Worms are a common problem for dogs. They appear in many different forms and cause different symptoms. But let’s back up a step. How do dogs get worms in the first place?
Each type of worm that dogs get is different, so they arrive in different ways. One by one, here are common worms that affect dogs’ health and how they show up.
How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?
Heartworms are exactly what they sound like – worms that live in a dog’s blood vessels and heart. Because they affect such a major organ, it’s very serious. Dogs get heartworms by being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Tapeworms live in the intestines and feed off of food as the host animal is digesting it. Typically, dogs get tapeworms by ingesting tapeworm eggs. The most common way this happens is by eating a flea that has eaten a tapeworm egg. It’s one more reason why fleas are dangerous and disgusting.
Ringworms are not actually a type of worm, but a class of fungi. There are 3 common ways dogs get ringworms: by ingesting spores off the ground, as a puppy when they’re passed from mother to pups, or by direct contact.
Like tapeworms, hookworms live in the intestine. They “hook” onto the intestine wall and cause intestinal bleeding. Dogs get them either from eating them from the ground or by eating them from the feces of a dog with hookworms.
Whipworms also cause intestinal bleeding because they bury themselves in the intestine wall to feed. Dogs get them from other dogs who have whipworms and have shed them, such through feces.
How to tell if your dog has worms
If your dog has worms, you’ll likely notice a few symptoms:
• Worms in feces or vomit. Worms may look like worms or small pieces of rice.
• Worms near the anus
• Blood in the stool
• Increased hunger in the case of intestinal worms
• Anal irritation, relieved by rubbing the rear on the ground or other surfaces
The best way to know if your dog has worms is to take your dog to the vet. A blood test will be able to tell if your dog has worms and what kind, if any. From there, your vet will be able to prescribe the correct treatment for your dog’s case. It may vary based on type of worm and severity.
Prevention is the best cure
There are many kinds of worm preventatives available. Veterinary offices often have heartworm and other preventatives in office. You can also purchase them online, often at better prices than at the vet’s office. Ask your vet what they recommend for your dog's specific needs.
When it comes to your dog’s health, it’s better safe than sorry. Know the signs of worms, protect your dog, and do what you can to minimize your dog’s exposure.
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Photo credit: Tom Stovall