About Worms in Dogs

By Darlene Zagata
Worms can be a common problem in dogs and puppies. In most instances, they don't cause any harm, but in some cases worms can cause debilitation. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to ensure your dog's good health.


Worms are internal parasites that live in the stomach and intestines of dogs. Worm infestations may go unnoticed, especially if the dog has no symptoms. In many cases, you may not realize that your dog has worms unless you see them in the feces. Severe worm infestations can cause health conditions such as intestinal blockage and anemia. Very young puppies that fail to thrive due to worms may not survive.


Roundworms are the most common form of worm infestation in dogs. Although these worms don't usually affect adult dogs, they can lie dormant in female adult dogs, becoming active during the latter stages of pregnancy and infecting the puppies. A severe infestation of roundworms could cause intestinal blockage, resulting in death.
Hookworms are small, thin worms that hook to the lining of the small intestine and feed on blood. Pups can also contract these worms from the mother. Adult dogs may come in contact with these worms through contaminated soil. Although hookworms normally don't cause a problem in adult dogs, a severe infestation can kill puppies.
Tapeworms are another common intestinal parasite. They are segmented worms, and segments that resemble a grain of rice can be shed in the dog's feces. Tapeworms are often contracted when dogs ingest fleas. Over-the-counter medication does not kill tapeworms, so if tapeworms are discovered, the dog should be taken to the veterinarian for proper treatment.
Whipworms resemble a piece of thread. They live in a dog's large intestine. Whipworms are not common, but a severe infestation can cause illness, such as severe anemia. Dogs usually contract whipworms by eating infected feces.


Heartworms are also a major concern to a dog's health. In fact, they are the most dangerous because they can cause death. Heartworms are similar to roundworms, but they live in the right chamber of the heart as well as the blood vessels connecting the heart to the lungs. Heartworms are serious and can obstruct the chambers of the heart and blood vessels, causing heart failure. There is no cure, and effective treatment of heartworms is tailored to the individual dog.


Most often, worm infestations cause similar symptoms. In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, blood in stool, lethargy, dry and dull coat, potbellied appearance in pups, and poor growth.


Different types of worm infestations may require different types of medication or treatment. There is no cure for heartworm infestation, and the best course of action is preventive medicine. Although over-the-counter medications can be effective in treating certain worm infestations, it is best to have your dog examined and treated by a veterinarian. If worms are present in the dog's stool, contact your veterinarian and bring a stool specimen for proper identification. Puppies should be wormed during the first couple months of life. People often believe that once a pet has been de-wormed, the infestation is gone, but this is not always true. Pets often need to be wormed more than once, but using an over-the-counter de-wormer too often can be ineffective and may make your pet ill.


Preventive measure can help lessen the chance that your dog will suffer from a worm infestation. Dogs often contract worms through ingesting fleas, contaminated feces and raw meat or contaminated water. A proper, healthy diet, plenty of fresh water and good hygiene can help to prevent parasite infestations. Do not allow your dog to roam around outside unattended where he can become infected through contaminated soil or feces. Be aware of possible flea infestation and take steps to eliminate fleas.
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