Identifying Dog Worms and Their Symptoms
Dog Worms can make your dog sick and can even result in death. Educate yourself about the signs and
symptoms of dog worms and learn how to prevent them.
Enlarge ImageThere are 5 different types of dog worms (internal parasites), which your dog can fall prey to.
These are: heartworm, hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm and whipworm. As a dog owner, I recommend that
you educate yourself on these worms in order to be able to recognize the symptoms if they should become
evident in your dog.
Early worm detection is important because each type of dog worm requires a different form of treatment. You
should also be aware of the fact that roundworm and hookworm are zoonotic, which means that these worms
can be transmitted to humans. Some worm infestations may show little to no symptoms, whereas others can
demonstrate severe symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. Some dog worms can be seen by
the naked eye while some cannot, therefore it is a good idea to ask your vet to perform a stool test for dog
worms once a year.
Below you can find a list of common telltale symptoms of dog worm infestation, but keep in mind that these
symptoms can also be a sign of a more serious problem. Either way, always consult a veterinarian whenever
your dog is not "his usual self."
•Low energy level
ROUNDWORMS (Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina)
There are two types of Roundworm: Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonine. This is the most common type of
dog worm, which affects the intestines and causes a pot-bellied appearance, mostly in puppies. There are a
few ways puppies can become infected. Puppies are often infected before birth through the mother’s uterus
or through her milk. Puppies can also contract these worms through the ingestion of an infected animal (such
as a rodent) or infected soil. Roundworm eggs can live in soil for many years. Once a puppy has ingested the
infected soil, the eggs will hatch in his intestines, allowing the worms to live there and grow to adulthood.
These adults will then produce more eggs.
Roundworms may be found in your dog’s stool or vomit. They can grow to about 7 inches in length and have
a spaghetti-like appearance. If this type of infestation is not detected early and is allowed a chance to
develop, a buildup of worms in the intestines can cause an obstruction which may result in death. The
symptoms of a severe infestation are: pot-belly appearance, diarrhea, vomiting, dull coat and weight loss.
Puppies should be dewormed every 2 weeks between 2 and 12 weeks of age, then monthly until he is 6
months old. Once your puppy has reached 6 months of age, he is less susceptible to contracting these
worms but should continue yearly exams (or more often if considered high-risk).
Because Roundworm can be transmitted to humans, it is important to promote good hygiene, such as
washing your hands regularly. Transmission of this dog worm to humans is usually through infected soil,
which may be in your backyard or front lawn. Because the eggs are sticky and can easily adhere to hands or
clothing, make sure children (and adults) wash their hands after playing outside (especially at a park or
playground), after playing with the dog and before it’s time to eat.
Treatment generally involves administering oral medication (dewormer) with follow-up fecal exams and a
monthly heartworm medication. Try 1-800-PetMeds - America's Pet Health Resource
Prevent your dog from contracting roundworms by cleaning up fecal matter from the backyard as often as
possible. Also, administering a heartworm medication such as HeartGard - Prescription Heartworm medication
for Dogs & Cats is a good preventive. Do not mix wormers and consult your vet before giving your dog any
medication. And last, but not least, always remember annual exams.
HOOKWORMS (Ancylostoma caninium)
Like Roundworm, Hookworm harbors in the intestines and can also be transmitted to humans. Hookworms
can affect a dog at any age. It is a small, thin worm that hooks on to the intestinal wall and sucks the blood
from its victim, which cause anemia and perhaps death. Due to their sharp teeth, they also cause bleeding in
the intestines. Hookworms are not visible by the naked eye, therefore should be diagnosed by a vet. As with
roundworm, hookworms also live and grow to adulthood in the intestines. They can also be transmitted to
pups while in the mother’s uterus or through her breast milk. A dog infected with hookworm would experience
bloody stool, anemia, weight loss, pale gums, diarrhea and low energy level. Skin irritation can be a sign of a
Hookworms can be transmitted to humans by penetration of the skin, making it is possible for people to
become infected simply by walking barefoot on infected soil. Hookworms, when transmitted to humans, can
cause bleeding in the intestines along with abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Treatment usually consists of oral medications (dewormer), follow-up fecal exams, intravenous therapy and, if
necessary, a blood transfusion. Hookworm infestation can kill your pup before the worm is ever detected.
This is why it is so important to keep up with veterinary visits and exams.
TAPEWORMS (Dipylidium caninum)
The tapeworm gets its name from its long, flat, tape-like appearance. It is yet another parasite that affects the
intestines, and like the roundworm, can be seen by the naked eye. Broke pieces of this dog worm would be
found in the dog’s fecal matter, which give it a rice-like appearance. These pieces of worm, although broken,
can be found (still moving) around the dog’s anus, in his stool or in his bed. Common symptoms of severe
tapeworm infestation are abdominal pain, nervousness, severe itching around the anus, vomiting and weight
Transmission to dogs is often caused by the ingestion of infected fleas. Although, humans are susceptible to
being infected, a dog cannot transmit the dog worm to a human directly.
Regular over-the-counter deworming medication is not effective in eliminating this type of dog worm. A
prescription dewormer is administered orally or by injection (praziquantel or epsiprantel). Consult your vet.
Try 1-800-PetMeds - America's Pet Health Resource
WHIPWORMS (Trichuris vulpis)
Whipworms are long, thin (whip-shaped) dog worms that live in the dog's colon and are not visible by the
naked eye. They attach themselves to the intestinal walls and feed off of them which, in turn, causes
intestinal bleeding. Common symptoms of whipworm infestation are anemia, weight loss, flatulence, diarrhea
with blood or mucus in the stool and lack of energy.
Although whipworms are the most difficult to eliminate among the families of dog worms, there is effective
Whipworm is most effectively treated with fenbendazole (panacur), but febantel can also be used.
Prescription medications are usually more effective. The treatment lasts for up to 5 days and is repeated
after 3 weeks. After this treatment is finished, consult your vet about recommending a heartworm medication
(containing milbemycin oxime) as a prophylactic to future infestation. Try 1-800-PetMeds - America's Pet
Along with administering heartworm medication regularly, here are other ways to prevent reinfection:
•Remove feces from backyard every few days
•Clean yard with a safe cleaning agent (which kills worms)
•Have feces tested every 6 months (more often if previously infected)
HEARTWORMS (Dirofilaria immitis)
Heartworm, although highly preventable, has the potential to be fatal, if contracted and left untreated.
Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes, mostly during the warm months when mosquitoes are most active. The
mosquito becomes infected from biting dogs that carry the disease. These dog worms destroy the muscle
and tissue of the heart, which can cause congestive heart failure and result in death. At this advanced stage,
your dog would experience the typical signs of worms, such as pot-belly, coughing, lack of energy and dull
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of this disease until it has progressed to an advanced stage. For this
reason, it is important to start your dog on a heartworm preventative such as HeartGard - Prescription
Heartworm medication for Dogs & Cats at 6 months of age (after the first stage deworming process is
complete. Check with your vet). Prevention is the best medicine.
General guidelines for dog worm prevention
•When walking your dog in a park, picking up his feces as a standard practice not only prevents soil
contamination, but also prevents the spread of many other dog diseases.
•Regular visits to the vet and stool testing is a great way to prevent dog worms, as well as other illnesses.
Twice-yearly worm testing is recommended. Make sure your dog is tested for worms before starting a
•High-risk dogs should be screened more often (check with your vet).
•Flea control is important because fleas are responsible for the spread of tapeworms. cedar chips work great
•Most puppies find feces quite appetizing. Keep your dog away from feces: his own as well as others. This is
the most common form of worm infestation.
•When cleaning your dog’s area, such as his bed or crate, spray it with a strong saltwater solution and let dry.
This aids in the prevention of worms.
•Before traveling with your dog to obscure destinations, consult your vet of the potential risks to your dog.
•Avoid exposing your dog to stray animals, birds and dead rodents, which often harbor immature tapeworms
that can mature inside your dog.
•Contact your vet if your dog displays any symptoms after receiving worm medication.