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Health & Wellness

3 common worm infections that impact dogs

And how to help your dog when they get worms.

Many dog parents can relate to standing on the sidewalk, grappling with opening a plastic bag to pick up their dog’s poop while their curious pup has moved on to another exciting distraction. However, noticing white, moving specks (or what looks like long strands of spaghetti) in their pup’s poop amidst this chaos may not be the most familiar occasion. 

Spotting these white invaders in a dog’s poop or noticing abnormalities in their stool (like it being runny, covered in mucus or bloody) could mean that the dog has a parasitic infection, aka worms, Dr. Lacy Ballis, DMV, a veterinarian at ZippiVet in Austin, Texas, says. 

Several worms can affect dogs, and sometimes, those worms don’t even appear in poop. So, if you’re on a quest to get to the bottom of your pup’s health, it’s a good thing that you ended up here. We’ve spoken to multiple veterinarians to understand more about worms in dogs and how to protect your pup in the future. 

How do dogs get worms? 

“Depending on the type of worm your dog has, they could have gotten infected by ingesting feces from another infected dog, drinking from contaminated water sources (such as puddles or creeks) or exposure from high-traffic dog areas like a doggy daycare, dog parks or boarding facilities,” Dr. Ballis says. “If your dog is a puppy, they could have been infected by their mother.”

What types of worms affect dogs?

Unfortunately, several types of worms would love to be acquainted with your pup. Here are the most common types of parasites, the symptoms to watch out for, and how to get rid of them: 

Tapeworms

Dogs can be infected by tapeworms (a type of parasite) by inhaling or ingesting fleas that carry the tapeworm larvae, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, says. It’s uncommon for dogs to show symptoms of a tapeworm infection, but there are some changes in their health to watch out for if you suspect something isn’t quite right with their health.

“Some dogs may have itchy or irritated skin around their anus caused by tapeworm segments in that area,” Dr. McCullough explains. “Diarrhea, vomiting, or if severe, signs of an intestinal obstruction may also occur in some dogs.”

There is a silver lining: tapeworms can’t spread to other pets. But, it would be best if you still talked to your veterinarian about treatment options as soon as you know something is up. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a prescription oral deworming medication, Dr. McCullough says. 

Hookworms

Hookworms are worm-shaped parasites that live in dogs’ intestines, Dr. McCullough says. Knowing about this type of parasite is essential for many reasons — but mainly because once they’re inside a dog’s body, they can mate and reproduce, making them contagious. And to make matters worse, they can survive in various climates and environments. 

These parasites are contagious among animals and usually spread by an infected mother to her nursing pups through the skin or ingestion of hookworm larvae, Dr. McCullough adds. 

You most likely won’t be able to spot hookworms in your dog’s stool. But, changes in your dog’s health, including decreased appetite, lack of energy, weakness, dehydration, coughing, difficulty breathing, inability to gain weight (especially in puppies), potbelly, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody stool, could point to a hookworm infection. 

Treating hookworms as soon as possible is imperative, as these worms are contagious. Your veterinarian may suggest anti-parasitic medications and dewormers and feeding your dog a bland diet to help with the potential of an upset stomach, Dr. McCullough says. However, you may have to repeat this treatment several times to eliminate the worms. 

Roundworms

If you spot thin, white, thread-like shapes in your pup’s poop or vomit, they’re likely roundworms. Dogs become infected with this parasite by ingesting roundworm eggs in the environment, eating infected prey or nursing from a sick mother, Dr. McCullough says. 

Most dogs, especially adults, are asymptomatic (meaning they likely won’t show symptoms). But, if they do show signs of roundworm, watch out for changes in their health like vomiting, diarrhea or soft stool, weight loss, potbelly or poor hair quality. 

Like the hookworm treatment, your veterinarian will likely recommend dewormers and anti-parasitic medications as solutions to a roundworm infection. They’ll also probably suggest switching to a bland diet to help ease your pup’s upset stomach.  

RELATED: Giardia in dogs: what it is and how to treat it

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Can humans get worms from dogs?

People need to be aware of hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms, too. While dogs can’t pass worms directly to people, humans are still susceptible to parasitic infections. For example, Dr. McCullough says that people can develop a hookworm infection by walking barefoot in a contaminated area. 

Tapeworms can cause infections in humans after people ingest infected fleas, she adds. People should practice proper hygiene after hanging out in parks, sandboxes, playgrounds or gardens to avoid eating roundworm eggs from a contaminated environment. 

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’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. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Unsplash

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