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Worms

Most puppies are actually born with worms, which they contracted from their mother’s milk. Other worms are obtained from fleas or the environment. Treatment for worms is vital for all dogs to keep them fit and healthy.

Types of worm:

Roundworms:
Puppies are infected with roundworms (Toxocara spp and Toxascaris spp) from their mother’s milk, emphasising the importance of worming expectant and nursing mothers (with a safe, veterinary licensed product). Dogs can also be infected by eating contaminated rodents or soil. Roundworms can be identified as spaghetti-like shapes in the faeces and in heavy burdens, in vomit.

Tapeworms:
Dogs are infected with tapeworms (Taenia spp., Echinococcus spp., Dipylidium spp.) via fleas or infected carcasses (rodents, sheep, rabbits). Segments of tapeworm may be seen in faeces or on the dog’s bottom and look like grains of rice.

Hookworms and Whipworms:
These worms are not common the UK and are more of a problem abroad. They are transmitted via the mother’s milk or via the environment.

Lungworms:
This worm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is a little different in that it lives in the dog’s blood vessels and affects their lungs. Dogs pick up this worm by eating slugs and snails, on purpose or accidentally in puddles or undergrowth for example.

Heartworms:
This worm (Dirofilaria immitis) is not seen in the UK but may be a problem for dogs taken abroad to affected regions. Preventative treatment is vital for such dogs. Dogs are infected via mosquitoes.

Warning signs

  • As mentioned above you may see worms in the faeces, vomit or on the dog’s bottom.
  • Weakness and depression.
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Weight loss despite a good appetite.
  • Abnormally swollen stomach.
  • If a large burden causes a blockage of the intestine (usually seen in puppies) then severe vomiting, loss of appetite and depression may result.
  • Lungworm can cause various signs including coughing and bleeding problems.

Treatment/Prevention

If you obtain your puppy from a reputable breeder or rescue centre, they will have already been wormed. Make sure you get a copy of paperwork detailing the worming and ask you vet how to continue the program. Adult dogs need worming too so again ask your vet to supply a wormer and provide information on how frequently you should worm your dog.

In some circumstances if worms are suspected, you may be advised to take in a stool sample, which the vet will look under the microscope for worm eggs in the sample.

If you are taking your dog abroad (via the PETS scheme) certain worming protocols will be mandatory. Ask your vet about this in advance of any travel plans.

Some worms can be transmitted to humans and can be spread dog to dog via faeces. Therefore it is always a good idea to dispose of the stool when your dog goes to the toilet outside. This will help to prevent re-infestation, and will also protect playmates as well. Do not let your dog eat dead animals or slugs/snails outside.

Human infection is uncommon, but always use proper hygiene measures and make sure children wash their hands after handling the dog or playing outside.

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