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intestinal worms in dogs

Find out how to protect against intestinal worms in dogs

No pet owner likes to think about their dog carrying worms. Intestinal parasites are a worry for dog owners as they can cause discomfort and even serious illness in your pets. Keeping your dog worm free is not only important for their overall health, but for the wellbeing of your family too.

In the UK there are four common types of intestinal worms that infect our cats and dogs: Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms.

How do dogs get worms?

There are numerous ways dogs can become infected with intestinal worms. How they become infected depends on:

  • Species of worm
  • Your pet’s age
  • Lifestyle

From birth

Some roundworms can cross the placenta into developing puppies, so they are born infected. Puppies can also become infected through drinking the milk of their infected mother.

From the environment

For older animals, infection often comes from consuming eggs in the environment. This may be when they are outdoors playing or on a walk, but also from the transfer of eggs into the home. Digging in contaminated soil then grooming paws and fur will cause infection.

From grooming

Fleas and lice carry immature tapeworms. dogs become infected when they groom themselves and ingest the fleas and lice. Therefore, flea control is also important in controlling intestinal parasites too.

From raw meat

The consumption of uncooked meat is also a source of intestinal worm eggs.

How do I know if my dog has worms?

When we think of worms, we often imagine long thin tapeworms, however most adult worms are hardly ever seen. It is therefore not possible to know if your pet has worms just by looking at them and their faeces. Detecting signs of worms requires microscopic examination of faeces for worm eggs. Therefore, the use of regular preventative worming treatment is strongly recommended.

What symptoms will intestinal worms cause?

Most worm infected pets in the UK show relatively minor symptoms unless the infection is heavy. Puppies are most vulnerable to the ill effects caused by intestinal worms.

Symptoms of infection can include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Potbelly appearance
  • Poor coat
  • Lethargy
  • Anaemia
  • Respiratory problems

A heavy worm burden in puppies can cause an intestinal blockage which can be fatal.

Risks of worms to humans

A disease or infection that can be transmitted to humans from animals is called a zoonosis. Several species of intestinal worms found in dogs in the United Kingdom are zoonotic.

Toxocara canis

The roundworms Toxocara canis found in dogs cause toxocariasis in people. Toxocariasis is rare but affects mainly young children as they are more likely to encounter eggs in faeces and contaminated soil, and then put their hands in their mouths. Once ingested the eggs hatch inside the human bowel and the larvae can travel throughout the body. These larvae moving through the body can cause a cough and fever, or more severe symptoms such as loss of vision, fatigue, breathing difficulties and seizures.

Regular worming treatment for dogs and immediate disposal of faeces, as well as regular hand washing will help to reduce the risk of toxocariasis.

Echinococcus multilocularis

Some species of tapeworms found in dogs are also zoonotic. The most concerning of these is Echinococcus multilocularis. This worm is not currently found in the United Kingdom but is common in continental Europe. Dogs infected with E. multilocularis appear to have no symptoms, but the infection can be deadly in people. For this reason, it is very important to ensure your dog is regularly wormed if you have travelled to an infected area. Your vet will be able to give you more information about which precautions to take against this parasite.

Treatment and prevention of intestinal worms in dogs

Intestinal worm eggs are common and widespread in the environment. Almost all pets will be infected at some point during their lives. High rates of infection and a lack of obvious symptoms is the reason regular worming treatment should be given to all dogs.

Use a regular worming treatment

Anthelmin tablets and Drontal for dogs kill every type of intestinal worm commonly found in dogs. Dosing every three months will be sufficient control for most pets. Flea control with a regular flea treatment such as Advantage for Dogs, Fleascreen Combo or Frontline Plus for Dogs is also necessary to prevent reinfection of tapeworms.

Protect young puppies and mothers

High-risk pets, including puppies younger than 6 months, pregnant and lactating bitches as well as hunters and those eating raw meat may require more frequent dosing. You can discuss your puppy’s worming needs with your vet.

Maintain a clean environment

Removing pet faeces immediately and cleaning the environment will help to prevent an accumulation of worm eggs.

Make dosing your worming treatment easier!

At Protect My Pet, we want to make parasite prevention as easy as possible. Infrequent dosing of flea and worm treatments and poor quality products allow worms to multiply within your pet, affecting their health and wellbeing. With our service you will never forget to treat again because when it arrives in the post, it’s time to dose.

If you’re not already using our hassle-free service, you can join our pack today.

Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS.