Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms are known to be the most common types of parasitic worms that affect dogs. Some of these worms are visible to an unaided eye, while some can only be observed with the help of a microscopic examination of the feces.
Common Types of Worms That Affect Canines
Perhaps, these are the most common types of intestinal parasites in dogs across the world. These worms live in the animal's small intestines, feed on the nutrients, and grow up to 5 - 8 inches in length. More often than not, puppies are the most affected by roundworm infestation.
The classic symptoms of a roundworm infestation are as follows:
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Abnormal weight loss
- Poor coat
- Slow growth in puppies
- Difficulty swallowing
Identifying these worms in your dog's feces is difficult with naked eyes, and requires the aid of a microscope. These parasites look like roundworms, but have three sets of teeth at one end. These worms latch on to the intestinal wall of the affected animal, and feed on the blood by piercing blood vessels.
The saliva of these parasites prevents blood clotting thus, making it easier for them to suck a large amount of blood (about 0.1cc of blood per day). Knowing about the symptoms of hookworm infestation can be helpful in initiating an early treatment.
Common symptoms include:
- Symptoms of anemia such as poor stamina, fatigue, dull coat, increased breathing rate and white gums
- Stunted growth in puppies
- Diarrhea; may also contain blood in it
- Tarry stools
- Poor appetite
- Sleeping more than normal
Intestinal bleeding may also occur when the parasites release their bite from the intestinal wall, exposing the wound. If this infestation goes untreated, death could also be a likely outcome.
Another type of intestinal blood sucking parasites are whipworms. As the name suggests, these parasites are of the shape of a whip, with a thinner size at the front, and a thicker size at the other.
These organisms usually thrive in the cecum (a pouch connecting the ileum and the large intestine) of the animal, where, they latch onto the intestinal wall, feeding on blood. Although they may be present in the dog's feces, a microscopic examination is required to confirm an infestation. These worms do not cause any noticeable signs or symptoms initially.
It is only when the infestation has reached an advanced stage, symptoms occur, which may include:
- Poor appetite
- Tiredness even when the dog is idle, weakness, poor stamina, pale to white gums and tongue; signs of anemia
- Persistent and bloody diarrhea
- Blood in stool; may indicate intestinal rupture in the animal
- Chronic weight loss
- Pain in the abdomen
A whipworm infestation is relatively difficult to diagnose, because these parasites produce fewer eggs. So noticing the symptoms is essential before seeking immediate medical help.
Tapeworms in dog feces, are easily visible to the naked eye. True to their name, these pesky parasites have a long, flat, tape-like appearance. They actually consist of many white segments (as many as 90 segments) joined together.
The parasites attach themselves to the lining of the small intestines of the dog, and feed on the nutrients in the food consumed by the animal. When they mature, they break off the tail segment, which are then passed in the dog's feces. These segments contain the eggs, and once they dry out, they appear like tiny grains of rice, easily visible to the eyes.
Noticeable symptoms may include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the abdomen
- Itching in the anal area
Although a tapeworm infestation is not usually life-threatening, it may be extremely discomforting to the animal, and more importantly, may keep it from feeding properly thus, giving rise to further complications.
- Eggs and larvae of these worms contaminate the environment as soon as the animal defecate. So it is important to get rid of the feces immediately
- Keeping the sandbox covered when not in use also helps in preventing any contamination
- Needless to say, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water, especially before taking or preparing meal
- Untrained dogs have a habit of eating or sniffing feces of other animals, and this is one of the most common causes of infestation. Get your pet trained to avoid indulging in such behavior. Also, keep your pet from eating raw meat, and carcasses
- Some pet owners prefer getting their pet's stool sample tested by a veterinarian about two to four times before the animal is one year old
- Fleas are a natural carrier of tapeworm, which is why it is important that your pet wears a veterinarian-approved flea collar
All a pet owner needs to do is to provide his pet with proper grooming, a hygienic environment, and training on what to consume and what not. Following these few steps would not only keep your pet from suffering the discomforting symptoms of worm infestation, but would also keep you from worrying about its health.