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Health & Wellness

Roundworms in dogs: symptoms and treatments

What to do if you spot worms in your dog’s poop.

If you spot thin, white, thread-like shapes while picking up your dog’s poop, don’t automatically assume they got into a bowl of rice or spaghetti during their last meal. Roundworms, which are parasites that look like long white strands, can infect dogs (and cats, too) and appear in dogs' stool or throw up.

“Roundworms in dogs are caused by ingesting roundworm eggs in the environment, eating infected prey or from drinking infected milk from their mother,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. 

If you spot roundworms in your dog’s poop or vomit, here’s what you need to know to help your best friend feel better.

Roundworm life cycle in dogs

Dogs are a definitive host of roundworms, which means the parasite can develop into adults and reproduce while in your dog, Dr. McCullough says.

Once roundworm eggs pass into an infected dog’s feces, roundworms begin to develop inside the eggs while in a pet’s surroundings, or area they inhabit. The roundworm egg’s development depends on the perfect environmental temperature (warm and humid) to cause infection. And, as we mentioned before, an infected mother dog will also pass roundworms through their milk to nursing puppies.

Roundworm symptoms in dogs

Most infected dogs — especially adults — are asymptomatic (meaning they don’t show symptoms of roundworms), Dr. McCullough says. If they do show symptoms, they could potentially experience: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or soft stool
  • Worms in a dog’s stool or vomit
  • Weight loss
  • Potbelly
  • Poor hair quality (dull, dry, brittle or coarse hair, which usually includes shedding)

Contact your veterinarian as soon as your dog starts experiencing symptoms of ringworms (especially if you see worms in your dog’s stool or vomit). Severe cases of roundworm can sometimes cause gastrointestinal obstruction and be fatal. 

RELATED: Roundworms in cats: symptoms and treatments

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How to get rid of roundworms in dogs

Roundworms are diagnosed through fecal examinations, Dr. McCullough says. If it’s determined that your dog has roundworms, your vet will likely recommend dewormers and anti-parasitic medications as solutions. They may also recommend a bland diet to ease your dog’s upset stomach. The treatment will probably need to be repeated 2 to 3 weeks after their first treatment to ensure all of the worms are eliminated, she adds. 

During a roundworm infection, there are some ways to ensure your home is a safe space for your other pets and people, too. “Pet parents of dogs with roundworms should clean their home and backyard to remove eggs in the environment,” Dr. McCullough explains. “They can do this by promptly disposing of pet feces, washing pet bedding and cleaning areas where the infected dog or puppy spends time.” While your infected pup is recovering, keep them separated from other animals to prevent spreading the infection. 

Dr. McCullough says it can take anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks for dogs to be healed of roundworms, but symptoms typically resolve within a week. 

How to prevent roundworms in dogs

Preventing roundworms from affecting your dog can be done through routine fecal testing by your veterinarian and vet-recommended parasite control products, Dr. McCullough says. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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