Intestinal Worms & Your Dog
A usual suspect in the unwanted guest lineup.
Worm prevention should be taken seriously in pets. As well as potentially making our furry family very unwell, worms can also be transmitted from our pets to people.
If you see worms in the stools, it is important to treat your pet immediately. Pets should be dewormed on a regular basis.
Pets usually become infested with worms when they ingest eggs from a contaminated environment. In the case of roundworms, they can also be transmitted from the mother to the pup in utero.
It has been estimated that over 30% of puppies less than 6 months of age shed roundworm eggs
What are the most common types of worms for dogs in Australia?
There are four common types of intestinal worm parasites that can affect dogs. Each can be contracted differently, show different symptoms, and can require different treatment and prevention.
Roundworms are one of the easiest types of intestinal worms to spot because they’re visible to the naked eye and can be seen in affected pets' droppings. In some cases, they can even be coughed and vomited up.
What do roundworms look like?
The name “roundworm” is suggestive of its appearance as they’re a rounded shape. They can grow as long as 9 to 18cm and are coloured off-yellow or cream and are spaghetti-like in appearance.
What are the symptoms of roundworms in dogs?
A pet affected by roundworms may exhibit the following symptoms:
Unusual or sudden weight loss
Lethargy and lack of energy
Change in fur colour or loss of coat shine
Bloating in the stomach or abdomen
How do dogs contract roundworms?
They are commonly transmitted to pups from the mother in utero, it has been estimated that over 30% of puppies less than 6 months of age shed roundworm eggs
A dog could contract roundworms through the droppings of another infected animal. When they get too close by trying to sniff, lick, or eat the feces, they could ingest roundworm eggs.
Roundworm eggs may also be carried by animals and insects like mice, birds, worms, and cockroaches.
Tapeworms are unlike other worms in both their appearance and how they can be contracted.
What do tapeworms look like?
Tapeworms are substantially larger than many other intestinal worms. Growing up to 30 cm in length, they’re made up of flat, segmented parts, and are mostly white in colour.
What are the symptoms of tapeworms in dogs?
A dog affected by tapeworms may exhibit visible discomfort or agitation like:
Itching- due to flea infestation
Chewing and licking at their rear
Tapeworm segments appearing around the anus - cucumber seed-like
Scooting, the well-known behaviour associated with worms is a common symptom of a pet affected by tapeworms.
How do dogs contract tapeworms?
The contraction of tapeworms is unique in this list. Instead of ingesting eggs from the environment or droppings, a dog must become infected through an intermediate host (usually fleas).
Tapeworm is usually transmitted through the ingestion of fleas, unknowingly, a dog might scratch or bite at an egg-carrying flea and ingest it.
Whipworms are less common compared to roundworms and tapeworms in dogs, but still have the potential to cause serious illness.
What do whipworms look like?
Whipworms are shaped like small whips. They’re thicker at their front and have a longer, thin end. They’re a small type of parasite, only reaching around 6mm in length.
What are the symptoms of whipworms in dogs?
A dog affected by whipworms may exhibit the following symptoms:
Sudden, unusual, or chronic weight loss
Blood and mucus in stools
How do dogs contract whipworms?
Dogs become infected with whipworms by being in contact with infected soil and ingesting the eggs. Usually passed through infected animal droppings, a dog might sniff or eat and unknowingly swallow the eggs before becoming infected (10-60 days afterwards).
Whipworm eggs are particularly hardy and can survive in the environment for up to five years after they’re dropped from the host - long after the droppings dry up.
Unlike other intestinal parasites that can be transmitted by the placenta, breast milk or from an intermediate host, your dog would have to ingest the infective eggs from the soil to become infected.
Hookworms are one of the more difficult infestations to notice as they’re so small. Despite their size, they can cause serious health implications in pets of any age.
In younger and at-risk dogs, hookworm infections can be fatal.
What do hookworms look like?
The name hookworm is based on their jaws which firmly hook onto the host’s intestinal walls.
They are very small, usually only growing between 2 and 3 mm in length. They’re pinkish-white in colour.
Symptoms of hookworms in dogs
Dogs affected by hookworms may exhibit the following symptoms:
Anaemia (pale pink gums)
Black, tarry stools
Lethargy and general weakness
Loss of coat colouring or shine
Poor growth or weight loss
Coughing and pneumonia
How do dogs contract hookworms?
While rarer than other types of parasitical worms in Australia, hookworms can be contracted through a wider range of possibilities, like penetrating through their skin (including a dog’s paws). A dog walking, laying or playing in a contaminated area could be affected.
Infection can also be via ingestion from contaminated soil, other animals’ feces, or eating prey
As with most parasitic infections, the most effective treatment is prevention.
Example of an intestinal worming schedule for pets:
- Every 2 weeks from 2-12 weeks of age
- Then monthly to 6 months of age
- Then every 3 months from 6 months of age
Tips that may help prevent worms:
- Regular worming with veterinary recommended de-worming medication
- Parasite control for fleas
- Cleaning up of faecal material daily
- Prevent ingestion of faecal material
- Toilet training so that a dog will go to a certain area to toilet
- Prevent your pet from ingesting their own or other animal droppings
- Do not allow pets to eat food from the ground
- Avoid wildlife from entering your home property
Contact us or call us on (03) 9596 4804 for advice on a tailored intestinal, heartworm, and flea control program for your pet. Combination preventative medications are available in both tablet and spot-on forms.