As in case of humans, dogs too can get infected with parasitic worms. There are many different types of dog worms and the most common among them are intestinal parasites, like roundworms, hookworms and whip worms. Dogs are also prone to get infected with heartworms that are parasites which are found inside the blood vessels and heart. While these are common types of dog worms, there are some canine parasites that are rarely found. One such dog worm is Capillaria plica (otherwise known as Pearsonema plica), that is referred to as bladder worms.
What are Bladder Worms
As the name rightly suggests, they are parasites that are found in the urinary bladder of dogs. In some cases, these worms are found in the kidneys and ureters too. Even though, these parasitic nematodes are said to be distributed worldwide, they are mainly found in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Bladder worms are mostly found in wild animals, especially foxes. It is rare to find these parasites in domesticated dogs. Though uncommon, some domesticated dogs may develop this infection. Dog kept in kennels are found to be more prone to develop bladder worm infection.
Bladder worms in dogs have a yellowish body color. These parasites have thread-like bodies with a maximum length of sixty millimeters. The eggs of this nematode are expelled out of the host's body through the latter's urine. These eggs are almost colorless and has a pitted shell. The eggs are ingested by earthworms (intermediate host) and it is inside the body of these worms that the first larval stage of bladder worm is developed.
If the mammal host ingests the earthworm at this stage, the larvae will molt successively and enter the circulatory system and reach the kidneys, bladder and ureters of the host. There, they will molt to the fourth stage and then reproduces. The eggs are again expelled through urine of the host and the life cycle of bladder worm continues. It is said that ingestion of infected earthworms or food/water contaminated with Capillaria plica eggs can lead to bladder worm infection in dogs.
Signs of Bladder Worms in Dogs
One of the interesting facts about these worms in dog bladder is that in most cases, they are not found to cause any symptoms. In case of heavy infestation, the dog may develop symptoms that resemble that of urinary infection. In such cases, the infected dog may experience painful urination and urinary incontinence. Even pollakiuria (frequent urination) and hematuria may develop in these dogs. Other symptoms include inflammation of the bladder and proteinuria. Sometimes, the ureters may also develop inflammation.
Presence of bladder worm eggs in the urine sediment is an indication of infection. Epithelial cells in the urine may be detected through urinalysis. Medication like ivermectin, levamisole, fenbendazole or albendazole are used for treating the condition. It has also been suggested that treatment is not required as this infection is a self-limiting one. This is not applicable for those dogs with chances of reinfection. Even though, right dosage of ivermectin is said to be effective in treating this infection, there are speculations about this treatment, which is not advisable for certain dog breeds, like the Collies. So, the right mode of treatment will be decided by the vet.
Though, bladder worm infection is rare in domestic dogs, it is always better to take precautionary measures. Make sure that the area where your pet is kept is clean and properly sanitized. Get rid of the earthworms in the area. In case of dogs kept in outdoor kennels, provide a wire mesh (slightly above the soil level) in the bottom for preventing the animals from ingesting earthworms in the soil. If you find any of the above said symptoms in your pet, take the dog to the vet and provide them with the right treatment.