If the thought of worms living in your dog gives you the heebie jeebies, save this article to read when you’ve got an empty stomach. In this blog, we cover the most common types of worms that affect dogs and how you can protect your pooch.
For all the information on heartworm, check out our article all about it here.
The four most common types of worms that affect dogs are:
This article will also cover:
Where Do Dogs Get Roundworm?
Roundworms are very commonly found in puppies as the mother can pass them on in her milk or through her placenta so it is very important to worm mothers while they are pregnant to prevent this from happening. Dogs can also pick-up roundworm from sniffing or playing in infected soil and then ingesting the eggs. Eating contaminated prey such as rodents or wildlife is another way your dog can contract roundworm.
Symptoms of Roundworm Infection
The following symptoms may appear in dogs infested with roundworm. Adult dogs often only display mild or no symptoms of infection.
- Poor body condition
- Pot belly (especially in puppies)
- Diarrhoea (sometimes eggs or worms can be seen in faeces)
- Vomiting (sometimes worms can be seen in vomit)
- Stunted or slow growth (in puppies)
- Poor hair or fur condition and dull coat
- Lung damage
- Severe infection can lead to death
Diagnosing a Roundworm Infection
If roundworms are visible in a dog’s vomit or faeces, they are described as looking like strands of spaghetti and are light in colour. An accurate diagnosis can only be made with a stool sample so it is a good idea to take one along to the vet if you suspect your dog has roundworm.
Where Do Dogs Get Hookworm?
Hookworm eggs and larvae can be ingested by dogs that have been playing in infected soil or if a dog has eaten an infected animal such as rodents or wildlife. Hookworm can also burrow in through the skin to infect dogs, typically entering through the paws or belly of the dog. Puppies can become infected with hookworm while in utero or via their mother’s milk.
Symptoms of Hookworm Infection
Like with a roundworm infection, adults infected with hookworm might not show any symptoms. Puppies may have some of the following symptoms and if an infection is left untreated, it can be fatal due to the worms absorbing all of the nutrients.
- Blood in stool
- Lethargy or weakness
- Weight loss
- Dark, tar-like stools
- Itchy paws
- Pale gums
Diagnosing a Hookworm Infection
Hookworms are a very small, thin worm and their eggs are shed in faeces but are usually too small to see. A stool sample is required for an accurate diagnosis of a hookworm infection in dogs.
Where Do Dogs Get Whipworm?
Whipworm is commonly found amongst dogs that live in kennels or shelters as the eggs can survive in an ideal environment for up to 5 years. Dogs ingest whipworm eggs from the environment which hatch and move into their large intestine and lower bowel. Whipworms are not passed from mother’s to puppies through their milk or while in utero.
Symptoms of Whipworm Infection
Adult dogs with mild cases of whipworm infection are unlikely to display any symptoms. In dogs with a moderate to heavy worm burden, they may have some of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhoea with blood or mucus
- Strong smelling diarrhoea
- Weight loss
- Pot belly
- Dogs with a severe infection may have anaemia
- Infection can be fatal if left untreated
Diagnosing a Whipworm Infection
Whipworms have a long thin tail end and a wider front end but can sometimes be seen in a dogs faeces. Their eggs can be tricky to spot and a stool sample is required for an accurate diagnosis.
Where Do Dogs Get Tapeworm?
There are several types of tapeworm that can affect dogs but two common types to watch out for are the flea tapeworm and the hydatid tapeworm. As the name suggests, dogs contract flea tapeworm from ingesting infested fleas, usually when they are grooming. If your dog has fleas, it is safe to assume they probably have flea tapeworm as well.
The hydatid tapeworm is spread to dogs that eat raw offal or wild animals. The raw meat of sheep, cows, pigs, goats, kangaroos or wallabies can be infected with hydatid tapeworm which can be killed by cooking or boiling.
Symptoms of Tapeworm Infection
Adult dogs with mild tapeworm infestations of either type may not display symptoms but in a moderate to severe infestation, may have some of the following symptoms:
- Poor or dull coat
- Poor body condition
- Weight loss
- “Scooting” or dragging of the bottom along the ground
- Licking or biting at the bottom
- Severe infections can lead to malnutrition
Diagnosing a Tapeworm Infection
Dogs with a flea tapeworm infestation may pass segments in their faeces that look like white grains of rice or cucumber seeds. Often these segments can also become stuck in fur around a dog’s bottom. The hydatid tapeworm is much smaller than the flea tapeworm and is not easily seen by the naked eye. A stool sample is required to confirm a diagnosis of tapeworm infestation.
Treating and Preventing a Worm Infection
Most worm infestations can be prevented by picking up after your dog. Because many of the worms are spread by the ingestion of eggs that are passed in the faeces of infected dogs, the simple act of picking up after your dog prevents eggs from making their way into the environment and reduces the chance of the infection being passed on to another dog. You should also treat your dog regularly for worms according to the manufacturers directions.
Flea tapeworm infections can be prevented by keeping fleas off your dog and treating your house and yard if an infestation is present. Hydatid tapeworm infestations are also easily prevented by avoiding feeding or cooking the raw meat of potentially infested animals before giving to dogs.
When products say that they treat intestinal worms, they often mean that they only treat roundworm, hookworm and whipworm. Some products labelled "all-wormers" do treat for roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm, but you must check the packaging to determine if it just treats flea tapeworm or hydatid tapeworm or both.
Puppies should be given a roundworm treatment once they are 2 weeks old and then should be dosed at regular intervals as advised by your veterinarian. Check with the manufacturer to ensure the worming product you are giving is suitable for young puppies.
Products that are safe to give from 2 weeks of age and older include:
- Aristopet All-Wormer for Dogs & Puppies 10kg - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm and the hydatid tapeworm
- Drontal All-Wormer for Small Dogs & Puppies - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and the hydatid tapeworm
- Drontal Worming Suspension for Puppies - For the treatment of roundworm, whipworm and hookworm
- Endogard 0-5kg tablets - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm, and the hydatid tapeworm
- Milbemax All-Wormer 0.5-5kg tablets - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and the hydatid tapeworm
- Milpro All-Wormer 0.5-5kg tablets - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and hydatid tapeworm
Pregnant mothers should be wormed while pregnant and at regular intervals while they are feeding their puppies as advised by your veterinarian. Products that have been tested for safety in pregnant dogs includes:
- Drontal All-Wormer - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and the hydatid tapeworm
- Cazitel All-Wormer tablets - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and the hydatid tapeworm
- Interceptor Spectrum Chews - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and the hydatid tapeworm
- Milbemax All-Wormer tablets - For the treatment of roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and the hydatid tapeworm
Adult dogs should be regularly treated with worming tablets according to the manufacturer’s directions and the advice of your veterinarian.
Which Worms Are a Threat to Humans?
Can People Get Roundworm?
Yes! Children can contract roundworm with ease if the accidentally ingest roundworm eggs. Try to encourage your child to keep their face away from the dogs. Make sure they wash their hands regularly, especially before eating or drinking and after playing or patting a dog. Keeping your yard free of waste and picking up after your dog when outside the home will help to prevent the spread of roundworms.
Can People Get Hookworm?
Yes! People can also contract hookworm through contact with infected soil. Hookworms burrow into the skin causing an itchy rash, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, anaemia and weight loss. They can also be accidentally ingested, particularly by children, so ensure they wash their hands thoroughly after playing outdoors and after touching dogs. Avoid allowing your dog to defecate near areas where your children play outdoors and clean up after them regularly to avoid the spread of hookworm.
Can People Get Whipworm?
There is a very small chance that human’s can catch whipworm from dogs so it is important to regularly clean up after your dog and thoroughly wash you hands, especially before eating or drinking to avoid an infection.
Can People Get Tapeworm?
While a hydatid tapeworm infection in dogs does not usually cause many ill effects, hydatid infection in humans is a very serious problem. A hydatid tapeworm infestation in humans leads to the development of painful cysts which must be surgically removed. A flea tapeworm infection in humans does not usually cause any serious problems but can cause nausea, diarrhoea and loss of appetite in some cases.