Intestinal worms in dogs and puppies

Your dog may get intestinal worms and parasites, but some dogs breeds are more vulnerable. Regular use (or non-use) of routines preventative medications play a major role in determining a dog’s risk of contracting an intestinal parasite.

Why to consult veterinarian about intestinal worms in dogs?

Your veterinarian is the best source for diagnosing, treating and preventing these parasites. Remember that routine visits are the key to keeping your dog healthy. Always make sure to communicate with your veterinarian and report any signs of illness in dog  if you feel as soon as possible.

Types of Worms:

Four most common types of intestinal worms seen in dogs and how to treat intestinal worms in dogs.

  1. Round Worms
  2. Hook Worms
  3. Whip Worms
  4. Tape Worms

1#. Round Worms

Roundworms ( Toxocara Canis, Toxascaris leonine ) are the most common types of intestinal worms in dogs and are especially common in puppies. Adult round worm heads live in the intestinal tracts of host, consuming their food. 

How round worms look like: The adult roundworm is round, white to light brown and a few centimeters long. These worms are often said to resemble spaghetti or angel hair pasta.

round worms in dogs

Dogs to increase take worms from head larvae, usually from contaminated soil or by infected venison (such as mice or small mammals). Many puppies are born with roundworms after they contracted from their mother’s uterus during pregnancy. Nursing puppies can eat head larvae in their mother’s milk. Once touched, the larvae become in the path of the dog’s liver.

As it develops into adult worms, they travel to the lungs, cough up the dog, and then swallow. Adult roundworms live in the dog’s gut. Their eggs lay in the dog stool and develop into larvae. Cycle life repeats itself.

Symptoms of roundworm infection include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal appearance, coughing (dogs may cough or vomit worms), weight loss, and ugly coat. Many dogs will not show signs of infection at first.

Diagnosis involves your veterinarian’s office collecting a stool sample and performing a lab test called fecal flotation. Round eggs will normally be seen microscopically in the stool if adult heads are present in the small intestine.

Treatment of roundworms involves multiple oral doses of deworming medication. Deworming only kills worms in the intestinal tract, so repeated doses are necessary to kill small adult worms. Because puppies are affected so often, they are routinely dewormed (whether or not eggs are viewed microscopically) during their first sets of puppy vaccinations. Be aware that not all over-the-counter dewormers are effective. Your veterinarian is the best source for this medication. Note: Some types of heart itching prevention also protect against roundworms.

Zoonosis: Humans can contract roundworms through contact with contaminated soil, potentially leading to a serious condition called Visceral Larva Migrans. Always wear gloves when handling any dirt, especially those that may have come in contact with dog feces. Children are at particularly high risk.

2#. Hook Worms

hook worms of dog
  • Hookworms ( Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma braziliense ) are another relatively common type of intestinal parasite that affects dogs and puppies. The shrimp sticks to the intestinal mucosa of its holder with its sharp teeth and sucks the blood of the host for food. Hookworms are significantly smaller than roundworms and are not usually seen on the stool or vomit. Adult dogs get hookworms from contact with contaminated soil containing hookworm larvae. Larvae can enter the dog by penetrating through the skin or feet when a dog lies on the ground. Or, the dog may get larvae after contact with contaminated soil, often when grooming. As with worms, nursing puppies can get drug larvae into their mothers milk.
  • Many aggressive larvae develop into worms grown in the small intestine, but some travel to the lungs, become bitten by the dog, and then swallowed (similar to roundworms). Adult hookworms live and attach to the dog’s small intestine. Their eggs are released into the environment through the dog stool. Hookworm eggs develop into larvae and live in the soil. Cycle life repeats itself. Signs of hookworm infection include pale mucous membranes and weakness (due to anemia). Some animals will have diarrhea and / or weight loss. Many dogs will not show signs of infection at first. Be aware that hookworm infection can be very dangerous for young puppies because of the amount of blood loss that can occur. Diagnosis can be made after collecting the stool sample and conducting a laboratory test called faecal flotation (as with worms). Hookworm eggs will usually be seen microscopically if adult hookworms are present in the small intestine.
  • The treatment of hookworms is similar to that of roundworms. Multiple oral doses of deworming medications should be given since dewormer can only kill worms in the intestinal tract. The dewormer commonly given during dog vaccinations also treats for hookworms. Not all over-the-counter dewormers are effective, so ask your veterinarian about the right medication. Note: some types of heart itching prevention also protect against hookworms.
    Zoonosis: Humans can get hookworms through contact with contaminated soil. Worm larvae can penetrate the skin, potentially leading to a relatively small but rather unpleasant condition, called Cutaneous Larva Migrans. Avoid walking barefoot in areas where pets may have once defecated (including beaches). Always wear gloves when handling any dirt, especially those that may have come in contact with dog feces. Children should not play or sit in areas where pets may have once cleaned.

3#. Whip Worms

Whipworms ( Trichuris vulpis ) are another type of intestinal parasite that often affects dogs. Measles lives in the colon, where it bites tissue and inserts it into the head. Like worms, the itching sucks the blood of the host for food. 

Whip Worms in dogs

Whipworms are even smaller than roundworms and are rarely seen on the stool. One end of the worm body is wide, while the rest spreads to a narrow pointed head, hence the name “whipworm”.

Dogs get whipworms by ingesting ground-dwelling whipworm eggs (usually swallowing by self-grooming). Itching eggs pass through the upper gastrointestinal tract and hatch into larvae in the small intestine. Next, the larvae move down into the cecum or large intestine. There they develop into adult whipworms, living and mating in the dog cecum or large intestine. Their eggs travel in the environment with the dog stool. Shrimp eggs can stay dormant on the ground for years until consumed by a new host. Then, the life cycle repeats.

Signs of whipworm infection may not be present at first. Typically, bloody diarrhea will develop as the infection worsens, possibly leading to chronic bloody diarrhea. Anemia is possible, though not as common with whipworm infection as it is with hookworm infection. A respiratory infection can also become severe enough to cause an electrolyte imbalance that mimics Addison’s disease.

Diagnosing a whipworm infection can be difficult because whipworms do not lay eggs consistently the way roundworms and hookworms do. Your veterinarian will perform a lab test called fecal flotation (both with roundworms and hookworms). Scratching eggs may or may not be microscopically visible if adult worms are present in the small intestine. The absence of eggs in the stool sample will not conclusively rule out whipworm infection. Your veterinarian may recommend repeated fecal tests if they are suspected.

The treatment of whipworms is similar to that of roundworms and hookworms. Multiple doses of a particular disorder medication should be given. Over-the-counter dewormers are not effective, so your veterinarian should provide you with the right medication. Due to the long life cycle of measles, treatment is usually repeated several months later. Note: Some types of heart itching prevention also protect against fruit.

Zoonosis: Fortunately, the type of whipworm that affects dogs is rarely transmissible to humans. However, precautions still need to be taken to prevent contact with dog feces or contaminated soil.

4#. Tape Worms

Tapeworms ( Dipylidium caninum ) are intestinal parasites that commonly affect dogs. They are long, flat (sticky) worms that attach to the small intestines of their host. The body of the tapeworm is several inches long, but consists of numerous segments that grow over the worm’s head and neck. Each segment has its own reproductive tract.

tape worms problem of dogs

Dogs take strips from fleas. When the flea eggs hatch, they consume flea dirt and debris. If present, they will also consume tapeworm eggs. Laral fleas develop in adults, while tapeworm eggs develop within fleas. Adult fleas jump on a host (usually a dog or cat). The animal shears itself and consumes the adult fleas, then the developing strips are released on the host. New tape attached to the small intestine and enlarges the segments.

The end segments are mainly the egg sacs which eventually detach and emerge from the rectum of the host into the environment. The tapeworm segment, which resembles a grain of rice or sesame seed, opens open and the eggs are released. If flea eggs are also present in the environment, the life cycle is repeated. Therefore, tapeworms are only transmitted from pet to animal by fleas.

Signs are not generally seen in dogs affected by tapeworms (except for the appearance of rice-like segments around the animal’s anus and/or stool. Fortunately, these parasites do not tend to adversely affect the dog, it is usually considered a cosmetic/hygienic only if there are signs

Diagnosis of tapeworms is usually made after flat, rice-like segments have been seen by the owner or a pet professional. Tapeworm eggs rarely appear microscopically when fecal flotations are directed.

Treatment of tapeworms involves one or more doses of a particular deworming remedy. Over-the-counter dewormers are not effective, nor are the same dewormers that cure whipworms, hookworms or roundworms. Your veterinarian should provide you with the right medication. Because tapeworms are transmitted through fleas, the only way to prevent re-infection is to eradicate fleas. Deworming may need to be repeated as you try to control fleas. The use of monthly cotton prevention is recommended.

Zoonosis: Fortunately, the type of tapeworm that affects dogs is not directly transmitted to humans. However, tapeworm infection can be transmitted to humans by accidental ingestion of a flea.

NOTE: there is another type of tapeworm that can affect animals: Taenia. This type of infection is less common and contracted as an animal consumes an intermediate host like a rabbit or mouse. Fortunately, this type of tape does not tend to have an adverse effect on the host. In addition, the same drug that kills dipilidium caninum also kills Taenia.