Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms - oh yuck. Worms can be uncomfortable for your pet and you’ll want to treat them quickly so others don’t get infected. Learn about these types of worms, the symptoms that your pet will experience if they have worms and your treatment options. Worms can be treated both naturally and with medications.
Types of worms that affect dogs
One of the primary reasons your vet checks your dog’s stool sample every year is to ensure your pet does not have worms or intestinal parasites. The four types of worms listed below are the most common worms the vet will be looking for. Both roundworms and tapeworms can be seen with the naked eye, so you might see these before the doctor does!
Many puppies are born with these microscopic worms already living in their tissues as the larvae are passed to them from their mothers. If this transmission doesn’t take place in utero, it can also happen when they are feeding from their mothers as they can be passed through breast milk. They’re usually white or light brown and can be up to a few inches long. If your pet is infected they will likely be visible in his stool or even vomit. Although these worms are common in puppies, adult dogs can be infected if the worms are in their environment.
Tapeworms are passed to dogs who eat fleas. The fleas eat the tapeworm eggs and then the dogs eat the fleas. Tapeworms have a small head at one end and then small repeating segments. In a dog’s intestine, a tapeworm can grow up to 4 to 6 inches and contain over 90 segments! The worm will shed these segments and this is how a lot of cases of tapeworm are diagnosed. By seeing the segments in dog fur (near their hind end) or stool. The segments can look like small grains of rice. They may wiggle a little but will dry out and die outside of the dog. These segments also contain tapeworm eggs so if you find them, dispose of them and make sure your pet is treated to eliminate the tapeworm.
These thin worms attach themselves to your dog’s intestine and feed on blood. While cats can also get hookworms they are more commonly found in dogs. Like roundworms, hookworms can be transmitted to puppies from their mother. This is dangerous as hookworms in small puppies can be fatal. The hookworm can make a puppy severely anemic as it feeds on the puppy's blood. Adult dogs can also get hookworms from their environment if they ingest stool contaminated soil with eggs in it. Hookworms cannot be seen with the naked eye and must be diagnosed by viewing the stool sample under a microscope.
These thread-like worms will take up residence in a dog's cecum, the first part of the large intestine. Infestations of this worm are the most difficult to diagnose as they shed fewer eggs than other types of worms. Their presence may not even be detected in the dog’s stool. If your dog has chronic weight loss or stool that seems to have a mucous coating, your vet may still treat your dog for whipworms as this is enough circumstantial evidence to their presence. While whipworms are rarely fatal they are unpleasant for your dog and hard for your vet to diagnose.
Signs and symptoms your dog has worms
If you physically see some of the worms mentioned above in your pet’s vomit or stool this is an obvious way to diagnose worms. However as some of these parasites cannot be seen with the naked eye, you’ll want to have your dog’s doctor analyze a sample of your dog’s stool to confirm. Other symptoms of worms include:
- Diarrhea (Including bloody stool)
- Weight loss
- General poor appearance (your pet might look sick)
- Dry hair
- Potbelly appearance
- Scooting or licking his rear end
Natural ways to combat worms in your dog
Many natural foods can combat worms in your pet naturally. Here are six easy-to-find foods and pantry items you might want to try to eliminate worms in your pet:
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
ACV can make your pet’s intestines inhospitable to worms. Try adding this fermented vinegar to your pet’s water. Consult your vet for the appropriate amount for your dog’s size and weight. In addition to killing worms, apple cider vinegar may have other health benefits for your dog including making his coat shiny!
- Chopped carrots
Several fruits and vegetables can help you rid your dog of worms. Coarsely chopped carrots can help your pet get rid of worms as they scrape the sides of the intestines.
- Dried Coconut
Dried coconut can help eliminate worms from the body. Sprinkle unsweetened dried coconut over your pet’s food. For serving, guidelines recommend one teaspoon for small dogs, two teaspoons for medium dogs and one tablespoon for large breeds. Coconut oil may also be an effective treatment.
Turmeric is considered a superfood due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains compounds that can help not only get rid of the worms but also repair the damage to the intestines. This results in a healthier gut for your dog!
Chamomile can be effective against roundworms and whipworms. It works best when given as a tincture - consult your vet for an appropriate dose for your dog.
This fermented beverage can help your pet get rid of worms. Choose the coconut or goat’s milk variety over dairy milk kefir as it will be easier for your pet to digest. Use the following as a guide when considering how much to give. Start slowly to make sure your pet is tolerating the beverage. For small dogs try 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per day, medium dogs one to two tablespoons per day, large dogs two to three tablespoons per day. You can add kefir to their food or serve as a separate treat on its own.
In addition to these foods, you can prevent your pet from getting worms in the first place. Be sure to pick up your dog’s poop, prevent your dog from getting fleas (if your pet ingests the fleas he is at greater risk for worms), and do not allow your pet to eat dead birds or other wildlife as they can be infested.
Medical Treatment for worms
Sometimes food alone is not enough to get rid of the worms and you may need a stronger medical intervention to stop the problem. Work with your dogs veterinarian to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your dog.
- Pyrantel Pamoate
This is the active ingredient in Drontal® Plus, PRO-Wormer 2®, Nemex®-2. Side effects include vomiting, depression/lethargy, and anorexia.
This is the active ingredient in common deworming medications including the brand names: Panacur®, Drontal Plus ® and Safe-Guard®. This medication can cause side effects including vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, facial swelling and anaphylaxis.
This is the active ingredient in Droncit®, Drontal® Plus. Reported side effects include vomiting, depression/lethargy, diarrhea, and anorexia.
- Combination Drugs
Some drug manufacturers combine de-worming ingredients with heartworm drugs. They then market these combos as preventives for heartworm AND various kinds of intestinal worms. The manufacturers recommend using these drugs monthly. If you use this medication, you’re actually treating your dog unnecessarily for worms he doesn’t have! Some of these include Panacur® Plus, Heartgard® Plus, Tri-Heart® Plus, Iverhart Max®. Discuss the risks and benefits of using these combination drugs with your pet’s doctor.
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