Prevention and Treatment of Dog Worms or Parasites
Dogs can be infected by many different types of worms. Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are the most common types of intestinal parasites in dogs. Dogs can also become infested with heartworms, which infect your dog’s heart. Hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms can also be transmitted to humans, making control of these dog parasites of utmost concern to those of us in the veterinary community as well as caring pet owners.
Luckily, these parasites can be prevented and treated. Talk to a local veterinarian about how to best protect your dog and your family from these internal parasites, and how to treat your dog if you suspect he or she has been exposed.
How Do Dogs Get Worms?
For adult dogs, the most common way for them to become infected with intestinal parasites is to pick them up from the environment with their feet. Dogs will then lick their feet, swallowing the worm larvae. Adult dogs who hunt their food may also pick up worms from eating their prey. In puppies, the most common method of transfer is either through the placenta before they are born or passed through the mother’s milk after birth.
Dogs can become infected with heartworms after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Symptoms of Worms in Dogs
Puppies are more likely to show more significant signs of intestinal parasites. Usually, the first indication is a lack of growth and a dull haircoat. They may have vomiting and diarrhea. You could also see a “pot-bellied” appearance in the puppy if the infestation is severe. Adult clinical signs will be milder, and usually consist of diarrhea and possibly vomiting.
Dogs infected with heartworm may not show any immediate clinical signs, but will eventually develop a cough, exercise intolerance, and overall lethargy due to heart failure. See your veterinarian immediately if your dog develops any of these symptoms.
Diagnosing Dog Worms
The diagnosis of intestinal parasites involves taking a fecal sample and using a microscope to look through the fecal sample for the eggs that are being shed by the adults. Tapeworms can often be diagnosed without a fecal sample because their reproductive segments that are shed are large enough to be seen with the naked eye, and look like tiny grains of rice. These eggs can be found in the infected dog’s feces or seen around the dog’s anus.
Heartworms are diagnosed by taking a small sample of your dog’s blood and testing for a specific protein that is present when heartworms have taken hold. This can usually be performed at your veterinary clinic while you wait.
Treating Worms in Dogs
Intestinal worms are easily treatable, especially in older dogs who have milder signs. Treatment entails a short course of oral dewormer. Puppies with a heavy intestinal parasite load may need more supportive treatment, such as hospitalization for fluid therapy and nutritional support until the dewormer clears the parasite load.
Treating dog heartworm is much more complex and expensive. The recommended treatment is a combination of an injectable drug to kill the adult heartworms and an oral antibiotic to prevent immature heartworms from developing into adults. Your dog will be monitored in the clinic after the injections to make sure there is no reaction to the drug.
Once released from the hospital after the injections, your dog must be on strict crate rest for 6-8 weeks after the last injection. The heartworms will die and be released into the bloodstream from the heart as a result of the injection. An increase in heart rate during that time could cause a clot of heartworms to form, usually in the lungs, with devastating effect. Therefore, be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendation for heartworm preventative in order to avoid this potentially fatal infection.
Preventing Worms in Dogs
Prevention of infection by intestinal worms is done with an oral deworming medication. Veterinarians usually recommend deworming at least once a year, and dogs that are more active and out and about should be dewormed once monthly. Puppies should be dewormed about two weeks after birth and then every 2-3 weeks thereafter until 3 months of age. Nursing mothers should be dewormed at the same time as their puppies.
Prevention of heartworm disease is done through a monthly oral medication, or possibly an injection lasting six months. There are many safe and effective heartworm preventatives available; talk to your veterinarian about which preventative they recommend for your dog. Most monthly heartworm preventatives have at least some form of intestinal parasite preventative included, thus making it easy to kill off both heartworm and intestinal worms with one pill each month.
Speak With Your Veterinarian About The Prevention and Treatment of Worms in Your Dog
There are many safe and effective medications to prevent worms in your dog, and all are relatively inexpensive - especially when compared to treatment for these infections. In addition, many of the intestinal worms could potentially be passed to humans; prevention of these worms in your dog is the key to keeping you and your family safe.
Reach out to a veterinarian near you to discuss his or her recommended parasite preventatives and dewormers to be given at your dog’s annual wellness exams.