Worms in Dogs
There is a wide variety of types of worms that can infect your dog. Common symptoms of most intestinal parasites are diarrhea, changes in appetite, lethargy and weight loss. If the worms grow into adults, they can be visible in your dog’s feces or in the fur around your dog’s rear end. When you bring your dog to the veterinarian they usually will ask you to bring in a fecal sample. The purpose of the fecal sample is to check it for worm eggs under the microscope. The veterinarian or vet tech will take a small sample of feces and mix it with a sugar solution, then let it rest in a test tube for about 10 minutes. Any eggs in the stool will float to the top and stick to a microscope slide cover so the vet can then examine the slide under the microscope. The species of worm can be identified by the shape, size and color of the egg. If your dog does have worms most types are easily treated with some oral medication from your vet.
The most common type of worm in puppies and dogs is roundworm, also known as ascarids. Roundworms are very hardy and can live in soil for months or years! Adult worms present in the dog’s feces look like spaghetti. Sometimes roundworms migrate up the GI tract causing your dog to cough. Puppies with bloated potbellies are usually loaded with Roundworms. Humans can contract Roundworms from infected feces.
The most common type of worm in adult dogs is the tapeworm. Tapeworm larva live in the intestines of fleas and lice so when a dog has fleas and ingests a flea while licking themself, the tapeworm larva are introduced to the dog’s system. The body of a tapeworm is segmented so when the adult worms appear in feces they look like rice. Humans can also get Tapeworms from accidentally swallowing a flea.
Hookworms are similar to Roundworms, but smaller and they live in the small intestines. Serious Hookworm infestations can lead to anemia because they feed off the dog’s blood.
Similar to the hookworm, whipworms live in the intestines and feed off the dog’s blood. Dogs tend to pick up whipworms from contaminated soil.
Contracted from the bite of a mosquito, Heartworms infect the heart and surrounding blood vessels. An infestation of worms in this part of the body will hurt the heart and lung’s ability to function normally and can be fatal to the dog. Symptoms start out with a cough then as the worms grow, the dog’s exercise tolerance and ability to breath are compromised. Heartworm in more common in warm, humid areas where mosquitos thrive, but cases have been reported in all 50 states. Treatment is expensive and dangerous to the dog, so prevention is key! Your vet can prescribe an oral preventative medication that you give your dog on a monthly basis to protect them from Heartworms.
While not actually a worm, Coccidia is another intestinal parasite that can infect dogs and cause major diarrhea.
Dogs can get worms from sharing a living environment with infected animals, from raw meat and even from fleas. Regular veterinary exams will help protect your dog from serious parasite infection because your vet will be able to detect any problems before they get too large. As you can see, there are many different types of worms, so it is best to let your vet determine treatment and select the proper deworming medication for your dog.