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Worming Your Dog

Worms are internal parasites which may or may not cause debility or disease in dogs. Worming (or treating these parasites) is an important issue in the dog because Toxocara canis is a very common roundworm in these animals and it can be passed to humans, with possibly quite serious consequences. Dogs are affected by many other types of worm including tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms and heartworms.

The most common worms in dogs are the roundworm and the tapeworm. Roundworms are often about 10 cm long, an off white colour and may be coiled. They cause the most severe problems in young puppies: signs include abdominal distension. vomiting, diarrhoea and debility. In adult dogs they cause few problems but will form cysts in the muscles which are activated when a bitch is pregnant to infect new pups. The most common roundworm in dogs is Toxocara canis which is zoonotic and causes Toxocariasis in humans which may result in epilepsy or blindness.

Tapeworms may be up to 30 cm in length. The whole worm is not often seen but the tapeworm segments may be noticed around the anal area or on the bedding. These segments are white in colour and look like grains of rice about 1 cm in length. Tapeworms are passed to dogs by fleas or small prey mammals such as rabbits, they cannot be passed directly from one dog to another. Puppies are not often affected by tapeworms but they are a problem for adult dogs. They may sometimes cause irritation around the anus or diarrhoea in affected animals.

All dogs should be treated for worms regularly whether you see signs of them or not. This is especially important in households with young children who are at most risk of catching worms from their pet! Most dogs should be wormed every three months with a product which ideally treats both types of worm. Speak to your vet about the best product for your pet. Puppies are very likely to be infected with Toxocara when they are born because they have been infected as a foetus from their mum. About 70% of pups will be infected in this way or from their mother's milk after birth. Worming is therefore essential in puppies and a suitable wormer should be given to puppies every 2 weeks from 4 weeks of age until they are 12 weeks old. After this they should be treated every month until they are 6 months old. They can then be treated every 3 months, the same as an adult dog. If you actually see the roundworms in a puppy then they may have a very severe infestation and it would be wise to seek a veterinary consultation. Pregnant bitches should be wormed with a suitable product to help prevent the transmission of worms to their pups. Speak to your vet about the most suitable product for your pet.

Due to the zoonotic potential of Toxocara and other zoonotic diseases found in dog excrement I believe it is every dog owner's duty to worm their pet regularly and clean up their faeces when they are out on walks. This is especially important when the dog frequents areas also used by children. All children should be taught to wash their hands after handling a dog. Adults should obviously also take sensible hygienic precautions.


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All Rights Reserved | Content is provided for information only. All content on is protected by copyright and therefore may not be copied without specific written permission from the author. Disclaimer: The content of this website is based upon the opinions of Samantha Coe, unless otherwise stated. Individual articles, extracts, and any links to external sites are based upon the opinions of the respective author(s), who may retain copyright. The information on this website is not intended to replace a consultation with a qualified veterinary professional and is not intended as medical advice. The purpose of this site is the sharing of knowledge and information - Samantha Coe encourages you to make informed healthcare decisions for animals in your care based upon your research and in consultation with your vet.