Dogs are perfect hosts to worms and other parasites. Dogs love to sniff, lick and ingest dirt, meat or poop – making it almost unavoidable for dogs to pick up pests. When dogs use their mouths to groom, kiss and play, they can transfer these parasites to other animals and human companions.
Dog owners know that they should worm their pooch frequently. But there is often a misperception about why to worm, signs of worms, how often to worm, what to worm with and the best protection against worms.
Read more to learn about the facts and how often to worm your dog.
- 1 What are worms?
- 2 How does a dog get worms?
- 3 Which worms can dogs get?
- 4 Reasons for worming
- 5 Signs of worms in dogs
- 6 Why worming is important in puppies
- 7 How often to worm puppies
- 8 How often to worm dogs
- 9 How often to worm pregnant dogs
- 10 What are the best worming products for dogs?
- 11 How can I protect my dog from worms?
- 12 Final thoughts
What are worms?
Worms are intestinal parasites. Such parasites can live anywhere in the body, but prefer the intestinal wall where they can absorb nutrients from digested food.
Worms can reproduce in thousands. They can trigger various symptoms in those affected, causing health problems and weakness. Undetected worms can be extremely dangerous to dogs and fatal in puppies.
How does a dog get worms?
There are many ways for a dog to become infected, including:
- Drinking contaminated water
- Contact with other infected animals
- Contact with other infected animal poop
- Contact with contaminated soil
- During pregnancy or via mother’s milk
- Swallowing fleas
- Eating animals carrying a parasite, such as rodents, sheep or rabbits.
Which worms can dogs get?
The two main types of worms are roundworms and tapeworms. Both of these are easy to control and remove.
Other types of worms include hookworms, whipworms and heartworms.
- Commo in puppies
- Look like noodles or spaghetti
- Sometimes visible in poop or vomit
- Most common worm passed onto humans. They pose a serious public health risk, hence why the law requires owners to pick up their pet’s poop. There is a risk of swallowing larvae if a person has contact with soil containing infected dog poop. Larvae can then enter the body. Blindness can occur if larva travels to the eye. Young children are particularly vulnerable.
- Common in adult dogs
- Can cause irritation around the dog’s rear, causing dogs to ‘scoot’ across the ground
- Break off in small segments, appearing like rice grains
- Sometimes visible in dog poop or around the tail and rear area
- Catch by ingesting fleas (flea tapeworm) or eating raw animal flesh (hydatid tapeworm). When a dog has tapeworm, it also needs flea treatment. An effective way of removing and repelling fleas is by using a flea shampoo.
- Short worms attach themselves to a dog’s intestinal lining, using their teeth to feed on the blood
- Blood in diarrhoea is a common sign
- Puppies can develop anaemia
- Thrive in warm wet conditions
- Rare but may become a bigger threat due to climate change
- Passed through the poop of infected dogs
- Larvae can enter humans via swallowing or skin penetration.
- One of the most common causes of diarrhoea in dogs
- Can also affect puppies
- Whipworm eggs can survive for up to 5 years
- Picked up from soil and passed through the poop of infected dogs.
- Foot-long worms
- Live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels
- Mosquitoes carry the worms’ offspring from one dog’s blood to another’s.
Reasons for worming
A good and regular dog worming routine is for the health of your dog. Internal parasites can have severe consequences for a dog. Worms can affect your dog’s happiness, fulfilment and wellbeing.
The thought of wriggling worms inside our dogs (which can range in size from 5mm to an astonishing 5 metres) fills us with terror and repulsion. Therefore, it’s worth making the effort to prevent any infection in the first place. Some worms can pass onto humans and can lead to health problems, including blindness.
Signs of worms in dogs
If a dog has a few worms, there won’t always be obvious signs. Your dog could appear healthy so it’s challenging to know if they’re infected.
Once the worm multiples into large volumes, your dog may begin to display ambiguous symptoms. Symptoms depend on the type of worm and where it’s living in the body.
Symptoms may include any of the following:
- Hot, dry nose
- Pale gums
- Reduced appetite
- Losing weight
- Watery eyes
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Chewing or licking under the tail
- Pot belly
- Coarse looking fur or constant shedding
- Irritated skin condition
- Unusually smelly breath
- Lack of energy or disinterest in walks and games
- Short of breath
- Itchy paws
- Spaghetti-like strands in poop
- Rice-like grains in poop or around tail/rear
- ‘Scooting’ bottom across the floor
Make this as part of your checklist for when your pooch has their regular vet appointment.
If your dog shows any of these symptoms, contact your vet as soon as possible.
To confirm whether your dog has worms, you can take a fresh poop sample to the vets. Scoop and seal the poop in a clean plastic bag and bring it to the appointment. Otherwise, your vet can take a sample during the visit. Worm eggs can be difficult to detect by eye. But your vet can examine the poop under a microscope to look for presence of worms and identify what kind.
It’s important to keep up a regular worming routine so that worms do not affect your dog at any stage. If left untreated, worm burdens will increase, causing symptoms to become more severe.
Why worming is important in puppies
Worms are very common in puppies.
Roundworm larvae cross the placenta, infecting the puppies in the womb. Further worms can be passed from mother to pup through her milk. Larvae hatch out rapidly in the first six months of life, making puppies at the greatest risk.
Worms can cause a serious illness in puppies. An untreated worm infestation can also lead to a loss of condition when the pup turns into an adult dog. Intestinal worming should never be overlooked. As a responsible dog owner, it is important for you to worm your puppy or dog on a regular basis.
How often to worm puppies
At first, puppies should be wormed when they are 2 weeks old. Worming should then continue every two weeks until 12 weeks of age. After this, it should be every month until 6 months of age.
Your vet may also want to give your puppy blood. Hookworms drain blood from the wall of the intestines and can cause anemia.
Anemia occurs when there is a reduction of red blood cells in the bloodstream. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying and releasing oxygen throughout the body. A shortage in red blood cells can be life threatening.
How often to worm dogs
All dogs (over 6 months of age) need worming at least three or four times a year, meaning every three or four months. This is still essential if you wormed your dog as a puppy, to continue the benefits and to avoid future infections.
This rule also applies to older dogs. Because older dogs have reduced mobility, people sometimes assume they are at decreased risk of catching worms. While this could be true, older dogs are more likely to become unwell and vulnerable to infection.
ALL dogs need worming, no matter how old (or young) they are.
Dog worming is so often because:
- Dogs are born with a cargo of worm larvae that continue to hatch throughout the dog’s lifetime. Many people don’t realise this.
- Dogs pick up intestinal parasitesfrom slugs, snails, fleas and fox poop. So the risk of infection remains even into old age.
- Dogs can be easily re-infected. Treatment kills the worms present at the time of dosing but don’t have any lasting activity. Therefore, worming needs to be continuous because wormers do not offer long-term benefits.
Contact a veterinarian if any of the following statements apply:
- My dog has fleas. Fleas are a source of tapeworms. If any pet in the house has fleas, then all should be dewormed.
- I leave toys out in the garden. Lungworm spreads via snail or slug trails.
- My dog has contact with slugs, snails or fox poop.This increases the risk of lungworm.
- My dog hunts and eats wild animals such as birds, rabbits or rodents. This increases the risk of roundworm and tapeworm.
How often to worm pregnant dogs
Pregnant dogs should be wormed at the time of mating, during pregnancy and again when the puppies are one week old.
After this, worming should return to three or four times a year.
What are the best worming products for dogs?
Worming treatments kill worms, and do not prevent worms. So it’s important to deworm on a regular basis.
There are many safe ways to de-worm your dog. The quicker the worms are gone, the quicker your dog will be healthy and happier.
Not all wormers are effective against all types of worms. Dogs are vulnerable to both roundworms and lungworms, so you want to avoid products that are only effective against one type of worm. Don’t waste your money! To make sure you’ve treated all worms, you need a broad-spectrum product. These are drugs for poisoning a wide variety of parasites, while remaining safe for dogs.
You can feel confident in selecting what type of treatment will be suitable for your pooch. Wormers come in many forms including powders, pastes, pills and liquids.
There are many products on the market, which can be quite confusing. Worming is an important but complex job, so discuss with your vet about what’s best for your pooch if you’re unsure.
Dosing schedules vary between products. Make sure you read the packaging carefully to understand how often to give dogs worm medicine, so your dog receives the correct and safe dose. If you’re not using the right product, you may be risking your dog’s health.
How can I protect my dog from worms?
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It is always better and easier to prevent a problem from happening than to stop or correct it after it has begun. Worming treatments may be effective, but worms can harm the health of your pooch and cause a lot of unpleasant symptoms.
These are the best ways to protect your dog from worms (and also help to protect the entire family):
- Keep your home and yard clean.
- Ensure your vet checks your dog for all types of worms at least once a year.For puppies, this should be 2 to 4 times a year.
- Keep your dog flea-free.There are flea control treatments that can be administered orally or put on your dog’s skin. Alternatively, you may prefer to buy a flea collar.
- Pick up dog poop quickly, and throw away before your pooch gets to it! Dogs have an unhealthy interest in each other’s poop (or even their own poop), which is a clear source of worms. This makes it even more important to clear your yard on a weekly basis. Always carry a poop-scoop or plastic bag to clean up after your dog when you go for a walk.
- Wash your hands often. This includes after petting your pooch and especially after picking up their waste. Never forget to wash your hands before preparing or eating food.
Unfortunately, we can also catch worms from dogs. If you’re concerned about this happening, it’s good practice not to let them lick or kiss you, and make them sleep on their own bed.
We may love our pooches’ smooches and falling asleep with them at night, but remember that prevention is key!
While we can’t stop our puppies sniffing and licking objects that may have parasites, we can easily prevent worms from becoming a major health problem. After all, a healthy dog is a happy dog!