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My Dog Has Worms – What Should I Do?

Worms are common parasites that infect dogs, causing everything from mild discomfort and illness to severe reactions and death. Quickly recognizing the signs of worms and taking appropriate treatment steps is essential to keep your dog in good health. Fortunately, there are also good preventative measures you can take to minimize your dog's exposure to worms.

Types of Worms Dogs May Get

There are several types of internal parasites that can affect dogs. The most common types of worms in dogs include…

  • Roundworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Hookworms
  • Whipworms
  • Heartworms
  • Threadworms

While some of these parasites look distinctive and can be easily recognized even by amateurs, it is best to leave the diagnosis of worm types to your veterinarian. This will ensure the proper care and getting your dog back to good health as quickly and safely as possible.

Symptoms of Worms

Many parasites may only cause minor discomfort to your dog and there may not be any distinct symptoms of infection. A strong and dangerous case of worms, however, can cause a variety of symptoms, including…

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Blood or mucus visible in feces
  • Distended or swollen abdomen
  • Dramatic weight loss or appetite change
  • Anal irritation, licking or scooting
  • Dull or brittle fur
  • Ongoing or excessive coughing
  • Whole worms being passed in feces or sticking around the anus

Once worms are suspected to be affecting your dog, seek veterinary guidance right away for an exact diagnosis and treatment regimen. De-worming medication is usually necessary, and in severe cases, your dog may need to be hospitalized for treatment and observation.

Preventing Worms

The best way to keep your dog worm-free is to take steps to minimize its risk of contracting worms. While some parasites, such as roundworms, are so prevalent that they can be contracted by puppies nursing from an infected mother, simple steps can lessen your dog's exposure to worms and keep infections low.

  • Clean up feces right away and dispose of droppings out of your dog's reach. Most worms can be easily passed as larvae in feces, and dogs that sniff, eat or roll in droppings are at greater risk for contracting worms.

  • Use safe steps to eliminate fleas and ticks. Many of these small parasites can transmit worms between animals. Use flea collars, drops, dips and other methods to keep your dog free of biting pests that can transmit worms.

  • Use effective pest control methods to keep populations of mice and rats away from your dog. These rodents can carry worms themselves, as well as the fleas and ticks that transmit worms. If you use poisons for rodent control, use them responsibly and out of reach of your pet.

  • Minimize your dog's contact with unknown dogs that may be carrying worms. If possible, avoid stray or free-roaming dogs, dog parks and large kennel facilities where worms can be easily transmitted in crowded conditions.

  • Take steps to minimize mosquitoes in your yard. Some mosquitoes can also harbor worm larvae and may transmit the parasites between animals. Mowing grass to a shorter length, using mosquito traps and selectively spraying pesticides can help protect your pet.

  • Avoid feeding your dog raw meat. There is no overwhelming health benefit to a raw diet, and raw meat can harbor worm larvae that will infect your dog. Instead, offer thoroughly cooked meat that is suitable for human consumption, but without sauces or seasonings.

  • Schedule regular fecal exams for your dog, when your veterinarian will examine your dog's feces for signs of different types of worms. These exams should be part of your dog's regular annual or semi-annual checkups and can pinpoint any problems early for easy treatment.

Worms are a less-than-pleasant part of every dog's health, and by understanding the symptoms of a worm infestation and how to minimize the risks you will be able to more easily and quickly arrange proper treatment to keep your dog healthy.