Are Dog Worms A Big Deal? (Yes!)

What Are Dog Worms?

Dog worms can be a serious condition for your pup, causing a wide range of symptoms, depending upon age and breed. There are five common types of worms that affect dogs: heartworms, roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms; and some of these dog worms are transmittable to humans. The good news is that dog worms are relatively easy to treatIf you suspect your dog might have worms, it is important to contact an online veterinarian right away to talk about treatment options.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Worms?

Certain dog worm symptoms are attributable to the specific type of infection. Tapeworm is typically the easiest type of dog worm to spot because it is common to see white segments on your dog’s behind, in his feces, and in his living space. Other infections, such as roundworm, whipworm, and heartworm, are hard to identify without a fecal or blood test from your veterinarian because your dog may not show any signs of infection. However, major infections from roundworm and whipworm often cause diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting; whereas heartworm can cause shortness of breath, lethargy and coughing.

What Are Some Common Types Of Dog Worms?

1) Heartworms

Overview and Symptoms:

Heartworm disease is very common in dogs and, although very serious, are totally preventable. Heartworms can be contracted through a contaminated mosquito. When the mosquito bites a dog, it spreads infected larvae through the bite wound. Once the infected larvae enter the dog’s body, they migrates to the heart and lungs where they can grow over one foot in length. Heartworms can affect blood flow throughout your dog’s body and can damage the heart, lungs, and liver. In its early stages heartworm often doesn’t present symptoms; however, in more serious cases symptoms such as shortness of breath, lethargy, and coughing are common.

Treatment:

Dogs can be treated for heartworms through prescribed medication (usually taken once a month). It is important, especially in puppies, to begin treatment within the first two months of their lives. It is recommended that puppies are tested for heartworm before they are medicated; the American Heartworm Society also advises that you have your dog tested yearly for heartworm. Schedule an appointment with a mobile vet to discuss heartworm prevention, treatment, and testing options.

Risk to Humans:

It is extremely rare for humans to contract heartworm through direct contact with a dog.

2) Roundworms

Overview and Symptoms:

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, roundworms are one of the most common types of worms to affect dogs, and most dogs contract roundworms at some point in their lives. Roundworms are typically caused by ingesting something that contains worm larvae. Roundworms can live in your dog’s intestines and can move from there into his lungs. It is common that your dog will not show signs of roundworm infection; however, major roundworm infections often cause symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, and vomiting. 

Treatment:

Dogs can be treated for roundworms through prescribed deworming medications. Heartworm medications are also an effective way to treat roundworms. Schedule a virtual appointment with an online veterinarian to chat about how to prevent or treat roundworm infection.

Risk to Humans:

Roundworms can be contracted by humans through their dogs. Infections commonly occur through contact with contaminated fecal matter.

3) Tapeworms

Overview and Symptoms:

Tapeworms are long worms with multiple segments that attach themselves to dogs’ intestines; tapeworms aren’t a serious problem, but they can cause illness and discomfort in dogs. It is important that tapeworms are treated quickly because each segment of a tapeworm has its own reproductive organs allowing each tapeworm segment to reproduce and grow in length very rapidly. There are various types of tapeworms, each with specific, targeted hosts. Your dog can become infected when it consumes the infected host. Some species of tapeworms, such as the Taenia and Echinococcus, are hosted by smaller rodents and larger animals. The Dypilidium Canium species of tapeworm is spread to dogs through fleas. Symptoms of tapeworm often include weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Another common sign of tapeworms is finding white segments on your dogs’ backside, in their feces, and in his living space.

Treatment

The most effective way to keep your dog from contracting tapeworms is to keep it away from hosts, especially fleas. Many prescribed heartworm medications also contain an active drug that prevents tapeworm. If you suspect that your furry friend has contracted tapeworm, schedule an appointment with one of our online veterinarians for further information on treatment options.

Risk to Humans

Although it is uncommon for dogs to transfer tapeworms to humans, there have been some instances of dog-to-human transmission of certain tapeworms to their owners, resulting in serious health risks to the owners.

4) Hookworms

Overview and Symptoms

Hookworms are a very serious and sometimes fatal threat to dogs. Hookworms are intestinal parasites that hook themselves to the lining of intestinal walls and feed on blood resulting in internal blood loss. Hookworm larvae live in soil and can be contracted by dogs through consumption of the larvae and through penetration of the skin. Hookworm is especially dangerous to puppies that haven’t fully developed. Symptoms of hookworm include poor growth, weakness, lethargy, weight loss, and death.

Treatment

Dogs can be treated for hookworm through deworming medication, and many heartworm medications also work to prevent hookworm. It is important that puppies are treated multiple times within their first few months of life as hookworms pose more of a threat to very young dogs. Schedule an appointment with an online veterinarian at TelePAWS to talk about preventative measures and treatment options for your pup.

Risk to Humans

It is rare for an infected dog to pass hookworms on to humans. However, if dog- to-human transmission of hookworms does occur, the infected person may experience mild discomfort and can be easily treated.

5) Whipworms

Overview and Symptoms

Whipworm is one of the most common parasitical worms a dog can contract. Whipworms reside in the lining of the cecum (where the small and large intestines meet) and colon (large intestine). Dogs can contract a whipworm infection by consuming larvae that are typically found in soil. In many instances, dogs don’t show signs of a whipworm infection. However, more severe infections can lead to serious health decline. Signs of a serious infection include diarrhea (bloody or normal), weight loss, and extreme lethargy. If left untreated, whipworms can result in death.

Treatment

Annual fecal tests are recommended to determine whether your dog has whipworm. Medications are available to prevent and treat whipworm in dogs. Some heartworm medications can also control whipworm infections.

Risk to Humans

Dogs are unable to pass whipworms to humans. However, humans are susceptible to a certain species of whipworm that can be contracted through contact with contaminated fecal matter.

An Online Vet Can Help With Dog Worms

It is very common for dogs to get parasites at some point in their lives.  However, by working with an online veterinarian and having your pup tested annually for parasites, you can protect your dog and your family.  Regular parasite preventatives are the best way to treat and prevent most dog worm infections and reinfections.  Contact an online vet at TelePAWS today to discuss parasite preventatives to keep your dog and your family safe and healthy.

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