THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
First off, obviously your dog is not going to say “Mom, I think I might have worms.” So it’s going to be your responsibility to watch out for any signs that might suggest a parasitic infection. Some types of worms might not even cause symptoms until your dog is already running the risk of serious illness (more on that later), but the most common worms will usually manifest obvious signs like:
If you think your dog could have worms but you’re not sure, take him to the vet for an examination.
You might tend to think of worms in your dog as more of a nuisance than anything, and indeed, some types of worms are just that. In fact, with some worms, your dog may build up a resistance, and you might not even suspect that the worms are present. Some actually don’t do all that much damage in any case – for instance, roundworms don’t harm the intestinal tract. On the other hand, hookworms can erode your dog’s intestinal lining. Giardia and Coccidia can inhibit your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients. Generally speaking, if your dog is infested with a large number of parasites, his health is going to suffer.When the number of these parasites is high, your pet’s health will suffer even more.
The most common way for dogs to get worms is from other dogs. Newborn puppies are very easily infected simply through contact with their mother. Roundworm eggs can live in adult females and when the female becomes pregnant, the eggs hatch. Then, the worms are passed on to the puppies via the milk.
The larvae of roundworms and hookworms thrive in dirt, so if a dog eats dirt, it can become infected. Young tapeworms actually live inside fleas so if your dog likes to groom himself, and he swallows those fleas, he can become infected with tapeworms.
Wild animals can also carry a number of parasites, so if your dog is in the habit of bringing home wildlife, you can reasonably assume that he is also bringing home worms.
There are numerous parasites that can infect your dog. Here are the five most common:
This is actually a bit of a misnomer. Roundworms are not round. In fact, they can be quite long. They can grow up to six inches, and usually appear as tiny, noodle-like segments in feces.
Hookworms are small, thin, and may not always be visible to the naked eye. They can cause internal bleeding, as manifested in anemia or bloody stool.
These intestinal worms prevent your dog from absorbing nutrients. They are segmented worms, and segments may break off and be passed in feces, where they appear as rice-like grains once they have dried out.
These thin, thread worms live in the large bowel. They can be detected in feces, but only using a microscope. They are hard to eliminate, but it can be done.
These are the most deadly worms. They are virtually impossible to detect until the damage is already done. They are spread via mosquito bites, and until they invade your dog’s heart, you will notice no symptoms. Once your dog begins to cough and lose weight, the damage is likely already done. Ultimately, your dog will begin to cough up blood, and will die of congestive heart failure.
You can also worm at home, using products like Nemex-2 Wormer from Pfizer. It is effective on dogs and puppies, but should not be used on puppies under two weeks of age. It is effective on hookworms and large roundworms when administered at a dose of one teaspoon for every ten pounds of body weight. This product lists at $24.99. but at Amazon, you can buy it for $12.99 plus $6.00 shipping – that adds up to significant savings.
Some parasites can be very harmful. Others, not so much. You can buy wormers online or in pet stores, or get them from your vet. Many types of worm infestations can be treated without the need for a trip to the vet, but there is one exception, and that is heartworm.
Heartworm can only be prevented – it can’t be cured. If your dog contracts heartworm, you may be able to buy various preparations online that might help him to build up his strength while he recovers from the infestation – if he recovers. You will never be able to get anything from any source other than your veterinarian that can immunize your dog against heartworm, so please, don’t even consider a non-veterinary preventative for this horrible illness. A heartworm vaccine doesn’t cost much, and won’t take much time out of your day, but if you don’t have it done, you’ll have the rest of your life to regret it.