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Types of Dog Parasites: Worms in Dogs 101

The word parasite can be scary, especially when put into context of infecting your beloved pup. As a follow up to our brief overview on types of dog parasites, we are now going deep into the world of worms in dogs. There is a reason that your new puppy will go through multiple rounds of deworming upon birth, parasitic intestinal worms in dogs are that common. Hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, and whipworm infections can be as prevalent as 3.24%, 1.95%, up to 60%, and 0.57%, respectively, in dogs. It’s important to note that a lot of these canine intestinal parasites are zoonotic, meaning that they can also affect humans, though following proper hygiene greatly reduces this risk.

FUN FACT: Ringworm is not actually a worm! It's a type of fungus, named for the ring shape on the skin when infected and how it penetrates the skin like a worm would.

4 Most Common Intestinal Worms in Dogs

When dogs eat fecal-contaminated things such as grass, dirt, and water, they can acquire an assortment of intestinal worms. Tapeworms are the most common type of intestinal dog parasite because there are so many different species. Tapeworms require an intermediate host, an animal that the tapeworm can grow into its infective life stage inside of, like fleas, rabbits, fish, and rodents. Then, when your dog eats an infected host, the tapeworm passes into your dog's intestinal system. Symptoms of tapeworms in dogs include diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and weight loss. You may even see small white segments that look like rice in your dog’s poop, these are called proglottids. The proglottids are actually tapeworm segments packed full of eggs that can be ingested by other animals and further transmit disease. Interestingly, tapeworms can grow up to a foot long inside of your dog’s intestines!

Hookworm is the next most common type of intestinal worms in dogs. Your dog may get hookworms the traditional way of ingesting feces-contaminated things, or also through less frequent methods like entering through your dog’s skin/paws and being born to an infected mother. If your dog has dark, tar-like diarrhea, or red skin lesions, this may be an indication of a hookworm infection.

Roundworms mainly affect young puppies under the age of 1, acquiring them from their mom’s milk if she is infected herself, or from eating things contaminated with feces (since we know they love to eat everything). Roundworms in puppies present as your dog having a pot belly, accompanied by failure to gain any weight.

Whipworms get their name by their shape, a thick handle end and a long, thin whip-like end. In whipworm infections, some dogs may not show any symptoms while others present with diarrhea with blood and mucus in it.

Preventing Worms in Dogs

Methods for preventing worms in dogs include administering prescription preventatives, cleaning up your dog’s poop right away, and regularly disinfecting your dog’s kennels, blankets, beds, etc. There are so many different intestinal parasite preventatives on the market, each gives your dog protection from different types of worm. Below is a basic table of the common preventatives for intestinal worms in dogs and other parasites:

 

 

Interceptor®

Trifexis®

Simparica Trio®

Sentinel®

Iverhart Max®

Heartgard Plus®

Hookworm

X

X

X

X

X

X

Roundworm

X

X

X

X

X

X

Whipworm

X

X

 

X

 

 

Tapeworm

 

 

 

 

X

 

Heartworm

X

X

X

X

X

X

Fleas

 

X

X

X

 

 

Ticks

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

Talk with your veterinarian to decide which preventative is best for your dog.

Testing and Treating for Worms in Dogs

If you think your dog has worms, the main way to detect worms in dog poop is using our eyes. You may see small white worms in dog poop, indicating an infection. To confirm the presence of worms in dogs, vet techs will often perform fecal flotation. In this technique, they will ask for a fresh poop sample and separate the poop from the potential worms by mixing your dog’s poop with a sugar solution and waiting for the parasite eggs to rise to the top and then look under a microscope to confirm egg presence. Treatment of intestinal worms in puppies may vary on the type of worm infecting your pup, though there are commonalities. Drontal Plus® and Panacur® may be used to treat whipworm, roundworm, and hookworm infections. To treat roundworm and hookworm infections, your veterinarian may suggest Heartgard®, Interceptor®, Iverhart Max®, Sentinel®, Trifexis®, etc. For tapeworm infections, there is no approved treatment product. Instead, your veterinarian may prescribe a rather high dose of praziquantel for two consecutive days. The best treatment for intestinal worms in dogs is preventing them to begin with.

 

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Comparison of Common Intestinal Parasites in Dogs

There are various types of dog parasites, especially intestinal worms in dogs. Please refer to the table below for a comparison between the main types of intestinal parasites in dogs.

 

Roundworms

Hookworms

Whipworms

Tapeworms

Giardia

Coccidia

Geographic Hot Spots

 

*these parasites are found everywhere*

WA, MT, IN, SD, KY, MS, WV, PA, DE, and VT

 

Southeastern U.S.

*Thrive in humid, warm climates*

 

 

OK, MS, AR, MO, TN, and KY

Upper Midwest/Great Lakes Region

Western U.S., Northeast U.S.

 

NJ, OH, PA, MO, MN, LA, IA

How do they get it?

Eating parasite eggs

Eating parasite eggs; skin penetration; from mom’s milk or while pregnant

Eating parasite eggs

Eating infected intermediate host (flea, rabbit, fish, etc.)

Eating cysts

Eating cysts

Common areas where found

Outdoor dogs

Outdoor dogs

Shelters

Parks, kennels, shelters

Parks, kennels, shelters, breeding facilities

Parks, kennels, shelters

Symptoms

Vomiting, diarrhea, constipation

Black tarry stool, anemia

No symptoms or stool with mucus or blood

Diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting

No symptoms or diarrhea

Loose stool to watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, anorexia

Diagnosis

Fecal flotation

Fecal flotation

Fecal flotation

Fecal flotation

Fecal flotation

Fecal flotation

Treatment

Drontal Plus, Panacur, Heartguard, Interceptor, Iverhart Max, Sentinel, or Trifexis

Drontal Plus, Panacur, Heartguard, Interceptor, Iverhart Max, Sentinel, or Trifexis

Drontal Plus for one day or Panacur for 3 days

High dose of praziquantel for 2 days

Metronidazole for 5-8 days, Drontal Plus for 3 days, or Panacur for 3-5 days

Sulfadimethoxine for 5-20 days

Prevention methods

Pick up poop immediately; thoroughly clean kennels, beds, and blankets

Pick up poop immediately; thoroughly clean kennels, beds, and blankets

Pick up poop immediately; thoroughly clean kennels, beds, and blankets

Pick up poop immediately; thoroughly clean kennels, beds, and blankets

Pick up poop immediately; thoroughly clean kennels, beds, and blankets

Pick up poop immediately; thoroughly clean kennels, beds, and blankets with high levels of ammonia

With so many different types of intestinal parasites that can affect your dog, it’s important to seek the advice of your veterinarian on prevention methods. Prevention is your best bet against a costly, time-consuming, and stressful treatment plan against parasites.

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