What to do if your dog has worms
Here we provide you with some of the signs and indications that may be present if your dog is suffering from worms with advice on what to do in this situation.
Dogs can't tell you if they are feeling unwell but there are signs that you can look out for. Worms is a common problem in dogs and can be very uncomfortable for your pet.
What are the main types of worms affecting dogs in the UK?
The two main types of worm dog owners in the UK should be aware of are roundworms and tapeworms, as these worms can affect both pets and people. However, reports have suggested that the number of incidences of lungworm has risen across several areas of the UK in recent years, so it is essential that pet owners become more aware. Dogs become infected with lungworm when they eat affected slugs or snails. Lungworms live in the blood vessels supplying the lungs, and symptoms include respiratory problems and coughing. Lungworm larvae can sometimes be found in slug and snail slime trails, so, as a precaution, you may wish to make sure you regularly clean any water and food bowls, and toys that get left outside.
How can I tell if my dog has got worms?
Sometimes it is very difficult to tell, particularly if adult dogs have worms, as many won’t actually show any symptoms of an infestation. This is why it is so important to maintain a regular worming routine — just because your dog isn’t showing any symptoms, it doesn’t mean he isn’t infested. Some signs you can look out for are scooting on his bottom, frequent coughing, a change in appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, lethargy or a lack of energy, a dull coat, abdominal swelling (more often seen in puppies), and, if it is a tapeworm infestation, you may see what look like grains of rice in your dog’s faeces — these are egg sacs.
Another thing to be aware of is that tapeworms can be spread by fleas. If your dog has fleas, there is a chance he could also become infested with worms. If you haven’t been sticking to a regular worming routine, as well as treating your dog for fleas, consider treating him for worms as well.
If your dog begins scratching their rear or rubbing it against furniture then this might be a sign that they are suffering from worms. There may be other medical reasons for this behaviour and you should always double check with your local vet.
Vomit often contains worms so look out for signs in your dogs vomit. Their stomach may also become bloated so it is important you keep an eye out for any subtle changes. Worms are parasites which feed off the nutrients meant for your dog so an increase in appetite is another sign of their presence.
How do dogs get worms?
There are many reasons why your dog may contract worms. Puppies may have contracted worms from their mother and dormant eggs may present themselves as worms inside the newly born pup.
Dogs which have contact with contaminated dirt can also contract worms. Fleas are also a host for different worm species. Dogs can and do swallow fleas whilst being groomed and this can lead to worms. Wildlife also contains worms so if your dog eats some of these plants then they may contract them. There are many types of worms that your dog can contract too, including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, heartworms and whipworms.
How do I treat worms in my dog?
All these types of worms have to be treated in different ways. To treat roundworms your dog will need to take oral medication. This medication is called a "de-wormer". The dog should be checked every few months after the treatment has begun and will likely need to take monthly heartworm medicine.
With tapeworms, regular "de-wormers" may not work and stronger medicine may be needed. Tapeworms can be prevented by treating your dog with flea collars but this is not always foolproof.
Hookworms are treated in much the same way as roundworms. Your dog may also need to have a blood transfusion if their condition gets really bad.
Whipworms can be eliminated using special medication including fenbendazole and febantel. This treatment usually last five days and is repeated after three weeks. Your dog may also need to take heartworm medicine.
Whilst worms is a common and easily-solved problem that is treated without claiming against insurance it's always wise to be covered for other eventualities.
What are the long-term health implications for a dog who is infested with worms?
If left untreated, worms can damage your dog’s gut, stunt growth, cause diarrhoea, dehydration, anaemia, and a change in appetite, leading to weight loss and a general lack of condition. They can also make your dog more susceptible to other diseases. In extreme cases, worms can even be fatal , so it is critical that a regular worm and flea routine is adopted to ensure your pet stays happy and healthy.
Can worms be passed to people or other animals?
Some worms can be transmitted to humans — such worms are said to have zoonotic potential — and these include tapeworms and roundworms. Animals and humans become infested with worms when they ingest the eggs. So, in the case of a roundworm, once inside your dog the roundworm lifecycle will begin and you will need to worm your dog in order to fight the infestation. Inside a human, the chemical signals are different and so the roundworms get confused, ending up in the lungs, brain, or eyes.
Children are most at risk, so any household which includes cats, dogs, and children MUST stick to a regular worming routine in order to keep both their pets and their family safe. Worm infestations in humans have been linked to blindness, as well as asthma in children. Fortunately, avoiding a worm infestation is easy — always worm your dog and always pick up after him. Worm eggs in fresh faeces ARE NOT able to infest people or pets, so if they are disposed of immediately and safely this will help reduce the amount of worm eggs in the environment, and reduce the risk of spreading worms.