Dogs are unfortunately susceptible to several types of dog worms.
In fact, even many healthy adult dogs may carry a small number of relatively harmless intestinal parasites.
However, some dog worms can cause serious health issues – particularly if the dog’s immune system is weak, or if the infestation becomes severe.
Most puppies will have intestinal worms from birth.
The worms are passed on from the mother, and the undeveloped immune systems and gastrointestinal systems of very young pups cannot keep the parasite population in check.
In addition, rescued dogs are more susceptible to worm infestations because stress and crowded conditions make the dogs more vulnerable to parasites.
If your dog shows signs and symptoms of worms, be sure to have a fecal analysis done by your veterinarian to determine the type and severity of the infestation.
Common Types of Dog Worms
The most common types of dog worms are as follows:
Roundworms are the most common worm parasite that infect dogs, especially puppies.
In fact, over 95% of puppies are born with roundworms. Unborn puppy fetuses can get roundworms in utero. Young puppies can get infected from the milk of their mother. Roundworm eggs are hardy and can live for months or even years in the soil.
For more information about roundworms, please visit our page on Roundworms in Dogs.
Hookworms are also common in dogs, especially puppies. Like roundworms, hookworms can infect puppies in utero, or from the milk of the dam.
Most cases of hookworm infestations occur in puppies during the first two months of their lives. Hookworms attach themselves to the wall of a dog’s small intestine and suck blood. Puppies with heavy infestation can die from anemia.
For more information about hookworms, please visit our page on Hookworms in Dogs.
Unlike most other types of dog worms that live in the small intestines, whipworms live mainly in the first part of the large intestines.
Heavy infestation can cause colitis (inflammation of the intestinal wall).
Diagnosis of whipworm is more difficult because female whipworms lay fewer eggs than other worms, and there are long periods during which eggs are not shed, so finding eggs in feces is more difficult. Multiple samples may be needed to get a definite diagnosis.
For more information about whipworms, please visit our page on Dog Whipworm Infestation.
There are several species of dog tapeworm. The most common species is transmitted by fleas and lice. Tapeworms in dogs live in the small intestines and suck nutrients directly from the host.
As a result, they can drain nutrition from the dog but not to the extent caused by hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.
For more information about tapeworms, please visit our page on Tapeworms in Dogs.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, and heartworm infestation can cause serious health problems to dogs, such as congestive heart failure, liver and kidney problems.
Treating heartworms is expensive and dangerous, since the medicine contains arsenic, so it is very important to prevent heartworm infestation.
For more information about heartworms, please visit our page on Canine Heartworms.
Prevention of Worms in Dogs
Although it is impossible to eradicate dog worms completely, there are things that we can do to minimize infestation. For example:
- Public Sanitation: Remove dog feces from backyards and parks to minimize contamination of soil.
- Regular Fecal Exam: Have your dog’s feces checked regularly to make sure that there is no worm infestation.
- Strengthen the Immune System: Dogs who are healthy and have strong immune systems are usually not threatened by worm infestations and, even if there are small numbers of worms in the body, the dog may not show symptoms. Strengthen your dog’s immune system by feeding him natural, high-quality food, and if necessary, supplements such as vitamins and minerals.
- Heartworm Preventives: Put your dog on a heartworm prevention program as recommended by your vet.