Contributed by Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ.
How to Spot the Symptoms of Worms in Dogs
It can always be concerning to think that your fur baby might have worms. When I was a veterinary student, I remember being mortified seeing tapeworm segments sticking to my dog’s fur around her hind end.
If your dog has worms, you may be fortunate to see actual evidence of these pesky critters, but the symptoms of worms in dogs are often subtle or nonexistent altogether. I can’t tell you how many times hookworm or roundworm eggs are seen on routine yearly fecal exams of otherwise healthy dogs and cats, and the pet parents are always shocked to hear that their pet has worms.
Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms are some of the most common intestinal parasites in dogs. If your dog only has a worm or two, then there may not be any signs, other than eggs that show up in a yearly fecal exam.
Dogs with a heavy worm burden and puppies with worms can show several signs, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Losing weight despite eating normal amounts
- Worms that are visible in the stool
- Poor hair coat
- A general unhealthy appearance
These dogs just look sick. A big potbelly is one of the hallmark signs that a puppy has worms. If a dog or puppy has a heavy hookworm infestation, then they may have anemia due to blood loss, which can manifest in pale gums and low energy.
Tapeworms in Dogs
Does your dog have tapeworms? The symptoms of tapeworms in dogs are a bit different than the signs of hookworms or roundworms. Dogs rarely get sick from tapeworm infestations; however, if they have a heavy tapeworm infestation, they might vomit a portion of the tapeworm or lose weight despite eating normal amounts of food. The most common sign that your dog has a tapeworm is the presence of a dried tapeworm egg packet called a proglottid that’s stuck to your dog’s fur near the anus. You might also find it in your dog’s bed after he sleeps there. Proglottids release eggs into the environment when they dry out. Another sign that your dog needs to be checked for tapeworms is if he is dragging his bottom across the floor or if he is excessively licking his bottom.
Roundworms in Dogs
Intestinal parasites in dogs can sometimes get lost in the body and end up outside the gastrointestinal tract. This condition is called visceral larva migrans. It’s caused when the immature stages of intestinal worms migrate to other areas of the body, causing inflammation wherever they go. Roundworm larvae have been found in the kidneys, lungs, eyes, skeletal muscle, brain, heart, pancreas and glands of infected dogs. Internal organs that are invaded by wandering worm larvae start to dysfunction, and symptoms can include coughing due to migration into the heart or lungs, excessive drinking due to kidney damage, or seizures caused by brain damage.
If this is not concerning enough, roundworms in dogs are contagious to humans, and can cause serious disease in humans, including blindness. Roundworms live in pets, people and wildlife, including any animals that wander through your backyard. Worms produce eggs, which are deposited into feces in the intestine, and when the animal defecates, eggs mix with the soil. Humans can get infected with roundworms by accidentally consuming infected soil on unwashed vegetables, consuming infected meat or stepping on infective larvae in the environment. Young children are at the greatest risk, because as any parent knows, they put everything into their mouths. I’m a mom of three—I know.
If you find that your dog has worms, there are steps you can take to remove them from your pet’s system. Before you panic, try D-Worm Combo Broad Spectrum De-Wormer or Sentry WormXPlus 7-Way De-Wormer. These tablets are great-tasting and chewable, so they are easy to administer to your pup.
Worms are gross, and more importantly, they are harmful to everybody’s health. The best way to prevent worms in dogs is to keep your pet on a monthly heartworm preventative year-round. Most of these products have an additional ingredient in them that will kill any worms that your pet might encounter, so protect yourself, your family, friends and pet by keeping your pet current on heartworm medication. It’s also important to get annual or biannual fecal exams to check for parasites, and check with your veterinarian to make sure that the heartworm preventive you give also protects against intestinal parasites.