The topic of worms in dogs’ poop is not something that owners like to discuss. However, it is fairly common.
There are four main types of worms that dogs can get. Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms are all parasitic worms that can attack the intestinal tract of your dog.
Any of these worms are usually acquired from the environment or from infections that are picked up from other organisms.
10 Most-Common Symptoms of Worms in Dogs
One of the most common symptoms of worms in dogs is coughing. Coughing is often a sign of heartworms but can also be a symptom of hookworms and roundworms.
Dogs with heartworms will have a dry and persistent cough, unlike a normal cough that is strong and infrequent. During the early stage of heartworms, your dog may cough after exercising. This is because the heartworm parasites are migrating into the lungs, thus creating a blockage of oxygenated blood. Similar to heartworms, dogs with roundworms will begin coughing as the roundworm larvae migrate to the lungs.
As for dogs with hookworms, coughing will be a symptom only if the case is severe.If your dog is coughing more frequently and weakly, it’s important to consult a vet immediately. Many cases of worms in dogs can be very serious and sometimes even fatal.
If your dog is vomiting, it may be a symptom of worms. Each type of worm is known to cause vomiting. Dogs with whipworms may vomit a yellow-green substance while dogs with roundworms, hookworms, or tapeworms may vomit visible worms. In most cases, you’ll be able to see the worms in your dog’s vomit.
Keep in mind, however, that vomiting can be triggered by other health issues such as indigestion. If your dog begins vomiting frequently, contact a veterinarian immediately. Even if your dog doesn’t have worms, vomiting may be a sign of another health problem.
Soft stools and canine diarrhea can be the result of worms. Prolonged diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which is why it’s very important to visit a vet immediately.In addition to diarrhea, dogs with hookworms may have blood in their stools. Bloody diarrhea develops as the infection worsens and may cause chronic bloody diarrhea if left untreated.Blood loss is a serious risk for dogs infected with worms.
It is especially dangerous for dogs with heartworm. Too much blood loss can result in lethargy, extremely high blood pressure, and possibly heart failure. If you notice blood in your dog’s stool, contact your vet immediately.
4. Low energy
Dogs that are lethargic and less active than normal may be showing symptoms of worms. The worms cause this lack of energy by taking blood and nutrients from your dog.
The hookworm is a common parasite that is dangerous enough to kill puppies due to the loss of blood. Even in adult dogs, blood loss can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. If your dog is low on energy or acting weak, you should promptly consult a vet.
5. Pot-bellied appearance
Another common symptom of worms in dogs is a pot-bellied or bloated appearance. Roundworms is the most common type of worm to cause this symptom.A pot-bellied appearance is usually seen in puppies who have picked up worms from their mother. This transmission of worms happens either prior to birth through the placenta or after birth during nursing.Puppies aren’t the only ones who develop this symptom.
Adult dogs may have a pot-bellied appearance as well. Regardless of your dog’s age, you should visit a vet immediately, as roundworms can create blockages in your dog’s intestines.
6. Change in appetite
If you notice a sudden change in your dog’s appetite, he may have come into contact with roundworms.
Dogs that are infected often lose their appetite or, in some cases, have a sudden increase in hunger. Even though your dog may have increased appetite levels, he may still lose weight. As with the other symptoms of worm infestation in dogs, you should visit a veterinarian as soon as your dog shows changes in appetite.
7. Weight loss
If your dog shows signs of rapid weight loss, he may have tapeworm or whipworm. This is due to the parasites feeding on the nutrients in your dog’s stomach. As previously mentioned, weight loss can occur even if your dog’s appetite is normal or increased.
Keep in mind, however, that weight loss may also be a sign of other health issues. Always consult a vet if your dog is experiencing drastic weight loss.
8. Dull coat
A healthy dog should have a shiny thick coat. If your dog’s coat begins to dull and dry out, he may have picked up a form of worms. Loss of hair or the appearance of rashes can also denote worms.
In addition to a dull coat, your dog may experience significant hair loss. There are many types of parasites besides worms that can cause hair loss, so consult your vet to find the right treatment.
9. Itching and signs of skin irritations
Dogs that show signs of skin irritation may have a severe infestation of worms. Such skin irritations may include a rash. You may even see your dog itching himself more often.
This leads us to the next symptom of worms in dogs, which is rubbing his bottom on the floor.
10. Rubbing its bottom on the ground or “scooting”
Although scooting can often be caused by problems with the anal glands, dogs with worms will occasionally rub their rear ends on the floor in order to relieve themselves of the itch due to worms in the area.
Additionally, your dog may bite or lick his bottom to relieve the itching that the worms cause.
Dog Worms - Types
The following intestinal parasites are some of the most common types of dog worms:
The most common dog worms of all types. 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 in dogs have long and flat ⅛” segmented bodies that can grow to 8 inches in length. Tapeworms in dogs happen when a dog encounters or ingests a host that is carrying tapeworm eggs, like a bird or a flea.
Hookworms in dogs are the smallest of all common dog worms varieties. Hookworms in dogs reside primarily in the small intestine. They grow to approximately one inch in length and feed on the blood. They can cause life-threatening anemia in dogs of all ages, but especially puppies. Hookworms are passed in the feces and can infect other animals and people too.
Whipworms in dogs are about ¼” long and reside in the cecum and colon. Whipworms can cause severe damage to these organs, and are considered one of the most harmful dog worms in existence, but are also more geographically distinct than other dog worms.
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 can be fatal if not diagnosed and arrested before the advanced stages of infestation.
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 enough, 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 are roundworms in dogs and tapeworms in dogs.
Roundworms in dogs nest in the intestinal tract and deposit eggs into a dog’s stool. Because of this, roundworms 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, he or she will order a series of usually between 2-3 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, 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 versus eggs, which require a microscope. For this reason, we highly recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian if you suspect roundworms in dogs, to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
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 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.
Dog Worms Treatment
Dog worms are generally treatable, so 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 parasite and extent of the infestation.
- For tapeworms in dogs, the medication breaks up tapeworms inside of the intestinal tract. Flea treatment and preventative are recommended.
- For roundworms in dogs, the medication detaches the worms from the intestinal tract, and excrete them into and with the stool. At a minimum, a second treatment is required 3-4 weeks later.
- 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 or 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 medication, 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.
- Owners should be aware of the general warning signs that indicate your dog may have worms.
- Treating worms promptly reduces health risks to your dog, as well as the risk of the worms spreading.
- Preventative treatments, flea control, and clean-up of dog waste can help you avoid serious problems.
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:
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 that 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
No matter the age or documented history, we recommend a dewormer for dogs immediately upon acquisition, then again as recommended by your veterinarian, with a monthly dewormer for dogs preventive to follow as directed.
While there are no foolproof methods for worm prevention, if you maintain regular hygiene, vet appointments, flea and tick controls, and other protective measures, they will go a long way in keeping your dog safe from worms. Take annual tests for heartworms and ask your vet for their recommendations for preventative medications.
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