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Worms In Dogs

Advice from Veterinarian Dr. Sara Ochoa on how to treat your dog if they were to get infected by worms.

a brown and white dog digging in the dirt

When your dog goes to the bathroom, the last thing you expect is a worm to be present in their poop. Many dogs will have a worm at least once in their life and are very common to see in puppies. Parasites can spread very quickly and easily in shelters and breeding facilities. If you see worms in your dog’s stool, consult with your veterinarian. They can help you determine what parasites are present in your dog’s stool and the best possible treatment for these parasites.


What kind of worms can infect a dog?

There are many different kinds of worms that can be present in your dog. Some of these you can see in their stool while many are microscopic. The most common worms in dogs are:

    • Roundworms: These are visible to the eye and look like spaghetti in your dog’s stool.
    • Hookworms: These worms are small, and only the eggs pass out in your dog's stool you will never see the worms
    • Tapeworms: These are visible to the eye and look like a grain of rice
    • Whipworms: These worms do not pass out in your dog's stool. They will pass eggs into the stool and can be very hard to find on the microscopic exam.
    • Heartworms: these worms live in your dog’s heart.

To figure out if your dog has these worms, your veterinarian will check a fecal flotation under the microscope. Your veterinarian is not looking for the worms under the microscope. They are looking for the eggs that they pass out in their stool. These eggs are microscopic, and one stool sample could re-infect 100s of dogs. If your dogs are diagnosed with worms, it is best to clean up their stool for a few days after they have been dewormed to prevent them from re-infecting themselves or other dogs in the house.


Symptoms of worms in dogs

If your dog has worms, you may notice the following symptoms:

    • Diarrhea: This diarrhea may also be bloody.
    • Abdominal Pain: The overabundance of worms can cause your dog’s stomach and intestines to be painful.
    • Rapid Weight Loss: Your dog is competing with these worms for food. If the parasite load is very high, your dog will lose weight very quickly
    • Vomiting: Many of these worms will also make your dog nauseated and vomit
    • Poor Coat Appearance: Since the worms are getting some of your dog's nutrition, their coat will not be as smooth and shiny as it should be.
    • Pot Bellied Appearance: These worms will make your dog look fat and have a potbellied appearance.

These may also be symptoms of other diseases. If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to help figure out precisely what parasite, if any, your dog has. Your veterinarian can get you a dewormer for the worm that your dog has.

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Roundworms

Roundworms are very common in dogs, especially puppies.  These worms live in your dog's intestines and can cause diarrhea and bloating.  You may see these worms in your dog's stool. They will be long and look like spaghetti.  There are two types of Roundworms T. Canis and T> Leonina. T. Canis is the most common type and can actually be transferred to people.  Some studies have found roundworms in people's eyes. This is one of the most common parasites found in puppies that can lead to poor growth and even death.  

Hookworms

Hookworms are intestinal worms.  These worms attach to the lining of the intestines and suck blood from your dog.  If your dog has a high load of hookworms, they can become anemic due to the worms sucking out all their blood.   In very small puppies, hookworm anemia can be fatal. Hookworms can be easily caught from the environment of even mother’s milk

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are another type of worm that is found in the intestines that can be seen in your dog’s poop. These worms will look like little grains of rice. Your dog gets tapeworms by accidentally eating fleas or consuming wild animals with the parasites. Tapeworms can cause your dog to be thin as they are competing with the worms for food.  Your veterinarian can give you medication to get rid of these worms in your dog. Make sure also to give your dog flea prevention to help keep them from getting more tapeworms.

Whipworms

Whipworms are intestinal worms that live in the cecum and the colon. The cecum is the beginning of the large intestines, and the colon is the end of the large intestines. This parasite is transmitted to other dogs by getting into the environment from contaminated feces. These parasites are very hardy and can live in the environment for over 5 years. Very mild cases cause no symptoms, but high parasite loads can lead to inflammation of the intestines, weight loss, diarrhea, and anemia in some cases.

Heartworms

Heartworms are one of the most preventable worms. Mosquitoes transmit these worms. These worms live in the blood vessels and heart of your dog. When these worms move around, they cause damage to the walls of the heart, valves, and vessels. This damage is irreversible and can lead to heart problems and even death. There are monthly prevention that you can give your dog and even a shot that you can give your dog every 6 months or 1 year to prevent heart-worm.

If your dog does have heartworm, there is a treatment protocol to get rid of the worm. Your veterinarian can test for heartworm and get your dog started on heartworm prevention or treatment.  

While worms can be gross, they can be easily detected and treated. If you just acquired a dog, take them to a veterinarian to make sure that they do not have a worm. If they do your veterinarian can get you some dewormer for the worm.


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Meet The Author

A picture of Author Sara Ochoa DVM

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM

Since she was a little girl, she knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals that makes her a great source of knowledge for others. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the Schnoodle, and Bam-Bam the bunny