Worms in dogs are a small part of a larger realm of intestinal parasites, which live inside the host animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Examples include roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and protozoa, such as, giardia and coccidia.
While external parasites like fleas and ticks are easy to spot, intestinal parasites like worms in dogs are rarely seen, because they live inside your pet’s intestinal tract and pass microscopic eggs or spores in your pet’s stool that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Tapeworms are one exception–they shed segments that resemble sesame seeds or grains of rice and are typically seen in your pet’s stool or around their rectum. Roundworms are another exception since they may occasionally be seen in your pet’s vomit or stool. Nevertheless, intestinal parasites are difficult to spot and you should not rely on seeing them before taking your dog to the veterinarian.
Besides being hard to detect, many dogs infected with intestinal parasites are asymptomatic. Even symptomatic dogs may go undetected because their symptoms can be nonspecific. The most common signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites are:
Dogs can contract intestinal parasites via different routes. Parasites are usually transmitted when an animal inadvertently ingests parasite eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water, feces or food. In the case of tapeworms, they can also be transmitted when a dog eats an infected flea. Puppies, on the other hand, usually get intestinal parasites from their mother. Transmission can occur in utero or from nursing.
The most common places that dogs get whipworms are in dog parks, common dog-walk areas, doggy day cares, etc. Whipworm eggs can survive in the soil for up to 10 years. If your dog frequents these places, it’s important that they are on a preventative, as many dogs are not. It’s important to discuss the lifestyle habits of your pet with your vet, so your we can recommend the best heartworm preventative for your pet.
While the thought that your pet may have intestinal parasites may make you uneasy, intestinal parasites are not only treatable, but preventable. In fact, many people are already protecting their pets and family from intestinal parasites and don’t even know about it. Most monthly heartworm medications contain a broad spectrum dewormer that also from many intestinal parasites. If your dog is not already on monthly parasite preventatives, bring them in to discuss how you can protect your pets and family from intestinal parasites. Also, before you bring a new pet into the household, it’s important to have them checked by your veterinarian, so as not to expose your other pets or family to parasites.