How Worms In Dogs Are Contracted
At Vida Veterinary Care, we love educating 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 Denver area 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 like rodents, birds, and reptiles
- Mosquito, flea, and tick bites and ingestion
- Coming into contact with an infected dog or another infected animal
- 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 dog worm preventive protocol with your veterinarian. You can learn how to spot some common symptoms of worms in dogs, and also how you can go about preventing the presence and spread of worms in and around your home and family, by reading on.
Types Of Dog Worms
The following intestinal parasites are some of the most common types of dog worms:
- Roundworms: The most common dog worms. Roundworms in dogs grow to 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 to 8 inches in length. Dogs get tapeworms when they encounter or ingest a host that is carrying tapeworm eggs, like a bird or a flea.
- Hookworms: Hookworms are the smallest of all common dog worm varieties. Hookworms reside primarily in the small intestine of dogs. They grow to approximately 1″ in length and feed on the dog’s blood. They can cause life-threatening anemia in dogs of all ages, but especially puppies. Hookworms are passed in the feces, and they can infect other animals and people too.
- Whipworms: Whipworms in dogs are about ¼” long and reside in the cecum and colon. Whipworms can cause severe damage to these organs, and they are considered one of the most harmful dog worms in existence but are also more geographically distinct than other dog worms.
- Heartworms: Heartworms in dogs live in the heart and pulmonary arteries. They are transmitted by infected mosquitoes, which migrate throughout the body over about 6-months before finally coming to rest in the circulatory system. Heartworms are transmitted only from an infected mosquito’s bite, and not within or between species. They are preventable and treatable but they can be fatal if not diagnosed and arrested before the advanced stages of infestation.
- Ringworm: Ringworm, or dermatophytosis, is a skin disease caused by a fungus that results in lesions and sores on the epidermal (or outer skin) layer. Interestingly, 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.
Of all these common types of dog worms, the two varieties veterinarians see and treat most often in dogs are roundworms and tapeworms.
Roundworms In Dogs
Like tapeworms and hookworms, 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. As we mentioned above, 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:
If your veterinarian detects the presence of roundworms through a fecal exam and/or other supportive diagnostic tools, he or she will order a series of usually between two and three 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. In these cases, the removal of a dog’s stool is the best option to prevent reinfection. This can be accomplished by using a 1% bleach, 99% water solution to remove the sticky outer coating of the eggs, which will allow them to be flushed away. However, we do not recommend planning or undertaking such a procedure without first consulting your veterinarian.
Adult worms can usually be seen with the naked eye in the stool but not in eggs, which require a microscope. For this reason, we highly recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian if you suspect roundworms in dogs, in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
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 intestinal wall with a sharp, hook-like oral cavity. Dogs that spend time outdoors are at an increased risk of contracting tapeworms, as the contraction and infestation process demonstrates:
- Tapeworm eggs are attached to flea larvae through locational contact
- A dog comes into contact with the host flea larvae through skin or oral contact
- If skin contact, the dog bites and licks to combat the biting flea, which can cause an ingestion of the tapeworm eggs, which will become tapeworms
- If oral contact, the dog swallows the flea in its entirety, and the digestion process turns the flea into a tapeworm in the intestines
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.
We recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately should you suspect or witness any symptoms of tapeworms in dogs. There are very effective forms of oral and injectable medications we can prescribe, but arresting and intervening in the early stages of an infestation greatly improves the prognosis for a full recovery.
Symptoms Of Dog 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
- 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
- The visible presence of segments of tapeworms in dogs attached to the skin and fur around the anus/hindquarters area
- The visible presence of roundworms in the infected stool, like tiny grains of rice
These symptoms of worms in dogs can also indicate other illnesses, so we recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately if you suspect or witness any of these symptoms of worms in your dog.
How Are Dog Worms Treated?
Dog worms are generally treatable, as long as they are diagnosed, arrested, and treated before the onset of advanced stages of infestation. Your veterinarian can prescribe the proper deworming medication (anthelmintic), along with the appropriate administration protocol, based on the type of parasite and extent of the infestation.
- For tapeworms in dogs, the medication breaks up tapeworms inside of the intestinal tract, making them too small to see in the feces.
- For roundworms in dogs, the medication detaches the worms from the intestinal tract, and excrete them into and with the stool
- For hookworms in dogs, the 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.
- For ringworm in dogs, we can prescribe antifungal medications, shampoos, lime-sulfur dips, and the shaving of severely affected areas.
- For whipworms in dogs, we can prescribe medication in 3-4 week intervals, and then every 3-4 months to help prevent a re-infestation.
- For heartworms in dogs, and depending upon the severity of the infestation, we can prescribe oral and injectable medications, antibiotics, special diets, diuretics to reduce fluid accumulation, and even extended prescription of heart medication in extreme cases.
We highly recommend consulting your veterinarian before purchasing or administering any over-the-counter or prescription medication for dog worms. Only your veterinarian can determine the severity of the infestation, and then order the proper number of treatments, as well as any other recommended instructions.
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 or sand-covered outdoor play areas routinely serve as makeshift litter boxes for animals infected with dog worms, and many other intestinal parasites. In fact, approximately 10,000 children per year are infected with parasitic worms, and conditions including blindness can occur in severe cases. However, we will now discuss several effective precautionary measures you can take to help keep you and your family free from worms in dogs.
Steps To Prevent Dog Worms
Fortunately, various preventive measures can be taken to help ensure your human, canine, and other assorted family members remain at a lower risk for contracting and spreading dog 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, in casethe worms were not detected in a previous fecal examination
- Monthly dog worm preventive medication, given year-round as prescribed by your veterinarian
- Fecal examinations performed between 2-4 times per year depending on lifestyle habits like hunting, and geographic location
- 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/or 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
There are few thrills a family can experience like providing a forever home for a new puppy or dog. However, 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, which 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: Regardless of the dog’s age or documented history, we recommend a dewormer for dogs immediately upon acquisition, then again as recommended by your veterinarian, followed by a monthly preventative dewormer for dogs as directed.
If you suspect your dog has worms, it’s essential to call us right away so that we can take care of the issue immediately.
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