How Do Dogs Get Worms: What To Do?

how do dogs get worm
how do dogs get worms

Contaminated soil or infected rodents contain worm eggs. Are you wondering how do dogs get worms? If your dog mistakenly eats these worm eggs, then worms develop inside their body. Moreover, if your dog comes in contact with fleas or stool of other animals, then also they get infected with worms. Microscopic larvae often contains hookworms and can enter your dog’s body through the skin or by mouth.

Signs Of Worms In Your Dog’s Body

How will you come to know that your dog is suffering from worms? It is difficult to understand this at the early stage of infection. It’s so because the worms remain hidden inside your pet’s gut but as the worms start growing, the signs become prominent. So, have a look at some of the definite signs of worms listed below:

  • If worms have entered your dog’s body, then you will find worms or eggs in the feces.

  • You will find worms in the dog’s fur or around its ears.

  • Dandruff, loss of sheen or luster are the short-term indications of worm infection.

  • Vomiting is a symptom of infection by worms. So, worms may come out while vomiting.

  • Mature tapeworms shed egg-filled segments that can cause pain in the dog’s lower abdomen.

  • Your dog starts losing appetite and thereby losses weight as well.

  • Constant hunger and increased thirst are other symptoms of worm infection.

  • If worms reproduce and develop more worms and get spread in your dog’s abdomen, then it will suffer from diarrhea. Diarrhea also contains blood in severe cases.

Types Of Worms In Dogs

There are mainly six types of worms that infect dogs:

1) Heartworms

These are parasitic roundworms that cause dirofilariasis. These worms can infect your dog’s body through a mosquito bite. It happens only when a mosquito infected with heartworm larvae bites your dog. It can infect other animals and humans in rare cases, but dogs are always their primary target. The larvae accumulate in the heart, lungs, arteries and blood vessels of your dog’s body. They mature with time and produce offsprings that cause fatal effects on your dog’s heart and lungs. They are so dangerous that even if you kill them, their effect lasts throughout your dog’s lifetime.

Signs Of Heartworm Disease In Dogs

Your dog exhibits few symptoms or no symptoms at all during the early stage of heartworm disease. But more symptoms develop as the infection persists longer. Mild persistent cough or decreased appetite, and weight loss are the common symptoms of this disease. Besides this, your pet will be reluctant to do exercise and becomes fatigued even after moderate activities. As this disease progresses, your dog’s belly begins to swell due to excess fluid in the abdomen. If heartworms grow in number, then they can cause sudden blockages of blood flow and be life-threatening. Sudden onset of labored breathing and pale gums are the signs of cardiovascular collapse. Few dogs have chances of survival without surgical removal of the heartworm blockage.

Sources of Heartworms

Stray dogs, wolves, coyotes, and foxes are usually the carriers of heartworms. When adult female heartworms enter into an animal’s body, they produce microscopic baby worms that circulate in the bloodstream. Then, when a mosquito sucks blood from that animal, it picks up the baby worms from its blood. After that, the mosquito transmits the disease to your dog through its bite. These offsprings need 10 to 14 days to turn into adult worms after which they cause more problems. Once the heartworm matures, it remains in your dog’s body for five to six years. These worms increase during the breeding season of mosquitos.

How To Detect Heartworm Disease?

It is better to treat heartworms at the first stage because it is a progressive disease. Therefore, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as you find any symptoms of this disease. Then, he/she will take a small blood sample from your dog’s body and test it for the presence of heartworms. If the test is positive, then your pet might have to go through some more tests. As a preventive measure, you can test your dog annually for heartworm disease. A blood test can only detect heartworm disease if your dog is infected for more than six months.

You can give monthly medication to your puppy under six months of age. If your puppy is more than seven months old, then there is no need to give it a monthly medication. Instead of that, test the puppy after a gap of 6 months. Then, finally increase the gap to 1 year. Remember that if you miss out a single dose of monthly medication, then your dog may get exposed to heartworm disease. Though these preventives are not 100% effective, they can protect your dog to a great extent.

How To Treat Heartworms Disease?

The treatment for heartworm disease is costly, so check whether all forms of tests are positive are not. If all the tests of heartworm disease yield the same result, then stop the regular activities and exercises for your dog. Otherwise, physical exertion can increase the rate of damages to the heart and lungs. Consult the veterinarian to know whether your dog’s condition is stable and if it’s ready for heartworm treatment. Then, he/she will suggest treatment protocols and therapies that are appropriate for your dog.

It has been found in surveys and studies that dogs with mild signs of heartworm disease have a high success rate with the treatment. But you don’t have to be anxious if your dog has more symptoms of this disease. It is because of the reason that treatments have cured dogs with severe heartworm disease. If the infection spreads, then it can lead to more complications, and the treatment becomes a bit difficult. Your veterinarian will treat your dog for six months and then conduct a test to ensure that the heartworm disease has been cured entirely.

2) Roundworms

These parasites live inside the feed of your dog’s intestines. If your dog has these worms, then you can find a few inches long white or light brown worms in your dog’s poop or vomit.


Weakness, belly pain, vomiting, weight loss, dull coat, and diarrhea are the primary signs of roundworm infection. You may also find roundworm eggs in your dog’s feces after a microscopic observation.


Your dog may get roundworms by sniffing or coming in contact with faces infected with roundworms. Rodents, earthworms, roaches, and birds can spread roundworm eggs that pass through a complicated life cycle in the dog’s body. The larvae go through several stages and migrate to tissues throughout your dog’s body. After the roundworm larvae mature, they find their place in the intestines. In the case of female dogs, the larvae develop during pregnancy and affect the puppy in the placenta. Then, the puppy is born with roundworms and its stool contains worms when the puppy is seven days old. In some circumstances, the roundworms can even enter the mother’s mammary glands.

Effects Of Roundworms

Roundworms result in growth reduction in puppies as they eat the partially digested food in the intestinal tract. As a result, it deprives your puppy of the vital nutrients. When the puppy is six months old, its immune system matures, and the larvae encysts in the dog’s muscles. If your dog is an adult one, then the larvae encysts in its tissues. Few roundworms mature in the bowel of infected adult dogs as well.

Prevention Of Roundworms

Since one roundworm can produce up to 85,000 eggs a day, it is of utmost importance to take precautionary measures. When your pet is 2 and a half weeks old, try to maintain a high level of hygiene as you would do in case of a human baby. Keep the areas where the puppy eats, plays or sleeps, clean and disinfected. Clean up the things and toys it uses and clean it thoroughly if you take it on to the streets. Try to keep your dog away from wild animals and make sure that it does not come in contact with the feces of other animals. Give monthly medication to your puppy and protect it from roundworms.

Deworming Treatments In Dogs

You can use deworming drugs such as fenbendazole, milbemycin, moxidectin, piperazine, and pyrantel. At the initial stage, your veterinarian will prescribe you to give one to three doses of these drugs to kill the adult worms in your dogs. After removing the adult worms, the vet will change the dose of drugs to kill the new worms that haven’t developed fully. Periodic examination of feces is a must for the treatment of roundworms. You can perform the examination two to four times a year for a puppy. Whereas, decrease it to once or twice a year when the puppy attains one year of age.

3) Hookworms

These are intestinal parasites that hook themselves to the intestinal wall with their hook-like mouthpieces. They feed off the tiny blood vessels in the intestinal lining and can lead to severe anemia. The eggs hatch into larvae that can survive for weeks or even months. The larvae then migrate through your dog’s body and reach the intestine to mature and lay eggs.

Causes Of Hookworms In Dogs

Your pet can get hookworms by sniffing or eating soil or feces contaminated with hookworm larvae. If your dog lies on the contaminated soil, then also the larvae can enter your dog’s body through its skin. Furthermore, the newborn puppy may get hookworms if its mother is infected. If your dog is carrying, then hookworms can enter its body and reach the uterus to cross the placenta into an unborn puppy.

Symptoms Of Hookworms In Dogs

Hookworms can lead to weakness, pale gums, bloody diarrhea, and anemia in severe cases. Fatigue due to slight exertion is the most frequent symptom of hookworms in dogs. Puppies with a dull coat or rapid breathing seem to be infected by hookworms. Itchy paws and malnourishment are other symptoms of hookworm disease. When the hookworm larvae penetrate through the dog’s skin, they cause inflammation and irritation of the paws. If the disease persists and spreads throughout the body, then it can be fatal as well.

Effects Of Hookworm Infection

Hookworms find their places at the lining of the small intestine and secrete an anticoagulant that creates problems in blood clotting. Moreover, hookworms suck the blood from the small intestine. But, after some days, they detach themselves from that area leading to continuous blood loss. Since the anticoagulant stops blood clotting, your pet eliminates bloody stool. An excessive blood loss can make your dog anemic. Pale, pink, gray or white gums are indications of anemia.

Prevention Of Hookworm Disease

You can provide monthly medications to reduce the chances of hookworm infection. Along with this, it is extremely important to be hygiene conscious and to remove feces from your yard daily. Also, do not allow your pet to come in contact with contaminated environments such playgrounds and public places. Stop your dog from licking its paws, especially if it is out on the streets. Otherwise, germs can enter into its body. Try not to keep your pet in a damp condition and it can weaken its skin.

Treatment Of Hookworms In Dogs

Fecal float is a diagnostic test to look for hookworm eggs as the parasite produces multiple eggs regularly. As the larvae takes 2 to 3 weeks to produce eggs, this test is not so reliable for puppies. But, till now, it is the best test for adult dogs. If your dog is a patient of severe anemia, then a blood transfusion may become necessary for treating hookworms. Anthelmintics is a strong drug with few side effects to kill adult hookworms. You can avail the branded products listed below as a form of monthly hookworm medication.

  • Heartgard Plus, Iverhart Plus, Tri-Heart Plus

  • Virbantel,  Interceptor, or Milbemax

  • Sentinel, Advantage Multi,  Panacur, or SafeGuard

If you have a newborn puppy, then give it a hookworm preventive medication at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks. Fenbendazole is a suitable medicine for destroying the hookworm larvae in puppies. Whereas, if you have an adult dog, then make sure to remove any signs of hookworm infection prior to pregnancies. Fenbendazole is also an effective drug to treat hookworm disease in pregnant dogs so that the larvae cannot affect the baby. You can give 25 mg/kg fenbendazole daily by mouth to your female dog along with its food. Besides all these treatments, it is always advised to consult a veterinarian to know the seriousness of the hookworm infection.

4) Tapeworms

Tapeworms are 3-5 mm long that live freely in the intestinal tract of a dog. When the flea larvae swallow the tapeworm eggs, the tapeworm eggs develop as the larvae mature into an adult flea. If your dog swallows a tiny flea or if the flea contaminates its food, then the infection passes on to the dog. These dangerous worms can affect your dog’s growth and lead to anemia in severe cases. Tapeworms attach to the intestinal walls and hence can result in intestinal blockages. The effect of tapeworms can be fatal in the case of puppies. If tapeworms affect your dog, then you can find them in your dog’s feces or fur under its tail. Rabbits, birds, and rodents are the potential vectors of tapeworms. Scavenging is a vital source of contracting tapeworms.

Diagnosis Of Tapeworms

A routine fecal or stool examination is the basis of tapeworms diagnosis. But, remember that this test often gives false negative results. If the test is positive, then you can consult a veterinarian and administer a parasiticide in the form of tablets or injection to your pet. The drug helps to dissolve the tapeworms in the intestine itself and discontinues spreading of the infection. Make the environment flea-free as much as possible and try to keep your dog away from the fleas-infested areas to stop reinfection. Praziquantel or fenbendazole are powerful drugs for killing tapeworms.

5) Whipworms

It is an intestinal parasite in dogs that resides in the cecum, the meeting point of the small and large intestine. It is possible that your dog mistakenly ingests the whipworm eggs from contaminated soil or other substances. These one-inch long organisms often like to live inside the colon, i.e., the large intestine of your dog.

Symptoms Of Whipworms

When they infect your pet, they make it the source of their food. As a result, your pet suffers from malnutrition and weight loss. As the worms mature, they cause more irritation and discomfort. Diarrhea, bloody stool, and anemia are the severe symptoms of whipworm infection. It mostly affects the puppies and dogs with a compromised immune system. Whipworms gradually make your dog weak and increase its appetite. Apart from this, this infection can lead to abdominal tenderness and pain due to a swollen abdomen. Most of the infected dogs suffer from periodic vomiting as well. It’s difficult to diagnose the disease at the initial stage because the whipworm eggs get released in the feces after 74-90 days from the onset of infection. The larvae are microscopic and hence are invisible to the naked eye.

How Do Your Pet Dogs Get Whipworms?

Your pet gets affected by whipworms if it comes in contact with the feces of an animal infected with Trichuris vulpis. Your pet can even get this disease by drinking or playing in the water contaminated with whipworm eggs. It’s recommended to supervise your dog’s outdoor play and keep your home clean. Otherwise, it can again get the same infection. Also, keep it in mind to clean the contaminated places by wearing gloves so that you don’t get affected by this disease.

Treatment Of Whipworms

If your pet exhibits any of the aforesaid symptoms, the let a veterinarian assist you in diagnosing the disease. Like other veterinarians, he/she will ask you to do a fecal or stool test of your dog. If your dog is suffering from an inflammation of the gut, then you may go for an ultrasonography. It enables the veterinarian to get images of the intestine. The veterinarian thereby comes to know whether there is an inflammation or dilation in the intestine. If the veterinarian deems it necessary, then your pet might have to go for an MRI or CT scan in a hospital.

Fenbendazole, milbemycin, and oxantel are the first choices for most of the veterinarians for killing whipworms. You may use anti-inflammatory drugs if the irritation persists in the digestive tract. You may also need to provide your dog with IV fluids and iron supplements if it is anemic. If you have recovered your pet from whipworms disease, then test it every three to four months.

6) Lungworms

Your dog may get lungworms by eating the larvae found in infected snails, slugs or frogs. The larvae matures insides your dog’s body and resides in its heart and blood vessels. As a result, these organisms lead to heart problems, breathing problems and pneumonia. If the disease remains unnoticed, then it can lead to hemorrhages in the lungs, liver, intestine, eyes and spinal cord and other places in your dog’s body.

How Will You Know That Your Pet Dog Is A Victim Of Lungworms?

When your dog is suffering from lungworms, it will have a chronic cough and will be reluctant to exercise. If your dog gets a minor injury, then the blood may not clot in the affected area. If the cut bleeds for an extended period, then there can be a chance of lungworm infection. Your dog may release the larvae with its feces. Bloody urine, bleeding of the nose, and bruising of hairless skin are the related symptoms of this disease.

Diagnosis Of Lungworms In Dogs

how do dogs get worm

If you do not treat this disease at the earlier stages, then it can spread to the pancreas, kidneys, and other organs in your dog’s body. Moreover, the recovery period increases if you detect the disease at a later stage. In exceptional cases, surgery becomes the only way out of this disease. The treatment for lungworm disease is so extensive that it can continue for two months. Remember, shortness of breath may occur as long as the treatment continues. As advised by the veterinarian, you might have to go for a monthly or year-round treatment.

So, if your dog exhibits any of the symptoms discussed in the article, then consult a veterinarian without wasting a single minute. Besides this, take the preventive measures as well to stop further spreading of the disease. Otherwise, if the infection reaches an advanced stage, then there is a likelihood of permanent damages to your dog’s body. At times, it becomes so fatal that it can bring an end to this innocent life. Therefore, visit a veterinarian immediately to know the risk factors and act as per the expert instructions.

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