Few dog health issues are as well-known as worms. And while the idea of worms infesting our beloved dogs is certainly unpleasant, this issue is thankfully able to be diagnosed, treated, and even prevented with relevant ease.
Below we go over everything you need to know about different types of worm infestations, the top symptoms of worms, plus the steps to take if you suspect your pup is suffering from them.
What are Parasitic Worms?
Before we look at the symptoms, what exactly are worms, and what risks do they pose to your pet? There are five main kinds of worms that infest dogs. They are:
Roundworms – These are the most common type of worms that you’ll find in dogs. There are two types of roundworms: T. leonina and T. canis. T. canis is the variety most commonly found in puppies, and they can even be transmitted to humans in certain circumstances. Many puppies are born with roundworm, which they inherit from their mother. It can be diagnosed via a stool sample and is easily treated with deworming medicine.
Tapeworms – You likely already know a bit about tapeworms. These long, flat parasites make their home in the intestinal tract of many animals, including dogs and humans, leaching nutrients from all food that comes into the body and stealing it from the host. They’re usually transmitted to dogs when they eat infected fleas (this is another great reason to take flea prevention seriously). Tapeworms are completely treatable through oral or injectable medicine.
Hookworms – Another intestinal parasite, these worms can cause anemia in dogs, making them quite hazardous if left untreated. Hookworms affect dogs that eat soil that’s been contaminated with infected stool, as the eggs can remain dormant for a long time after being passed. It’s diagnosed through a stool sample and can be treated fairly easily with a couple of rounds of deworming medicine.
Whipworms – Whipworms live in the colon and beginning of the large intestine of dogs. Dogs can contract whipworm by eating some kind of infested substance, which could include soil, water, food, feces, or animal flesh. Severe cases of whipworm infestation can cause symptoms, but they can otherwise be hard to detect without regular stool sample tests conducted by your vet. Whipworm infestation is treatable, though it can take longer than other worm types.
Heartworms – Lastly is heartworm, another well-known parasite that can pose a serious risk to your dog’s health if left untreated. While not endemic to the Lower Mainland as the above parasites are, nonetheless it’s important to be aware of heartworm before you travel with your dog. This parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes. The worms enter the bloodstream and mature and multiply within the heart. This can lead to serious health concerns regarding the lungs, heart, and other organs. Treatment is possible, but it takes a long time, has several major side effects and restrictions, and can be very expensive. Thankfully, heartworms are very easily avoided so long as you use preventives from the start of your dog’s life.
Symptoms of Worms in Dogs
Now that you know about the five main types of worms your dog might contract, let’s take a look at the possible symptoms. Bear in mind that it’s best to use preventive measures and treatments from your veterinarian whenever possible, as many of these symptoms won’t present themselves until the infestation is very advanced, making treatment more difficult. Nevertheless, you should always be on the lookout for these top symptoms of worms in dogs:
Perhaps one of the most telltale signs of a potential worm infestation, you should always pay attention if you notice your dog having diarrhea. Once or twice is nothing to worry about, but frequent diarrhea is often a sign of infection.
2. Abdominal Pain or Bloating
If your dog’s abdomen appears bloated, distended, or pot-bellied, or if you notice they seem to be in pain in the area, it could be a sign of some kind of worm infestation creating excess gas in your dog’s digestive tract.
3. Weight Loss
Though most common with tapeworms, unexplained (and often dramatic) weight loss is often a sign of parasitic worm infection. Always take your pet to the veterinarian if you notice them losing large amounts of weight without explanation.
If your dog is vomiting on any kind of consistent basis, pay attention—it might be a symptom of a parasitic infection. Though it’s not necessarily a cause for concern if it only happens once (for example, your dog may have overeaten or eaten some grass), frequent or repeated vomiting should be taken seriously.
5. Poor Coat Appearance
This is an often overlooked yet valuable way to check for issues with your dog’s health. Some worm infestations can rob your dog of the nutrients they need, which may affect the lustre of their coat over time. If your dog’s normally healthy looking coat appears dull or dry, it could be a symptom of worms.
Dogs dealing with parasitic worms may be malnourished or anemic, leading to reduced energy levels and lethargy. If your dog is normally full of energy, but lately seems to slowly move around and sleep all day, it’s likely that something is amiss, and a worm infestation might be to blame.
7. Blood in Stool
Last but not least, pay close attention to your dog’s stool to detect any blood that might be in it. This can sometimes be a symptom of worm infestations. Blood in the stool may appear bright red or darker purple, so be sure to pay attention while picking up after your dog.
In all cases, it’s better to approach parasitic worms with a proactive attitude of prevention. Reactive care not only ends up being more costly, but also time-consuming. You shouldn’t wait until you notice one of these symptoms to begin treatment. Your dog deserves all the care in the world, and parasite prevention is one of the best ways to do that.
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