Parasitic worms can infest a dog in any stage of its life. In some cases, puppies are born with parasitic worms that are transmitted from their mothers. Symptoms of dog worms vary based on the worm type. Some dog worms even cause death, if not treated in the early stages of infestation. As a dog owner, one needs to be responsible about his/her dog's health and learn how to identify of dog worm symptoms. This way, proper treatment can be done at the right time.
Types of Dog Worms and Their Identification
There are five types of worms that affect dogs; namely tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and heartworms. All of these worms, except heartworms, infest the intestines of dogs. Heartworms, as the name suggests, primarily attack the heart of dogs. Let's look into the details of dog worms along with the symptoms exhibited, so that you can identify the conditions in the earliest possible date.
Roundworms (Toxocara canis)
General Info: Roundworms or nematodes are the most common worms that dogs fall prey to. They remain asymptomatic in healthy pets, whereas symptoms are distinct in stressed dogs. Heavy infestation by these worms is common at the time of pregnancy and often, they get transmitted to the puppy when it is still in the mother's womb. Worms can also be passed to puppies through mother's milk. Also, dogs may get them after ingestion of contaminated food and soil. Once infested, they lodge in the dog's intestines and feed on the intestinal food. Thus, afflicted pets lose weight and get tired quickly. Other roundworm symptoms include increased fatigue, loss of appetite, dull coat, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Identification: Roundworms can be seen by our naked eye, they usually grow to about seven inches in length. Diagnosis of dog roundworms is done after examining the pet's stool and/or vomit. After confirmation, oral medications are prescribed for treatment. It is to be noted that roundworms are zoonotic, which means they can infect humans too. Hence, maintaining hygiene is an important strategy to prevent spreading of roundworms. Make sure that you clean fecal matter from the backyard and lawn regularly, so as to protect your pet as well as your family from dangerous roundworms.
Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum)
General Info: Tapeworms are long, segmented, flat, and ribbon-like worms that infest in the dog's intestines. There are three common species of tapeworms that infect dogs. Unlike other dog worms, tapeworms need an intermediate host (flea, mouse) for completion of their life cycle. When these worms attain maturity, their body segments are filled up with eggs, which are then broken off from the mother's body. Thus, spreading of eggs into the environment takes place. Symptoms of tapeworm infestation are vomiting, abdominal pain, itching around the anus, and weight loss.
Identification: Usually, broken segments that look like rice grains, are found in the areas surrounding the dog's anus and in the stool. You can also check for these segments in places where your pet rest or spends time. Flea's larvae pick up these segments as their food. Further transmission of tapeworms to dogs takes place after ingesting the infected fleas. Deworming of dogs with oral medications or injections is effective to treat tapeworms.
Hookworms (Ancylostoma caninum)
General Info: Hookworms are small, about half an inch long and are found in the intestine of dogs. They hook into the intestinal walls of their victims and suck blood, hence the name. Transmission of hookworms from the infected mother takes place while the pups are in the mother's uterus and through breast milk. Infestation of hookworms in puppies is fatal; however, their symptoms are comparatively mild in older dogs. Common symptoms of hookworms are anemia, skin irritation, weight loss, blood in the stool, dull pink color of the gums, and fatigue.
Identification: Since hookworms are minute, they cannot be seen with our naked eye. They can be identified only after running a stool test. Treatment of these intestinal worms is done with prescribed medications. There are several oral medications as well as preventive monthly medications available for dealing with dog hookworms. It is important to note that hookworms are zoonotic and transmission takes place by penetration of the worms in the skin. Infection of hookworms in humans causes abdominal cramp, diarrhea, vomiting, and even bleeding in the intestines.
Whipworms (Trichuris vulpis)
General Info: Whipworms are long worms that look like threads with one side enlarged. They lodge in the colon of the large intestine in dogs and feed on the tissues of the intestinal walls. Heavy infection by whipworms causes symptoms like pale gum, intestinal bleeding, anemia, dehydration, blood in the stool, diarrhea, and weight loss. It is very difficult to get rid of the whipworms once they infest the dogs.
Identification: Being a minute worm, whipworm infestation is confirmed only after running a stool test. Usually, plugged eggs are seen in the stool sample when viewed under a microscope. Deworming is done with prescribed medications, which can be either oral or intravenous injections. Since dogs get infected with whipworms while feeding on contaminated food and soil, removal of feces is one of the effective ways of controlling spread of whipworms.
Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis)
General Info: Heartworms live in the lungs, blood vessels, and right atrium of the heart. Matured worms can measure up to about 14 inches in length. They spread from one infected dog to another via mosquito bites. Early symptoms of dog heartworms are vague; usually symptoms such as weight loss, dull coat, cough, and fainting appear only in the later stages. In severe cases, it can lead to heart attack and even death of the afflicted dogs.
Identification: The concerning issue with heartworm infestation is that it is very difficult to identify in the initial stages. Diagnosis of heartworms is done only after conducting a blood test. And for treatment of the same, the vet will prescribe medication therapy. In some instances, surgical removal of the adult heartworms is proved to be beneficial in treatment of heartworms. Proper resting should be encouraged so that the afflicted pet can recover quickly.
On a general note, dog intestinal worms are diagnosed with stool test, whereas blood test is done for identification of heartworms. To avoid complications of worm infestation, it is advisable to seek advice from a trusted vet. Follow certain precautions such as regular stool analysis and deworming a puppy every 15 days until it is six months old.
Once it attains 6 months, deworming should be done once in a year. One should always maintain good hygiene, and if possible, pave the backyard so as to prevent worm infestation in the soil. In addition, there are natural treatments for dog worm infestations. It is crucial to know proper care and common health problems before owning a pet dog. After all, we want our best companion to stay fit, happy, and playful, right!