Those of us who own dogs would do anything to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. They are an integral and often vital part of our families and our everyday life. Our dogs entertain us, keep us active, and provide us with endless amounts of laughter, joy, and love. They greet us with unbridled joy the moment we walk through the door, making it clear that we are just as important to them. With this in mind, we could do no less but be as vigilant as we can when it comes to keeping them healthy.
While dogs can be plagued by a number of different diseases, we will be focusing specifically on the health problems that can arise when dogs are infected with worms. It is helpful to know the common types of worms and the symptoms you might notice if an infection occurs, as seeking treatment quickly can often prevent serious complications.
The most common types of worms dogs can be infected with include the following: roundworms, hookworms, heartworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and ringworms.
Roundworms: This type of worm is often spread through feces, or sometimes during nursing or pregnancy. This type of worm can prove to be very serious, sometimes even fatal in puppies. Symptoms most often include diarrhea, vomiting, belly pain, the presence of worms in stool, and weight loss.
Hookworms: Most often acquired by ingesting hookworm larvae in the soil, passed down from the mother before the puppy is born, or through direct penetration of the skin. Some dogs with chronic hookworm infestations may not show signs of infection at all. When symptoms are present, they can include bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and overall deterioration of muscle tone, along with severe weakness.
Heartworms: Dogs become infected with heartworms through mosquito bites. Heartworms, as their name denotes, live in the heart and can grow up to 14 inches long. Given that heartworms can impede the flow of blood through the dog’s arteries, these types of worms can often cause death and this condition demands swift treatment. Symptoms of this infection can include coughing, and your dog will get winded much easier than before. A vet listening to the dog’s lungs may hear abnormal lung sounds.
Whipworms: Dogs may encounter this type of worm in contaminated soil, or when they are grooming themselves. These types of worms don’t tend to cause serious symptoms unless a large number of worms accumulate over time.
Tapeworms: When dogs are grooming themselves, they may ingest fleas carrying the tapeworm larvae, and this is how they are commonly infected. You will most often notice a tapeworm infestation when the segments of worms themselves crawl near your dog’s rear end. You may see your dog scooting its rear end across the carpet to rid themselves of the worms. In severe infections, the tapeworms may cause vomiting and lead to weight loss.
Ringworm: The name is a bit deceptive, as the “ringworm” is actually a fungal infection that looks like a gray or red patch on your dog’s skin. Dogs pick up this infection when their skin comes into contact with the fungus spores, often found in soil or sometimes on cats. Often, no symptoms present other than the physical manifestation of the fungal infection.
Roundworms: Deworming prescription and over-the-counter medications tend to be effective in combating the roundworm infection.
Hookworms: As this infection can be so severe, oftentimes two rounds of deworming treatment are necessary, and puppies may require more medication on top of this.
Heartworms: Treatment will typically involve two or three injections of arsenic-based drugs and many weeks of rest.
Whipworms: A type of oral dewormer drug is usually effective.
Tapeworms: Treatment most often involves an injection or a tablet to be ingested orally.
Ringworms: This is usually treated with medicated dips and shampoos, though some dogs may need oral medication for one or two months.
Prevention can vary with different worms. For instance, for heartworm prevention, dogs can usually take a heartworm pill every so often to avoid infection. For most other worms, there are some simple steps to follow: keep your dog’s bed clean of fecal matter, make sure your dog is up to date with their vaccines, provide your veterinarian with stool samples from your dog roughly 1 to 2 times per year, utilize flea collars to help with flea control, and take advantage of various topical insecticides to help guard against fleas and mosquitoes.