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Dog Deworming

How Worms in Dogs are Contracted

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 Inland Empire 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 such as rodents, birds, and reptiles
  • Mosquito, flea, and tick bites, and ingestion
  • Coming in contact with an infected dog or other infected animal, including wildlife.
  • 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 worm preventive protocol with your veterinarian.

Commonly found Worms in Dogs

  • Roundworms: The most common worm of all types found in dogs. 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 up to 8 inches in length. Tapeworms in dogs most commonly occur when a dog ingests a flea that is carrying tapeworm eggs. 
  • Hookworms: Hookworms in dogs are the smallest of all common worms found in dogs. Hookworms in dogs reside primarily in the small intestine. They grow to approximately one inch in length, and feed on blood. They can cause life threatening anemia in dogs of all ages, but especially puppies. Hookworms are passed in the feces, and can infect other animals, and people.
  • Whipworms: Whipworms in dogs are about ¼” long and reside in the cecum and colon. Whipworms can cause severe damage to these organs and are considered one of the most harmful worms found in dogs.
  • Heartworms: Heartworms in dogs live in the heart and pulmonary arteries. They are transmitted by infected mosquitoes, which migrate throughout the body over the course of about 6 months before finally coming to rest in the circulatory system. They are preventable and treatable, but can be fatal if not diagnosed and arrested before the advanced stages of infestation.
  • Ringworm: Ringworm is a skin disease caused by a fungus, that results in lesions and sores on the outer skin layer. Ringworm is not caused by a worm at all, but rather by an infection of dead layers of skin, hair, and nails. Ringworm is curable, but treatment can take time, and the condition can be very painful.

Roundworms In Dogs

Roundworms in dogs nest in intestinal tracts, and deposit eggs into a dog’s stool. Because of this, tapeworms in dogs can be detected through microscopic imaging. Roundworms in dogs can be transmitted via the prenatal and/or nursing process, by feeding on an infected animal, or by contact with the infected feces of another animal.

Roundworm eggs found in one dog’s fecal matter can also be contagious to other dogs. Additionally, several other animal species can harbor parasitic eggs that when consumed by a host canine, become roundworms in dogs, including chicken, cockroaches, earthworms, and rodents.

If your veterinarian detects the presence of roundworms through a fecal exam and/or other supportive diagnostic tool, they will order a series of typically 2-3 roundworm treatments. These treatments consist of medications that temporarily anesthetize the roundworms, causing them to pass out of the intestines and the dog’s body through bowel movements.

Unlike adult roundworms, the eggs, or larvae, are incredibly resistant and resilient. They have even been known to survive disinfectants and extreme, harsh environmental conditions. Proper sanitation must be performed in these cases, and this can be discussed with your veterinarian. 

Adult worms can usually be seen in the stool with the naked eye, versus eggs, which require a microscope.

Tapeworms In Dogs

Tapeworms in dogs most commonly come from ingesting a host animal or object that contains tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms attach themselves to a dog’s small intestine by latching onto the wall with a sharp, hook-like oral cavity. Dogs that spend time outdoors are at an increased risk of contracting tapeworms.

Tapeworms in dogs feed off of partially digested food in the intestines, which robs a dog of much needed nutrients and vitamins (at the least). Therefore, it is extremely important to understand how to spot tapeworms in dogs so that, should your canine friend become a host, he or she will not stay that way for long:

  • Dried segments of tapeworms in dogs, approximately ⅛ - 1/16” should be visibly apparent around the anus, or stuck to the fur of a host dog’s hindquarters. They should be hard to the touch, and golden in color.

There are very effective forms of oral and injectible medications that we can prescribe, but arresting and intervening in the early stages of an infestation greatly improves the prognosis for a full recovery.

Symptoms Of 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, he or she is usually already well along in the process. 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
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • 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
  • Visible presence of segments of tapeworms in dogs attached to the skin and fur around the anus/hindquarters area
  • Visible presence of roundworms in dogs in infected stool, like tiny grains of rice

Treatment for Worms

Worms in dogs are treatable, so long as they are diagnosed, arrested, and treated before the onset of advanced stages of infestation.

  • Tapeworms: Medication breaks up tapeworms inside of the intestinal tract, making them too small to see in the feces.
  • Roundworms: Medication detaches the worms from the intestinal tract, and excretes them into the stool.
  • Hookworms: Medication kills the adult hookworms only. We will recommend another treatment in 2-4 weeks to treat the hookworms that were babies during the first treatment.
  • Ringworm: We can prescribe antifungal medications, shampoos, lime-sulfur dips, and the shaving of severely affected areas.
  • Whipworms: We can prescribe medication in 3-4 week intervals, and then every 3-4 months to help prevent a re-infestation.
  • Heartworms: A combination of injectable and oral medications are used. This is a very serious condition and treatment is often prolonged and sometimes risky. We recommend prevention, as treatment is not always successful.

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 worms, and many other intestinal parasites. In fact, approximately 10,000 children per year are infected with parasitic worms. There are several effective precautionary measures you can take to help keep you and your family free from worms.

Steps To Preventing Worms

Some preventive measures to reduce the risk of worms in dogs include:

  • Initial treatments given to all puppies at 3 weeks of age
  • Treating nursing females alongside their litter
  • Monthly dog worms preventive medication
  • Fecal examinations performed between 2-4 times per year depending on lifestyle habits
  • 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 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

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 that 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 between 2-4 times per year depending on your dog’s lifestyle and several other factors.
  • Newly Acquired Dogs: No matter the age or documented history, we recommend a dewormer for dogs immediately upon acquisition, then again as recommended by your veterinarian, with a monthly dewormer for dogs preventive to follow as directed.

If you suspect your dog has worms, click here to schedule an appointment.

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