What Causes Worms in Dogs?
Nobody wants to think about anything creepy or crawly invading their pup’s internal organs. Still, it’s every pet parent’s essential responsibility to understand the risks, signs, and treatment options available if your dog contracts worms. The first rule is don’t panic. Worms are a relatively common condition in domestic dogs, typically referred to as intestinal parasites, and can infect dogs of any age. Some worms can even be transferred to people, with immunosuppressed people and small children being the most vulnerable.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) states that there are five types of common worms in dogs that parents should be aware of: roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and heartworms.
“What do worms look like in dog poop?” is perhaps the most common question we hear our pet parents ask. Certain roundworms and hookworms will appear as small to large, off-white to tan, spaghetti shaped parasites in the stool. Tapeworms will appear as small, off-white to tan segments in the stool or clinging to the hair around the privates. Fresh segments will be white and may expand and contract, but dry segments often resemble rice grains or sesame seeds and are darker in color. However, some worms can be digested and won’t appear in the stool.
The Arizona Humane Society lays out how each of the common worms in dogs might be transmitted:
- Roundworm – Commonly transmitted to puppies prior to birth (while in the uterus). They can also be transmitted by nursing from an infected mother and through feces or contaminated soil. Ingesting infected rodents also increases susceptibility.
- Tapeworm – Commonly transmitted by fleas as a result of self-grooming and swallowing an infected flea that grows into a tapeworm.
- Hookworm – Commonly transmitted by eggs passing through feces of infected dogs and hatching into larvae. These larvae can often be swallowed or penetrate the dog’s foot pads or skin. Nursing dogs can also transmit hookworms to their pups. Hookworms are transmissible to humans.
- Heartworm – Larvae are transmitted by mosquitoes from pet to pet and are prevalent throughout the country. Dogs that are infected carry thousands of microscopic larvae within their bloodstream, and when mosquitoes bite, they suck out the blood, swallowing the tiny worms and passing them to the next dog they bite. The adult worms grow quite large in the heart and lungs and can be life-threatening.
- Whipworm – Commonly transmitted by ingestion of food or water contaminated with whipworm eggs. Those eggs mature and attach to the intestinal tract, feeding on the dog’s blood. The eggs are often passed through the stool and remain in the soil where they mature, then the process repeats. Grooming tools can also carry contaminated eggs.
The Humane Society also provides detail for each parasite and their related symptoms and prevention. However, each parasite impacts every dog differently. Here are some general warning signs owners can look out for:
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive weight loss
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Poor coat appearance
- Intestinal blockage/pneumonia
- Deficiencies in nutrition
- Decreased appetite
Not all dogs with parasites will have clinical signs. Parasites come in many shapes and sizes, and although some may be impossible to see with the naked eye, they can still cause severe problems. Luckily, they’re preventable and treatable with proper veterinary care.
Many deworming medications have been proven safe and effective, however, it is always recommended to discuss with your veterinarian prior to administering any medication. Worm infestations can be life-threatening for dogs if caught too late or left untreated. Some parasites can be transmitted to their human companions. It’s recommended that you check your pet frequently for parasites with the help of your pet’s veterinarian. This way, they can work with you to develop a treatment plan and get your pup on the fast track to recovery.
If you’re worried your pet might have a worm infection, immediately contact your nearest AZPetVet location and make an appointment.
If you would like to learn more about parasites visit https://www.petsandparasites.org/
Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.