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Worms in dogs: everything you need to know about them

black-Labrador-dog advice
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If you’re a dog lover, you’ve probably had to deal with the nightmare of worms at least once in your life. As disgusting as they seem, worms in dogs are a very common and easily treatable condition. So how do dogs get worms and what are the symptoms?

By Alice Lang

Worms aren’t only yucky, but they can also end up harming your dog’s health if left untreated. Unfortunately, they can sometimes be pretty hard to spot - so it pays to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms. But first, let’s take a look at the different types of worms in dogs - so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Roundworms

Roundworms are known as ‘spahgetti-like’ shapes, which can be found in a dog’s poop. Lots of puppies are infected with roundworms, which they catch from their mother’s milk. This can be prevented entirely by deworming expectant mother’s, but this often doesn’t happen - so it’s important to keep an eye out if you have a puppy.

Tapeworms

An entire tapeworm is usually around 6 inches long (freaky, right?!), but they’re usually broken up in tiny, rice-like pieces once they reach the toilet. Tapeworms are normally picked up when a dog eats an infected cattle meat - such as rabbits, sheep, or goats. Keep a close eye out for tapeworms if your dog has a bout of fleas, as this is another trigger.

Hookworms

Hookworms are about 3 quarters of an inch long and attach themselves to your dog’s intestinal lining. They suck blood and can cause anaemia, with the main symptoms presenting as diarrhoea and vomiting. However, this type of worm isn’t much of a problem in the UK.

Whipworms

This type of worm lives in a dog’s large intestine but, thankfully, don’t pose any health problems unless they burrow into the intestinal tissue.

Lungworms

Lungworms are a severe form of worm which can be fatal if left untreated. Dogs in the UK can pick them up by eating frogs, slugs or snails. Lungworms live in a dog’s heart and blood vessels, causing breathing difficulty, heart problems and even pneumonia.

How do dogs get worms?

There are a number of ways in which worms in dogs can occur - but these are the main culprits in the UK:

  • Passed through mother’s milk

  • Eating contaminated soil

  • Eating infected cattle or other animals

  • Infected fleas

Symptoms of worms in dog

The scary part about worms is that symptoms can be fairly minimal in the early stages of infection. In fact, worms often go unnoticed for months! By making sure you keep an eye on your dog’s faeces and behaviour, you’re more likely to notice worms in their early stages:

  • Worms in your dog’s poop or vomit (though not all kinds of worms can be seen)

  • Itching or scratching their rear

  • Extreme hunger

  • Unintentional weight loss

  • Swollen stomach

  • Diarrhoea or change in bowel habits

  • Low energy

Treatment of worms in dogs

If you suspect your dog may have worms, it’s essential to get to the vet at the earliest opportunity. When left untreated, worms can lead to painful health problems and when severe, they can be fatal.

For common forms of worms, ‘allwormers’ can be used in the form of chewy tablets, which should be able to kill off the infection. However, it’s always advised to talk to your vet rather than attempting to treat worms yourself.

“With so many worming products to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on an appropriate course of treatment for your dog. But as a general rule, you should always choose the treatment your vet recommends,” explains Calder Vets.

“They’ll know your dog’s medical history, so they’ll be able to advise on a solution that’s as safe as it’s effective. The good news is that worms are relatively easy to eliminate, and your vet will be able to provide suitable preparations.”

Preventing worms in dogs

Ever heard the phrase ‘preventation is the best cure’? Well, it couldn’t be truer than when talking about worms in dogs!

Luke Gamble, CEO of WVS and Mission Rabies, said to The Kennel Club that “All dogs will carry worms. When you use a worming product it does not eradicate all worms, it reduces the worm burden, preventing worms from taking over. Regular worming treatment is essential for your overall pet’s health.”

We’d recommend the following steps to effectively prevent worms in your pooch:

1.  Regularly remove waste from your garden or wherever your dog goes to the toilet. Always be wary of where your dog goes to the toilet while at a popular dog park - there could be a worm infestation.

2. Thoroughly clean and disinfect food and water bowls on a regular basis If your dog is pregnant, make sure she is wormed under vet supervision Consult your vet about using an appropriate wormer. If your dog keeps picking up worms, make sure you get their poop checked a few times a year to ensure new bouts don’t go untreated.

3.  In the case of persistent reinfestations, some veterinarians will prescribe worming treatments on a routine basis all year long. Generally, prescription wormers will be safer and more effective (although often more expensive) than over-the-counter worm medications.