Whilst worms in dogs and puppies are very common, it’s not always obvious that your pet has them.
How do dogs get worms?
There is no way of stopping pets from getting parasites like worms which is why regular treatment is so important. Dogs can potentially pick up several types of intestinal worms during their life. Worming your dog is part of responsible pet ownership as dogs are the source of worms in human beings which can cause serious health issues.
Most worms are round and can grow to varying lengths, from just a few inches to as many as 7 inches. As larvae, worms can move freely throughout your pet’s system and cause problems beyond the intestine if they find their way into the liver, eye or lungs.
Different Types of Worms in Dogs
- Roundworms – Roundworms are spread by your pet eating an infected egg either from the soil or in an infected rodent, bird or rabbit. The eggs are passed in faeces and can remain in the soil anywhere where dogs or cats have been.
- Tapeworms – The most common kind of tapeworm in the UK is spread by fleas. So if your pet has a flea infestation, give them a worming tablet as well as treating their fleas. Travelling with your pet? They will need to be treated for tapeworm before they re-enter the UK.
- Hookworms – These are not common in the UK but can affect your pet if you are travelling abroad. The larvae can be eaten or burrow through the skin of the animal. The adult worms hook themselves to the intestine and feed on blood. Large numbers of worms will cause anaemia. Hookworms in dogs skin can in some cases be passed to humans.
- Whipworms – Whipworms only affect dogs. They are rare in the UK but can be found where there are large numbers of dogs in places such as kennels. Whipworm eggs can be found in the faeces of infected dogs, and then passed on to other dogs through contact with the faeces. They do not cause any health problems for humans.
- Lungworms – There are a number of different kinds of lung worm in both cats and dogs. The first sign of an infection is a moist cough, as part of the worm’s life cycle is spent in the lungs and airways. They can be caught through eating a slug or snail containing the lungworm larvae. Lungworms cannot be treated by conventional worming tablets, so you should consult your vet to treat them in your pet. They may recommend using a spot on wormer during the wet, warm seasons when slugs and snails are particularly prevalent.
Symptoms of worms in dogs
It can be difficult to tell whether your dog has intestinal worms, but there are a few signs that may be suggestive. These may include any or all of the following:
- ‘Scooting’, or dragging the bottom along the ground
- Visible worms or eggs in your dog’s faeces or fur around its bottom
- Swollen abdomen
- Diarrhoea or vomiting
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Bleeding (in the case of lungworm)
- Coughing (in the case of lungworm and hookworm)
If your dog has worms for a prolonged period of time these symptoms may become more obvious. Untreated worms can lead to weight loss, fatigue, and in some cases even death, so you should always contact a vet if you have any concerns.
Your vet will give your dog a thorough examination and take a full history from you. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms listed above, your vet will ask you to bring a stool sample so worms can be detected or ruled out as a cause.
Your vet can recommend deworming medications to treat different types of parasites, as well as preventative medications. Since puppies are susceptible to receiving worms from their mothers, they must also have their stool tested regularly.
How to treat worms in dogs
Worm infestations are difficult to eliminate. In just one week, two infected puppies can shed more than 20 million eggs, enough to contaminate a 2,800 square-foot yard. The treatment of the condition will depend partly on the vet’s diagnosis, but worming should be done regularly regardless of symptoms as a preventive measure.
Can humans get worms from dogs?
Humans can get worms from dogs and must take care when in contact with a dog that has worms. Contact with contaminated dog faeces can lead to human ingestion and infection. If you are in contact with a dog that has worms always wash your hands thoroughly immediately afterwards.
Can dogs get worms from cats?
Dogs are unlikely to catch worms from cats unless they come into contact with the faeces of a cat that has worms. If you have cats and dogs living in the same household and one of the animals brings fleas into the home, there is a chance that they will then develop worms from ingesting fleas.
You need to worm your dog regularly even if you haven’t seen any symptoms of worms, to kill the worms that are present and prevent reinfection. You also must treat your dog for worms immediately if a flea infestation occurs, as fleas can lead to worms if left untreated.
Worming is recommended at least four times a year, although more regular treatment for worms may be required if your pet hunts, or gets fleas. Remember, there is no residual effect from treatments – so you can’t use it as a preventative.
Exercising good hygiene precautions is very important, particularly with children, who should be taught not to share food plates with the cat and to wash their hands after stroking or playing with him or her. It’s also important to always clean up after your dog and dispose of faeces, especially in your own garden where numbers of eggs can build up.
Provided you worm your dog regularly, any risks should be kept to a minimum.