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As a pet parent, you may be shocked to find worms in dog poop — but you're not alone. Intestinal parasites including hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms are common in dogs. Worms can often cause a variety of health concerns as they're highly contagious. These parasites may often go undetected as well if your dog isn't taken in for routine checkups with your veterinarian for microscopic worm eggs in dog poop. If you want to keep your dog free of worms, keep reading to learn more about how to spot worms in your dog's feces and how they may affect your dog's health.
How Do Worms Affect Your Dog and Their Health?
Your dog's health, size and age will play a large role in how intestinal worms will affect their overall health. The type and number of worms a dog is infected with are also important to note. Worms not only live in the stomach and intestines, but they can also be found in the heart, kidneys, lungs and other organs. Keep in mind that ringworm, which is also seen in dogs, isn't actually a worm but a fungus.
Dogs can contract intestinal worms in several ways. A mother dog can pass worms to her puppies in the womb or when nursing. Dogs can also become infected with worms by accidentally ingesting dog poop that contains worm eggs or eating an animal that's infected with worms. Dogs can become infected with tapeworms if they accidentally ingest a flea that contains tapeworm larvae. Worms are obligate parasites that get all of their nutrition from their host. Dogs who are smaller, younger and/or have a compromised immune system may be more prone to developing worms in their poop than others.
In addition to seeing worms in your dog's poop, intestinal worms may also cause:
- Mucusy or bloody diarrhea
- Failure to thrive
- Excessive exhaustion
- Abdominal bloating
- Poor hair coat
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss (despite voracious appetite)
- Pale gums
- Coughing (if the worms invade the lungs)
If you notice any of these clinical signs, call your vet as soon as possible. Note that some intestinal worms, including hookworms and roundworms, are contagious to humans and are considered a human health risk. In addition, some worms, like roundworms, can live in soil for years and continually reinfect animals that come into contact with the eggs.
What Are the Signs of Worms in Dog Poop?
The four main worms found in dog poop are hookworms, whipworms, roundworms and tapeworms.
- Hookworms are tiny, thin worms with hook-like mouth parts.
- Whipworms look like tiny pieces of thread that are enlarged on one end.
- Roundworms look like spaghetti and may be several inches long.
- Tapeworms aren't usually seen in dog poop, but their egg sacs, which look like grains of rice, can be found in dog poop or sticking to a dog's behind.
The best way to identify worms in dog poop is to take any worms you find along with a sample of your dog's poop to your local vet office where they'll help you identify and treat any parasites. Most of the time you won't see adult worms, so they're usually diagnosed by a veterinary professional with a fecal float test. The poop sample is dissolved in a special solution and spun in a centrifuge to be examined under a microscope to look for worm eggs in dog poop.
How Are Intestinal Worms Treated?
Fortunately, worms in dog poop are usually easily treated. Depending on the type of worm(s) that your dog has, your vet will prescribe a dewormer that will kill any adult worms your dog is harboring. Dewormers that may be prescribed can include fenbendazole, milbemycin, praziquantel, moxidectin or pyrantel pamoate, and they come in many forms, including liquid medication, injections, tablets, topical forms or chew forms. Dewormers require only one or a few doses, making them safe, effective, inexpensive and easy. If you notice that your dog passes worms after being dewormed, either in the stool or vomiting, that means that the dewormer is doing its job.
How Can You Prevent Worms?
Once your dog is worm-free, be sure to talk to your vet about monthly worm prevention. Many monthly heartworm prevention medications include intestinal parasite prevention medication as well, making total worm prevention easy. These medications work by killing any intestinal parasites that your dog is exposed to. For these medications to work properly, give them to your dog as directed.
In addition to giving your dog a monthly broad-spectrum worm prevention medication, it's also recommended that you have your dog's stool checked every 6 to 12 months for microscopic parasite eggs. No medication works 100% of the time, so having your dog's poop checked regularly will ensure that the monthly prevention is doing its job of keeping worms out of your dog and out of your life.
Dr. Sarah Wooten
A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well known international speaker in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications. Dr. Wooten has spoken in the veterinary education space for 5 years, and speaks on leadership, client communication, and personal development. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. She serves on the Weld County Humane Society Executive Board and the Fearfree Advisory Board. In addition she is a co-creator of the wildly popular card game 'Vets Against Insanity'. When it is time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado or diving with sharks in the Caribbean.
Go big...or go home. To learn more, visit drsarahwooten.com.