Many types of worms can affect your dog. These include not only the dreaded heartworm, but roundworms, tapeworms, and others. These parasitic worms can latch onto your dog after they consume contaminated soil, water, feces, spores, or food.
Now, the thought of these worms invading your dog’s body can be shocking, but don’t panic.
Parasitic worms are actually incredibly common and easily treatable. Your veterinarian is an expert with this kind of thing.
So, does my dog have worms? Well, there are some specific things you can look out for.
Here are some indications that your pooch might have a problem, as well as the types of parasitic worms that can occur in dogs. You’ll also learn some ways to keep this problem from occurring in the first place.
Symptoms of Worms
If you carefully watch your dog, you will often be able to tell if they have a worm issue. These are some of the symptoms that will let you know you need to get your pup to the vet:
1. Worms in Stool
The next time you pick up after your pet, take a look at your dog’s stool to see if you can see worms. This won’t be a pleasant task, of course, but it’s important that you do it from time to time.
Roundworms will be the most obvious. They will be cream or white in color and look somewhat like spaghetti.1
Tapeworms, on the other hand, will look similar to small grains of rice.
Hookworms and whipworms tend to only show up as physical or gastrointestinal symptoms.2
In many cases, you won’t see actual worms in your pup’s poop but potentially fragments, like white specks.
Heartworms will not be visible in your dog’s stool, because it’s not passed through the intestines. Many times, dogs don’t show any symptoms of heartworms until months after they’re infected.
2. Intestinal Issues
If your dog is vomiting on a regular basis, or has diarrhea, a worm infestation could be to blame. The same holds true if your pet is suddenly losing weight or has a lack of appetite. Take your pet to a veterinarian for a thorough examination. They’re highly trained to diagnose all kinds of worms in dogs.3
3. Weakness or Lethargy
A worm infestation may cause weakness or lethargy in your pup. Your dog might not show an interest in the activities they normally love, such as playing or taking a walk around the neighborhood.4 Again, get them to the vet for a checkup.
4. Stunted Growth
If your puppy isn’t growing the way they should, worms may be robbing them of the nutrients they need to thrive.5
5. Scooting on the Ground
Sometimes, a dog with an infestation of tapeworms will scoot on the floor. This is because the worms are causing an extreme amount of itching.6If your pup starts doing this, check their bottom for worms. Even if you can’t see any physical evidence of worms, it’s best to let the vet take a look.
6. Puppy Pot Belly
A puppy with a pot belly could have roundworms in their intestines. If your puppy’s coat is dull, that’s another potential sign of a roundworm problem.7
7. Difficulty Breathing
Trouble breathing or frequent coughing can be a sign that your dog has roundworms. These issues are occurring because of roundworm larvae in the respiratory system.8If the coughing is soft and deep, that could be an indication of a heartworm issue.9 Whatever the case, if your pup is showing signs of breathing problems, including frequent coughing, it’s time for a trip to the vet.
8. Bloody Stool
A dog passing tarry, bloody stools could have hookworms.10Bloody stools can also be a sign of colitis – an inflammation of the intestinal wall. This is sometimes caused by a whipworm infestation.11
Types of Dog Worms
Unfortunately, dogs are susceptible to worm infestations. Most of these will be relatively minor, unless the dog has a weakened immune system, or if an infestation is severe. Here are just some of the more common types of worms in dogs:
Whipworms will usually reside in a dog’s large intestine. A heavy infestation can lead to inflammation of the intestinal wall. Whipworm infections can be tough to diagnose because the female worms only lay eggs periodically. A veterinarian may have to take multiple fecal samples in order to obtain a definitive diagnosis.
Dogs who have become infected with whipworm have consumed the eggs through contaminated soil, or in some other place, like a kennel. A full-blown infestation of whipworm can result in bloody diarrhea and/or weight loss in your pup.12
Tapeworms usually infect a dog when they ingest infected lice or fleas. Fleas are a very common carrier of tapeworm. These worms usually live in the small intestine of your pet, taking nutrients that they need.
Tapeworms are flat and white and can grow anywhere from 4 to 8 inches long. Generally, if a dog is infected with tapeworm, their stool will show segments of broken “tape” that may appear as white specks.13
Hookworms are especially common in puppies. They can even infect a puppy while they are still in the womb. It’s very common for a hookworm infestation to occur within the first month or two after a puppy is born.
Like tapeworms, hookworms live in a dog’s small intestine. These blood-sucking parasitic worms “hook” onto the intestinal lining and suck from the blood vessels. If an infestation is severe enough, a puppy could suffer life-threatening anemia.14
Other symptoms of hookworms include weight loss, dehydration, or dark and bloody stool. Unlike other worms, hookworms can also be picked up through the skin – i.e. through a puppy’s paws.
This is the most common type of worm that affects dogs. The roundworm larvae can live in the soil for years. Most puppies will have this worm. They either get them before they are born or through the milk of the mother.
Roundworms can lay dormant within a dog for some time before they go into overdrive. When an infection arises, this worm will produce eggs within the dog’s intestine. Some of these eggs will be passed through the dog’s stool, which is how they can spread to other pets.15
Though roundworms are very common, don’t ever take them lightly. In severe cases, they can cause a very serious intestinal blockage in your dog. And by all means, always pick up after your pet!
The heartworm is probably the most dangerous type of parasite that can affect a dog. Mosquitoes carry these worms, and they infect dogs through a bite. A heartworm infestation can be fatal. Not only do heartworms cause heart problems, they can also affect your dog’s kidney and liver.16
The Best Treatment For Worms
When your pup has been diagnosed with a parasitic worm, the first step your vet may take is to give them anti-parasitic medication. This medication can be injected or swallowed. If your dog is also experiencing side effects like inflammation from the worms, the vet may also administer an anti-inflammatory.
As with humans, even if your pooch seems to recover quickly, the medication must be continued until it is finished. This is extremely important to ensure that they won’t be immediately reinfected.
Dogs on anti-parasitic medications should begin to show improvement within a week, with a full recovery expected after a month.
How to Prevent Worms in Dogs
Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to help minimize the severity of an infestation. A veterinarian can give your pet a vaccination to help prevent a heartworm infestation, for example.
At home, there are other things you can do to help protect your pet from serious worm-related problems.
- Make sure you pick up “pet poop” from your yard regularly. This will help reduce the chances that worms will move from your dog’s feces to the soil and potentially cause another infestation at a later date.
- Take your pet to the veterinarian for regular check-ups to ensure no worms are present. Remember: some parasites don’t always display recognizable symptoms.
- Parasites are easily passed from dog to dog, so boost your pet’s immune system with high-quality natural foods, as well as supplements. The stronger your dog’s immune system is, the less of a chance they’ll suffer severe problems due to worms.17
- Although it’s almost impossible to know everything your dog swallows, ensure that your yard is kept clean of anything you wouldn’t want them to consume.
- Tapeworms are easily preventable with a flea management program of preventative medications.
- You know your dog well. If they appear to be exhibiting any out-of-the-ordinary behavior, however small, don’t hesitate to get them checked out.
Wrapping it Up
So, does my dog have worms? Well, it’s nearly impossible to keep your dog completely protected from worms. But being aware of the symptoms of an infestation, taking the recommended preventative steps, knowing your pet’s behavior, and having them checked regularly by a veterinarian, can go a long way in protecting your beloved pet.
If you see any unusual signs with your dog, however small, take them to see your veterinarian. At the very least, it will give you some peace of mind.
This article was updated April 1, 2019.