How Do Dogs Get Worms ? | Treatment, Prevention and Diagnosis

How Do Dogs Get Worms ? | Treatment, Prevention and Diagnosis

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What are the types of worms?

How do dogs get worms ? How to treat Ringworms, Hookworms, Roundworms, Tapeworms and Whipworms in Dogs ?

Worms in Dogs : What to do

There are many organisms that live inside our dogs, many of which do not pose a threat to their health and well-being. However, dogs are susceptible to several internal parasites which can threaten or have deleterious effects on the individual and can also be transferred to other dogs and humans too. When it comes to internal parasites in dogs, worms are the most common offenders. The most broadly treated group of worms in veterinary clinics are intestinal worms. There are numerous species of intestinal worms found in dogs, however the four main classifications are; Hookworms, Roundworms, Tapeworms and Whipworms. In addition to intestinal worms, there is another sinister worm, called ‘Heartworm’ which as the name suggests, resides in the heart, that can cause significant problems in dogs if not addressed appropriately.

How Do Dogs Get Worms ? Intestinal Worms and Hookworms

Hookworms are tiny parasites that latch onto and suck blood from the intestinal lining of their host. The most recognised hookworm species in dogs is the Ancylostoma caninum. A dog can be infected by consuming the parasite eggs from the environment (faecal-oral route), or by ingesting parasite larvae from the environment, when it is located in other species such as rodents. Hookworms are also transmitted very early on in the dog’s life via the placenta and through suckling milk from an infected bitch. The most common clinical signs of a hookworm infection are diarrhea, reduced appetite, pale gums, weight loss and diminished overall health and coat quality.

Roundworms in dogs

Roundworms are the most common worms in dogs and the most recognised species is Toxocara canis. Just like hookworms, the dog can get infected by ingesting parasite eggs or by being in direct contact with parasite larvae. The most common signs of roundworm infection are actually seeing spaghetti-like worms in the dogs stool, mild vomiting and diarrhea, pot bellied appearance, weight-loss, poor coat quality, coughing and occasionally neurological symptoms, including paralysis.

Whipworms in dogs

Whipworms are small thread-like, blood sucking worms that inhabit both the large and small intestine. Whipworm eggs can survive in the environment for years and are often picked up and transmitted via the faecal-oral route; ie from contaminated soil or when the dog licks their own or another dogs anus/paws that are infected. The adult whipworm often migrates to the rectum to lay the eggs, which accounts for the reason one of the most common signs of a whipworm burden is scooting and scratching of the rectum. Other signs include intermittent diarrhea, loose stools with blood and/or mucous and weight loss.

Tapeworms in dogs

How Do Dogs Get Worms ? Tapeworms live in the small intestine of the dog and the two most commonly recognised species are Dipylidium caninum (the flea tapeworm) and Echinococcus granulosus (the hydatid tapeworm). Out of all the intestinal worms, Tapeworms potentially pose the greatest health threat to humans if transmitted between human and dog. This is because tapeworms spend part of their life cycle in another host, for example they use fleas, wildlife and humans as an intermediate host before completing their life cycle in the dog. The most common signs of tapeworm infection are actually seeing rice-like segments in the dog’s stool, scooting, weight loss, poor coat quality and lethargy.

The longest tapeworm ever recorded measured 8.8m long 3 – that’s roughly as long as a London bus. Taenia hydatigena tapeworms that infect dogs can reach up to 5m in length. Below the head, a tapeworm is made up of a series of male or female segments called proglottids.

How Do Dogs Get Worms ?

The male segments fertilize the female segments, which produce eggs. The egg-filled proglottids then drop off and are passed out in the host’s faeces – ready to be eaten and start the cycle again. Tapeworm heads are covered in hooks and suckers, which anchor them to the walls of their host’s intestines. Once their head is secure, their bodies dangle free and soak up the nutrients available to them in their surroundings. Yum! Not only are tapeworms capable of living up to 30 years (that’s the same age as the oldest dog in history), but they have also been around a very long time. 6,7

In 2013, tapeworm eggs were found in the fossilised poo of a 270 million year old shark. Each proglottid has functional muscles, meaning they can crawl. A detached proglottid will sometimes wriggle out of the infected pet through its anus. A proglottid will also crawl away from the pile of faecal matter left by the host, increasing the chances that it will be ingested by a different animal. If it is not eaten by another host, the proglottid will dry out, leaving behind its eggs.

Heartworms symptoms in dogs

Heartworm is a parasite that lives in the heart and circulatory system of dogs. It is transferred from dog to dog by mosquitoes, which are the essential vectors for transmission. The spread of the disease often will coincide with mosquito season or in areas with higher rainfall and tropical conditions, which can be year-round in some areas of Australia. Mosquitoes tend to bite dogs in areas where their coat is thinnest and it can take several years before dogs develop clinical signs of infection.

The signs of heartworm disease depend on the number of adult worms present, the location of the worms, the length of time the worms have been in the dog and the degree of dam-age that has been sustained by the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. The most apparent clinical signs of heartworm disease are a soft, dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness and loss of stamina, especially post exercise.

How do dogs get worms? Is heartworm contagious ?

How are Heartworms contracted?

How Do Dogs Get Worms ? Through infected biting mosquitoes.

How to Reduce the likelihood of contracting Heartworms

  • Applying registered monthly heartworm prevention
  • Using yearly heartworm injection
  • Using mosquito deterrents

Dog worms prevention & treatment

  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Contact with other infected animals
  • Contact with infected animal faeces including intermediate hosts
  • From utero and/or from an infected nursing bitch
  • Swallowing fleas carrying tapeworm
  • Eating raw meat that is infected with parasites

How to reduce intestinal burden in dogs

  • Regular worming with a registered worming product
  • Accurately dosing dogs to their weight
  • Worm bitch prior to mating, during gestation and post whelping
  • Pick up faeces promptly
  • House dogs in raised cages/kennels
  • Feed a processed, balanced diet (dry kibble)
  • Freeze uncooked meat/offal for 2 weeks prior to feeding if a raw diet is desired

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