. They can also acquire whipworm if they live in a kennel or an area with infected dogs.
In minor cases, dogs with whipworm may show little symptoms, however, if it becomes an infestation, the dog may experience bloody diarrhea or weight loss.
If you think your dog has whipworm, your vet will conduct a stool sample and examine it for any eggs.
Also known as Ancylostoma caninum, hookworms are blood-sucking parasites that can cause significant damage to your dog’s overall health. Hookworms got their name because of the way they “hook” on to the intestinal lining and suck the blood vessels within the intestinal tract.
This type of worm lives within the small intestine and can be transmitted from mother to baby or through contaminated environments. Unlike other parasites, hookworm can also be caused by direct contact with the skin, usually through a dog’s paw pads.
Because these parasites feed on their host’s blood, they are known to cause severe anemia if left untreated. Other symptoms that a dog is suffering from hookworms is if they experience weight loss, dehydration, or dark and bloody stool.
Once a hookworm has infected a dog, they will travel through the body until they reach the small intestine. From there, they will start to hatch their eggs and continue this unforgiving cycle.
One of the most common types of parasites found in dogs are tapeworms. These parasites are transmitted when a dog consumes an infected flea. Adult fleas are common carriers of tapeworms and are usually ingested when a dog is cleaning or licking themselves.
Tapeworms are flat, white parasites that feed within a dog’s gut. These tapeworms are composed of multiple segments, and can grow anywhere from 4 to 8 inches long. In most cases, if a dog is infected with tapeworm, their stool will contain segments that have broken off from the adult parasite. These segments appear to be white specks that can either show up in their stool or vomit.
Just like any other type of parasite, a dog suffering from tapeworm will need a physical examination to be properly diagnosed. Once the vet can figure out the type of parasite that is harming your pup, they can prescribe an anti-parasitic medication and an appropriate course of treatment.
Causes of Worms in Dogs
As said before, the number one cause of dogs becoming infected with worms is through consumption. Whether it’s the soil in the backyard or a stagnant water source found at the dog park, there are many environments that a dog may accidentally consume parasites or larvae.
Keep in mind that worms are a common health concern for pets. Even though severe cases can be deadly, most animals will show no symptoms at all and will have no significant health problems linked to this infestation.
However, if you are concerned about your dog becoming infected, make sure you are always careful about what they are eating. While this may seem impossible (especially if your dog likes to eat everything in sight), make it a part of their daily training. Never allow your dog to eat any substances that are not found in their food bowl.
Symptoms of Worms in Dogs
Depending on the type of worm and how severe the issue is, they may show very little to no signs at all. The majority of these symptoms are very broad, which can make diagnosing the issue at hand even more of a challenge.
As a general rule of thumb, always take note of any physical or behavioral changes you see within your dog. Although it may be subtle, even small symptoms can indicate a more serious underlying issue that is causing internal problems for your furry friend.
Common symptoms of worms in dogs include:
- Change in appetite
- Weight loss
- Skin irritation
- Visible worms in stool or vomit
- Dull coat
- Abdominal pain
If your dog is suffering from any of these above symptoms, take him to the vet for a thorough examination.
How to Diagnose Worms in Dogs
Even though most of these parasites will not cause serious harm, it’s better to get treatment before the issue escalates.
The vet will begin the examination by taking and testing a fecal sample from your dog. Some parasites, such as tapeworms, will actually show in the feces or will contain eggs that have traveled through the intestines. A vet will also look for segments of the parasite under the dog’s tail, which is a common sign of tapeworms. Keep in mind that roundworms and tapeworms are the two parasites that can be found in the stool, which means that these varieties are the easiest to diagnose.
When it comes to hookworms and whipworms, it will be more important to analyze the dog’s physical symptoms or any changes in their gastrointestinal health. If their stool has changed or they experienced a change in weight, this could mean they are suffering from an intestinal parasite infestation.
If the parasites are causing inflammation within the gut, then the veterinarian may order an ultrasound as well. This will help them get a better idea of what’s going on inside of their intestines and how bad the issue truly is.
Treatment of Worms in Dogs
Although no one wants to hear that their beloved pet is infected with parasites, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of treatment options available for a quick recovery.
Once a dog has been diagnosed and given a treatment regimen, they will begin to show improvements in about one week, and in most cases, will be fully recovered after just one month.
An anti-parasitic agent, usually an antibiotic, will first be prescribed once your dog has been diagnosed. These deworming medications are administered either by injection or through a pill. The product that’s used on your specific pet may vary on a number of different factors including their age, severity of the infection, and the type of parasite. Once your vet has considered all of these factors, they will be able to recommend a specific medication that will work best for your dog.
In the case that a dog is also experiencing inflammation, your vet can prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication as well. Even if your dog is showing improvements within a few days, continue the treatment plan for the entire duration to ensure a full recovery. The worse thing you can do as a pet owner is to stop the treatment prematurely and have them reinfected weeks after their initial diagnosis.
How to Prevent Worms in Dog Poop
Although it’s nearly impossible to know everything your dog eats, at least try to supervise their daily outside activity and stop them from consuming anything they are not supposed to. Keep in mind that most parasites can be passed from dog to dog or dog to human, so keep all household animals as healthy as possible.
If tapeworms are your biggest concern, talk to your vet about a flea management plan. There is a wide selection of preventative medications and products on the market, making it an easy addition to your pet’s daily life.
Lastly, the best thing you can do for your pet is to take them to the veterinarian for their regular check-ups. Although this may only be once or twice a year, this is the easiest way to make sure your dog is in their best condition possible. As mentioned before, parasites do not always show symptoms, so taking your dog to the veterinarian is a critical component of their overall health and longevity.
In order to keep your dog as healthy as possible, make sure to develop a positive relationship with your veterinarian. The sooner you are able to identify any changes in your pet’s health or behavior, the faster you will be able to treat them and get them back to their normal lives.