It is easy to spot fleas on a dog. It won't be long before you see one rummaging through the dog’s fur or hopping on you. The signs of worms in dogs can be a little more subtle.
Worms are an internal parasite that normally lives within the intestines of a dog. You often only realise that your dog has worms after the parasites have taken hold and your dog's symptoms have become quite noticeable.
One type of “worm” you often hear about is ringworm, though this is, in reality, due to a fungus and not a parasitic worm. Ringworm is covered here >>
The commonest forms of worms in dogs are
This type of worm is present in young puppies and is normally passed to them by their mother, either before or after birth. Symptoms that a puppy is infected with them consist of an enlarged belly, slow weight gain, and diarrhea.
In situations where the puppy is grossly infected, they may vomit them or pass them totally in their feces, where you'll find them resembling long pieces of spaghetti.
Roundworms are the most common canine worm infection. They can grow to be 5-10 cm long; they are thin vermicelli-like worms with a tapered end. They can be white or brown.
The worms can be seen in the dog’s stool, and in the ultimate case, cause a blockage in the dog's bowel. Small puppies can often be infected by their mother's milk and, in some cases, can be born with the worm larvae having been caught in utero.
Lungworm is a general term for several species of nematode worms of the order Strongylida. All of them migrate to their hosts’ lungs or respiratory tracts and damage the airways or lung tissue by inciting an inflammatory reaction inside the tissue, hence their lung worm name.
Lungworm are usually carried by snails and slugs and ingested when these mollusks, or the slime from their trails, are eaten. Once ingested the snail or slug gets digested but the lungworm larvae can survive in the abdomen. Once freed it makes its way to the lungs of the dog where it develops into an adult.
You can find out more about lungworm here >>
This form of the worm is more prevalent in unsanitary environments, and is not the same as other parasitic worms in that it doesn't feed on the dog's nutrients but instead from their blood where it is attached.
One of the simplest indications of this worm to recognize is that your dog's feces will be noticeably black in color because of the deficiency of blood. Other signs include pale gums, and uncharacteristic weakness or thinness.
Hookworms “hook” onto the walls of the dog’s intestine with their mouths, and feed from the dog. This can cause severe anemia because of blood loss, which can be lethal to young or weaker dogs.
Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) are very tiny worms which resemble a whip in shape—the head being the tail. and the whip being the whip “handle.” They are one of the most prevalent parasites in dogs, but many times it remains completely dormant within the dog and it may be asymptomatic..
An infection often presents itself as a bowel inflammation and potentiallyt bloody diarrhea, Other symptoms commonly associated with a whipworm infection include dehydration, anemia, and weight loss.
It is worth noting that symptoms may begin prior to any visual evidence of whipworm eggs, so be aware if your dog displays any of the symptoms .
Usually, this form of worm is found in the earth, where they may live for years and is generally transmitted to dogs when they eat infested food or water, although whipworms can be contracted from other infected animals as well.
Tapeworms are a flat, segmented worm and intestinal parasite. The most common tapeworm species is Dipylidium Caninum and an infestation is medically known as Cestodiasis.
This sort of worm is usually picked up from eating birds, rabbits, or rodents that harbours tapeworm eggs but on occasion, they can become infected by unintentionally swallowing a flea when grooming themselves or another dog or cat.
The eggs hatch and develop in the small intestine. Adult tapeworms usually measure anywhere from four to 28 inches in length.
A tapeworm is made up of lots of small segments, each about the size of a grain of rice. Some of these segments break off in the dog's faeces to distribute the eggs.
There will be visible indications of these segments in the dog's feces, or perhaps stuck to their anus, where they turn up looking like little, dried-out pieces of rice, which are the telltale sign of an infestation and should be checked for before yelling at your dog for scooting his butt across your favourite rug!
This is probably the most dangerous of all worms and can lead to a dog’s death if left untreated. In serious instances of infestation, it could bring about heart failure.
It cannot be transmitted from dog to dog, it can only spread to your dog by mosquitoes, which spreads the heartworm larvae as it bites and feeds on the dogs blood. Once in the bloodstream, they find their way to the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels.
A single heartworm larva is all it takes to start an infestation. Over the course of around 7 months they grow into adults then they begin reproducing.
It takes quite a few worms to make a dog sick, so the infestation will usually be benign for many months. However an adult worm can grow up to 12 inches in length, can live up to 7 years, so it will not take many of these to grow inside your dog before they become an issue. Dogs have been found with as many as 250 of these worms in their system.
As more and more worms grow, they crowd the heart and lungs. The first outward symptom is usually your when your dog develops a cough. As the infestation increases, they won’t be ass energetic or able to exercise as much as before. In more severe cases, dogs can pass out from the loss of blood to the brain, and eventually, they will probably die if the worms are not treated.
For all of the worms except the heartworm, treatment is relatively straightforward. You will need to visit your vet and make sure that the diagnosis is correct. Your vet will then tell you which treatments you should use and the dosage.
Many of the de-worming remedies are orally administered and can be bought over the counter, but a few will need a vet’s prescription. It is very important to get this advice from a vet rather from your guesswork or Google.
In the case of heartworms, prevention is far better than a cure as, even if the situation is caught early and your dog survives, it could well be left with a weakened heart. During the treatment, the dog will need injections and may have to stay at the vets. There are preventative vaccines and pills you should use if you live in a region where heartworm is common.
Some of the parasites which infest dogs can be passed to humans, often to children who may be playing in sand or soil contaminated by old excrement. You should make sure that your kids always wash their hands well after playing outside, and especially before eating.