A worm is a type of parasite that can infect dogs, no matter what breed the dog is. Worms survive by leeching off of their host for nutrition, and while some may seem benevolent at first, a dog infected with worms is likely to begin experiencing negative symptoms and discomfort either right away, or as the infection progresses. Some parasite infections, for example, heartworm infections, can become life-threatening if left untreated.
There are multiple types of worms that can all infect dogs:
Please note that ringworm is not a parasite, it is a fungus, which is why it is not included on this page. Usually, a dog will become infected by worms in dogs by eating contaminated stools, soil, or uncooked meat. A dog may also become infected with worms following a mosquito or flea bite.
Symptoms of worms in dogs
Each type of worm will lead to different symptoms. But there are some more common signs that you can look out for such as:
- Change in appetite
- Unusual weight loss
- Loss of coat or dulling of the coat
- Itching and scooting
- Worms in stools
If your dog has multiple symptoms, it’s important to seek veterinary attention. If you see worms in your dog’s stool, or what appears to be rice grains, your dog will need to visit the vet. Symptoms of heartworm are often mild at first and often go unnoticed, but coughing may develop in advanced stages.
Because signs of worm infections are often present in stools, your vet will usually take a stool sample for analysis. When diagnosing parasites that are more difficult to detect, for example… heartworm, your vet is likely to use a direct blood smear test.
Lungworm is even harder to diagnose, whereby even a lack of signs in the trachea or stool does not necessarily mean a lack of infection. For this reason, your vet will likely base the diagnosis off of your pet’s medical history, symptoms, and how well he or she responds to treatment.
Your dog will be put on deworming medication. The medication used will depend on the type of worm your dog has become infected with. Some great options can be found at PetCo. You will need to finish the entire course of medication for successful treatment.
Ultimately, the best way to protect your pet is to control the pests that carry worms, including fleas and mosquitoes, and keep your home and yard clean. It’s smart to do this because some types of worms can be passed to humans.
It is also important that during treatment you clean any areas where your dog has defecated with bleach, and thoroughly clean any areas where he or she has been kept. This helps prevent re-infection, or infection to yourself, as many worms are able to infect people too.