Dog sick with worms

Key takeaway

Worms are a type of parasite that can be transmitted to dogs at birth, through food, or through infected soil or feces. Dogs who have worms may have symptoms ranging from diarrhea and abdominal pain to a pot-bellied appearance. Fortunately, treating worms is usually as simple as giving your dog a dewormer, so you can get rid of worms in dogs with medication.

Of all the medical problems that dogs commonly face, intestinal worms are one of the most important to know about. Worms refer to a type of parasite that can infect dogs, and they get their name because of their long, worm-like shape. If your dog has intestinal worms, you might notice your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea along with other symptoms.

If you think your dog may have worms, here’s what you need to know about intestinal worms in dogs and how to get rid of them.

Graphic displaying different types of worms

Types Of Intestinal Worms In Dogs

There are several types of intestinal worms, including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Figuring out what type of worms your dog has is an important first step in the treatment process.

Roundworms

Roundworms are common in both cats and dogs and can be transmitted in a handful of different ways. In some cases, roundworms may be transmitted through the placenta from a mother to her puppies. Because it’s  common for roundworms to be transmitted from a mother to her puppies, it’s primarily a concern for puppies.

While some dogs don’t show symptoms with roundworms, you may notice symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain, a potbellied appearance, weight loss, and a dull coat. Roundworms look like spaghetti noodles in the feces. If you notice several of these symptoms together, you should call a vet.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are interesting because they’re generally transmitted to dogs via an infected flea. Tapeworm eggs are ingested by flea larvae, where they grow and develop as the flea does. Eventually, your dog may accidentally eat an infected flea while grooming or as a response to a flea bite. The egg then hatches and attaches itself to your dog’s intestinal lining. Small segments of the tapeworm that contain the eggs break off and are transmitted in the stool. These segments appear as flat grains of rice in the feces.

The good news about tapeworms is that they don’t generally cause serious problems in dogs. Of all the types of intestinal worms in dogs, tapeworms are one of the more minor ones. However, it can still cause complications for puppies.

Hookworms

Hookworms are smaller and typically not visible to the naked eye, but they can still cause a lot of damage. Hookworms are a blood-sucking parasite that burrow into the intestinal wall and  can lead to internal blood loss in dogs, which can be an especially big problem for younger dogs. Typically, hookworm larvae live in the soil after they’ve hatched from eggs, which is how they get to your dog and infect them. The larvae can either be ingested or burrow through the skin.

Like most parasites that dogs get, hookworm can be treated with a dewormer that your veterinarian can prescribe. Make sure you talk to your vet about properly using medication before you give your dog anything.

Whipworms

The other type of worms in dogs you need to worry about are whipworms. Whipworms are large enough that they’re visible to the naked eye, but they’re not commonly found in feces. Whipworm may spread from one dog to another through infected feces or soil, causing a parasite to embed itself in the intestinal lining of the infected dog.

Because of their shape, whipworms can cause a lot of discomfort in dogs. Symptoms you may notice include diarrhea, weight loss, bloody stools, and anemia. Making sure your dog gets enough fluid to prevent dehydration is also important.

Graphic listing symptoms of worms in dogs

Symptoms Of Worms In Dogs

Recognizing the symptoms of worms in dogs can help you keep your dogs worm-free and healthy. There are several signs of worms in dogs that you may notice, from diarrhea and abdominal pain to a potbelly and a dull coat. That being said, the symptoms that come with worms can vary quite a bit depending on the infecting parasite. 

Here are some general signs of intestinal worms in dogs to keep an eye out for:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coat appearance
  • Stomach bloating
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Deficiencies in nutrition and anemia
  • Intestinal blockage or pneumonia
  • Blood in stool (either bright red or darker purple)

It’s also important to note that symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, and stomach bloating can be a result of other medical conditions as well. If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms for a few days, schedule an appointment with your vet to get a diagnosis.

Why Do Dogs Get Worms?

There are a few different ways dogs can get worms, but most dogs get worms from doing one thing: eating soil or feces that have been infected with larvae or eggs from worms. Soil and feces become infected with parasitic worms when an infected dog defecates. These parasites are always looking for a new host, which is why intestinal worms in dogs are so common.

As a pet parent, you can help prevent worms in dogs by making sure your dogs have a clean environment. Don’t leave feces lying around the yard and try to keep wild animals away if you don’t want your dog to end up with worms.

Dog being examined by vet

Diagnosis 

Getting a diagnosis from a vet is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to treating intestinal worms in dogs. You need to know whether your dog has worms and what kind of worms they have, that way you can get rid of them before they cause any further damage.

Diagnosing worms involves testing a stool sample from your dog to see if there are any worms present. Vets will look for eggs, larvae, and adult worms in your dog’s stool. You should take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice symptoms of worms in dogs. The sooner you get your dog started on a dewormer, the sooner they’ll be happy and healthy again.

Graphic listing steps involved in getting rid of worms in dogs

Treatment: How Do You Get Rid Of Worms In Dogs?

1. Schedule An Appointment With Your Vet

The first thing you need to do when it comes to treating worms in dogs is to schedule an appointment with your vet. While parasitic worms may not seem like a medical emergency, they can travel to organs and other parts of the body and cause greater damage. Even if you see a worm or worm eggs in your dog’s feces, you can’t make a diagnosis at home.

Your vet can figure out what kind of worms your dog has and what the best treatment is, so you don’t have to do any guesswork. If you want to prevent complications that may come with worms, get an early diagnosis.

2. Collect Stool Sample Or Conduct Other Test As Instructed

In order to figure out what type of worms your dog has, your vet may ask you to collect a stool sample that they can test. Stool samples are an easy way to determine what kind of worms are in your dog’s digestive system and how to treat them. Whether your pet is required to take a blood test or submit a stool sample, make sure you follow any instructions your vet gives you when they order these tests.

3. Start Prescribed Deworming Treatment

Once your vet knows what kind of worms your dog has, they’ll generally provide a dewormer medication. While dewormers aren’t particularly complicated, it’s important to follow your vet’s instructions when it comes to administering medication. Your vet may prescribe oral dewormers or injectable dewormers. Oral dewormers are the simpler and more common option since they’re administered via the mouth and typically don’t cause side effects. Injectable dewormers are a one-time treatment option that may cause side effects but can simplify treatment in some circumstances.

Before you give your dog any deworming medication, make sure you talk to your vet and get it prescribed.

Dog owner comforting pet

Final Notes

Worms in dogs are a common issue, whether you’re talking about roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, or whipworms. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Fortunately, you can get rid of worms with a simple dewormer in most cases, and they’re not usually a life-threatening medical problem. However, you do need to take your dog to the vet for de-worming treatment.

If you need online vet help, Dutch can make your life easier. Dutch connects you with vets in your area who you can video chat with from the comfort of your home. Your vet can offer advice, diagnose basic conditions, and even prescribe medication for delivery. If you want simple pet care without sacrificing quality, Dutch is the way to go.

References

  1. Peregrine, Andrew S. “Roundworms in Small Animals - Digestive System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 10 Feb. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/gastrointestinal-parasites-of-small-animals/roundworms-in-small-animals?query=roundworms

  2. “How to Tell If Your Dog Has Worms.” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/what-do-when-your-dog-has-worms#:~:text=Transmission%20of%20intestinal%20worms%20(hookworms,infected%20animals%20in%20the%20environment. 

  3. Staff, AKC. “Worms in Dogs: Prevent, Diagnose, and Treat Different Types of Worms.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 27 Oct. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/worms-in-dogs-prevention-diagnosis-treatment/