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Worms in Dogs

07/11/2017 by Colleen Williams
July 11th, 2017 by Colleen Williams

Parasitic worms in dogs are fairly common, especially among puppies. Depending on the type of worm, your dog may have been exposed to them in utero (and through mother’s milk), or through eating infected dirt, feces, or small mammals, as well as mosquito or flea bites. If left untreated, a worm infestation can have severe consequences for a pet’s health, especially puppies and senior dogs. Learn to recognize the symptoms of worms in dogs and know when to visit your vet.

Symptoms of Worms in Dogs

The goal of intestinal worms is survival, which requires food and the safety to reproduce. Many types of worms live in the digestive system, where they release their eggs to hatch in the animal’s feces. While they’re there, these parasites feed off the dog’s blood or the partially digested contents of the intestines. Many pets show no outward signs of worms – especially in the early stages of infection – so if your puppy has a penchant for eating things (and most puppies do!), be sure to regularly inspect his droppings.

Signs of worms in dogs include general weakness and fatigue due to the parasitic worm causing blood loss or lack of nutrition. Weight loss is another common symptom, often accompanied by a pot-bellied appearance as the worms reproduce in the dog’s intestines. Worms in dogs can cause nutritional deficiencies, indicated by a dull coat, fur loss or skin rashes. As an infection progresses, a dog may vomit or have diarrhea; often worms or their larvae may be seen in the stool, sometimes the only indicator a parasite is present.

Yuck! Finding Worms in Dog Feces

As we mentioned, sometimes dogs with worms are asymptomatic and show no outward signs of infection. Worms in dog droppings are usually how a pet parent discovers something is wrong; if other physical symptoms of worms are present, the infection is progressing and requires immediate treatment.

If you do find something noticeable in your dog’s stool, take a sample for the vet. Be sure to select “fresh” samples and place it in a sturdy, airtight container. Always wear gloves when potentially handling parasites, as some can infect humans as well.

Possible Types of Worms in Dogs

There are several types of worms that can live inside your dog, causing an array of issues:

  1. Heartworms are some of the most serious for pets and are transmitted via mosquito bite. Larvae enter the dog’s bloodstream can set up in various organs, most commonly the heart and lungs, where reproduction begins. Heartworm symptoms include coughing, fatigue and shortness of breath. Up to 250 worms have been found in a single dog; an individual worm can grow to 16 inches long. Heartworms in dogs are easily preventable with vet-prescribed medication – ask your veterinarian about the correct usage of prevention meds for your pet.
  2. Hookworms can be picked up from the soil, where their larvae grow. After ingestion they infect the digestive system, feeding on blood. General weakness, pale gums, or bloody diarrhea are all signs of these worms in dogs. Following your puppy’s regular deworming schedule is essential, as hookworms in newborn dogs are very common.
  3. Roundworms are the most common parasite in dogs, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), and most dogs will be infected at one point in their lives. The many ways roundworms can spread accounts for their prevalence; transmission can occur to puppies through their mother’s milk or if larvae are consumed in soil or another infected animal, like a mouse. Adult animals may not show signs of infection, although the pot belly and dull fur may be visible in puppies with advanced cases. Stop dogs from eating any wild animals and remove feces from the backyard to prevent roundworms in dogs.
  4. Tapeworms are some of the most notorious intestinal parasites, famed for their length – up to 8 inches – and wriggly, segmented appearance. There are many different species of tapeworms who thrive in different types of mammals, including squirrels, rabbits and deer, and fleas may also pass along tapeworms to a new canine host. There are few signs of tapeworms in dogs, such as pets “scooting” their butts along the floor to relieve itching, although this does have other non-worm causes. Small white segments of the worm may be visible in feces or near the dog’s anus.
  5. Whipworms in dogs live in the cecum, part of the digestive system where the large and small intestines meet. An infection occurs after a dog eats soil, feces or other materials containing whipworm eggs. The parasites irritate the cecum, leading to bloody or watery diarrhea; resulting weight loss and fatigue may also be seen. Prevent whipworms in dogs from keeping your yard clean and disposing of waste effectively.

Can Humans Get Worms from Dogs?

It depends on the type of worm, but yes, some types of worms in dogs can be passed along to humans. Always wear gloves, shoes and long sleeves when disposing of dog poop in the backyard or collecting fecal samples.

Heartworms are rarely seen in humans, although some cases have been recorded. The only way heartworms can be transmitted is through the bite of an infected mosquito, so pets and humans cannot pass it between each other. Even in these extremely uncommon human heartworm infections, the parasite cannot complete its life cycle and causes only minor damage to the lungs. Tapeworms in humans are also rare, with under 1,000 cases reported yearly by the CDC.

Hookworms, roundworms and whipworms can infect humans as well as animals, preferring to wriggle their way through the skin. Walking barefoot or gardening bare-handed in infected soil are the most common causes of infection. Itchiness at the parasite’s point of entry is the most common symptom of hookworms, along with visible “tracks” where the larvae passes under the skin. Signs of roundworm and whipworm infection include stomach pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and general weakness.

How to Get Rid of Worms in Dogs

Worm medicine for dogs is generally the best way to beat an intestinal parasite. Depending on the severity of infection, worms in dogs can be costly to treat. Preventative medications can be pricey, but the amount is nothing compared to treating a full-blown heartworm infection – $5 to $15 each month for prevention, or $400 to $1,000 for treatment. Treatment for heartworms in dogs requires restricting the pet’s movement, which can worsen the worms, and a three dose course of injections.

Other types of worms in dogs are treated using a deworming medication. It’s important to make follow-up visits for your vet to determine whether the infection is actually cured. Recurring infections can occur, especially if preventative medications are not used. Follow puppies’ regular deworming schedule to prevent infections when your pet is most vulnerable. Dogs should have a stool sample checked for parasites at least once every year, puppies four times a year.

What to Expect After Worming

Usually a pup being treated for worms may experience some vomiting or gastrointestinal upset, but overall, side effects are minimal. You may notice low energy or fatigue while the dog or puppy rests, and there is a chance you might find worms in their stools as they die or are paralyzed, depending on the medication. The article “What to Expect after Deworming a Dog” by Cuteness says, “Usually side effects are minimal with wormers from intestinal parasites — though a dog being treated for heartworms is at risk of suffering from a condition known as pulmonary thromboembolism. This potentially fatal condition occurs when the worms that are killed off by the anthelmintics cause a blockage of a pup’s arteries, according to the American Heartworm Society.”

Depending on the extent of infection, species of worm, and the animal involved, multiple deworming treatments may be needed; i.e. the initial dewormer may kill adult parasites but not larvae or eggs, so further medication may be necessary. The team at Cuteness continues in “How Long Does it Take for a Puppy Wormer to Work?”: “Three rounds of puppy wormer are necessary to rid your puppy of parasites; four rounds will be even more effective and may be necessary in cases of serious infection. After you have administered the final dose and given it two weeks to take effect, you should take your puppy to the vet for a microscopic fecal exam. The vet will take and examine a stool sample to verify that no worms are present. If worms are found, one more dose of puppy wormer should be given.”


Your pup is your best furry friend – you don’t want to see him go through a hard time with worms, so taking preventative measures is crucial.

  • Make sure to clean up any droppings after your dog to keep parasites out of the environment. If your dog goes to the bathroom outdoors and you don’t pick up the fecal matter, it will get absorbed into the soil and increase the spread of parasites, which can easily get to your dog. Plus it’s impolite!
  • For good caution, take your dog to the veterinarian for routine exams, just to make sure he is worm-free.
  • Don’t forget dog hygiene! Regular baths are a good idea if your dog licks himself after being outside (he could have picked up fecal matter).

Additionally, a good heartworm preventative is highly important and recommended. Visit your veterinarian to ask their opinion on which brand may be best for your dog.

By enrolling your dog early, conditions and illnesses like parasite infection treatments will be covered up to 90% by your Healthy Paws dog insurance. Find out more by getting a free quote.