Worm infection is one of the most common health problems for dogs. Yet, it is often not addressed regularly enough. All dogs, dewormed or not, will eventually build up a significant amount of worms. Although dogs of all ages are prone to worm infections, puppies and elderly dogs are at higher risk.
What worms are we talking about?
Basically there are five types of worms that can affect dogs (often in combination):
How will I know?
Worm infections in dogs mostly go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Owners will not always spot worms in, for example, their dog’s faeces (poop), but signs such as scooting, frequent vomiting, diarrhoea, a potbelly appearance, lethargy, pale gums, rough hair coats and losing weight will be noticed.
Certain types of worms are easier to spot than others. For example, if your dog picks up tapeworms, it’s common to see what resembles grains of rice in its stool or around the anus.
If left untreated, worms infections in dogs can damage their internal organs and lead to weakness and death.
Are worms transmitted between dogs?
Worm infections in dogs are very contagious between dogs. Because dogs are diggers, sniffers, lickers, rollers and rubbish eaters, they get in all sorts of situations where they get in contact with faeces (and therefore worms).
Pregnant and nursing bitches can also transmit dog worms to their puppies. Puppies can become infected through their mother’s milk or even through the placenta before they are even born.
Tapeworms can also be transmitted through fleas.
Can my family get sick from dog worms?
Yes, they can! Dog worms are considered zoonoses (human diseases transmitted from animals). Dog worms are mainly transmitted to humans via their faeces (faeco-oral transmission). This means humans can become infected by dog worms either directly or indirectly, through being licked or being in contact with soiled surfaces.
Human infection from dog worms can result in intestinal disease, skin problems, blindness and even brain disorders.
What can I do?
Deworm your dog regularly. At Vet Hospital Port Shepstone, we recommend every three to four months (or three to four times a year). All the dogs in the household should be dewormed at the same time with a broad-spectrum dewormer. Deworming can be done at home.
It is also important to deworm pregnant and nursing bitches regularly with a safe, broad-spectrum dewormer. Newborn puppies should also be dewormed at the same time as their mothers. We recommend two-week intervals starting from two weeks of age until they are 14 weeks old.
The types of dog worms
Roundworms in dogs are large visible worms and usually spread as eggs in faeces during pregnancy or nursing. These worms can be found all over the intestines where they eat the food of their host. In puppies, bad roundworm infections lead to diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, dull hair, a potbellied appearance and death. Roundworms can also move into the host’s lungs.
Living mainly in the small intestine, hookworms suck the blood of their hosts. Puppies can become infected from their mothers. Adult dogs can be infected through their skin or when cleaning themselves. The infection causes weakness and malnutrition and can lead to death in puppies.
Dogs get tapeworms from licking themselves and swallowing fleas, which carry them. Tapeworms absorb some of the dog’s nutrients from the intestine where they attach. The tapeworm is made up of small segments, each about the size of a grain of rice. These are passed in faeces and can sometimes be seen around the dog’s anus or in the stool. Humans can also get tapeworms, but people don’t get them from an infected pet.
Whipworms live in the area where the small and large intestines meet. Here, they suck the blood of their hosts. Dogs can pick them up from contaminated soil or by grooming. Whipworms are about 6 mm long and can cause severe irritation to the lining of the intestines, resulting in watery, bloody diarrhoea, weight loss, and general debilitation.