A massively common health problem found in dogs are parasitic worms of which there is quite a few different types. They can cause all sorts of illnesses as well as distress and discomfort, especially if gone unnoticed. That’s why it’s good to have an overall idea of what these parasites are and how can you detect them so you can then go on to treat them effectively without the need for a prescription.
What is a Parasite? – A Brief Overview
Parasites are creatures which have one-way relationships with their hosts meaning the parasite only stands to benefit whilst the host suffers some detriment. You can find parasites all over the natural world, inhabiting many different environments and can be types of animal (such as the parasitic worms), plant, fungi, protozoa and also microorganisms like bacteria and viruses.
Parasites that belong to the animal kingdom usually have very particular life cycles with the host normally coming into play during the reproductive stage. They can be categorized based on how they interact their host, the most relevant being:
- Endoparasites – Live within the host such as parasitic worms
- Ectoparasites – Live on the exterior of the hosts like skin and hair such as fleas and lice
- Mesoparasites – Are somewhere in between ecto and endoparasites
- Hyperparasites –Choose other parasites as hosts such as some protozoa species
- Parasitoids – Parasites which aim to eventually kill their host such as hawk wasps
Dog Dewormer Considerations
Be informed about what you are buying and the reasons why you should buy it, the product should be best suited to your needs and easy and convenient as possible. Be an informed buyer, take these considerations into account and ALWAYS read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Which Worms: Unless you know specifically which infection your dog has, it’s good to go for dog worming tablets that target a broad range of these infection parasites.
Size of Patient: Remember to consider the size and weight of your dog to determine whether a particular product is useful to you and to work out the dosage and how much to buy for a thorough treatment!
Ease of Use: Some dewormers are in the form of pills whilst others are in powder form allowing easier mixing with food. Pay attention to this because some dogs will take tablets with no issue and this is more effective than having a food mix which your dog may not consume all of.
Treatment Period: Some of the medications require your dog to take them for longer periods of times than others. This may also depend on the dose.
Our Top Picks
Excel 8in1 Safe-Guard Canine Dewormer
Target Worms: Tapeworms, Roundworms, Hookworms and Whipworms
Target Patients: 10 – 20lbs
The Excel worming granules are an excellent and safe all around treatment for the four main parasitic worms found in dogs. You can mix the granules into their food removing a lot of the hassle by making easy for those with pets who are suspicious of pills but love to eat!
The treatment is to be administered for three consecutive days, you are supplied a sachet of dog deworming granules; one for each day and the treatment is to be effective for 6 months. This product is extremely highly rated with a reported high volume of success from everyday dog owners to professional dog trainers and breeders.
The active ingredient in this medication is called fenbendazole for those who would like to look it up. It’s a common anti-parasitic drug that is found in vet prescription medication. The product claims that it is safe to use with pregnant dogs and puppies over 6 weeks old, which is ideal for worms which pass through a mother to pup.
D-Worm 2 Count Combo Broad Spectrum De-Wormer for Dogs
Target Worms: Tapeworms, Roundworms and Hookworms
Target Patients: 25lbs+
Structure: Chewable Tablets
Even though it only treats three of the four parasitic worm’s outlines in this article, it’s still a highly rated dewormer with high effectiveness. This product is for, medium to large dogs that are over 25lb, so not useful at all for owners whose dogs are smaller than that.
In the box, you will receive two flavored, chewable tablets and depending on what suits your pet you could either give to them as a treat or put it with their food. The benefit of them being chewable means the pill does not have to be swallowed whole for an effective dose so you can rest assured as long as the dog has eaten it alongside the food they have most probably received the dose they need.
Unfortunately, with this product, dosage instructions are not clear so it’s hard to know how much to administer, when you should give it to them and for how long. If your dog does weigh over 100lbs though you will need to order additional boxes of this medication.
SENTRY Worm X Plus 7 Way DeWormer
Target Worms: Large roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms
Target Patients: 6 – 25lbs
Structure: Chewable Tablets
Sentry worm is another highly rated parasitic worm killing product in chewable tablet form. Most dogs with a healthy appetite will have no problem taking tablets like these when dipped in wet food or concealed in some chicken but the tablets are flavored so some dogs may take to them without having to mask them.
There are two tablets supplied in a pack. You would dose a dog up to 12.1lbs with one tablet and dogs between 12.1lbs and 25lbs you would give both. This deworming medication treats many species within the three types of worms mentioned which is likely to cure your dog of their infection.
A downside is that there is no guarantee of safety for use with pregnant dogs and can be used with puppies of 12 weeks of age, so not as good at controlling dormant worm larvae which transfer between mother and pup but this is difficult to control either way and will at least treat worms which are actively causing issues.
Durvet 2x LIquid Wormer
Target Worms: Hookworms and large roundworms
Target Patient: Any size
The great thing about liquid deformers is that you can treat any dog size because you will be controlling the dosage. The Durvet deworming liquid is double strength and hailed as being effective at treating the parasites it states. The general dosage instructions for this product are to administer 5ml (one teaspoon) per 10lbs of weight.
The medicine is safe for use on puppies as young as two weeks of age as well as lactating mothers and so is a great preventative measure of worms which are transmitted through birth and breastfeeding. It is also recommended to treat puppies at particular intervals in their life starting at 2 weeks old and then at their 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th week of life.
A liquid can seem rather more difficult than treating with tablets or granules since you are either going to have to convince your dog to willingly drink it all or, more effectively use a syringe to squirt the medication into their mouth. Slightly trickier but the benefit of it being a liquid gives you a lot more flexibility on dosage if you have many different sized dogs to treat.
Types of Parasitic Worms in Dogs
All dog owners will have heard of the main four parasitic worms that can infect their beloved canine friends and it’s no doubt a good idea to avoid them. Now is the time to get acquainted with them, learn what they’re all about and how to spot them.
Tapeworms are a type of flatworm. There are many species of tapeworm but they all have a lot in common. Tapeworms are white in color, flat in shape and consist of many segments which make up their body. They are probably the most famous parasite found in pet dogs as they are able to also infect humans and there is a fear surrounding cases in which they can form cysts around the Human brain.
Their lifecycle consists of the eggs entering the system of an intermediate host (the flea) which then hatch into the first stage of their development; their juvenile form. They then rely on entering the digestive system of your pet in order to grow into adulthood and attach to their GI tract using their sucker-like mouthparts. They then create more eggs (cysts) which exit through your dog’s feces to continue the cycle.
Detection and Symptoms
As the adult worms live in your dog’s digestive tract they sometimes shed segments which can leave through their rear alongside the eggs and so the most obvious symptom is spotting this evidence in your dog’s poop. Bear in mind that the cysts and segments are not always passed so it may require you pay attention every time if you are suspicious of infection.
The segments and cysts are white-yellow in color, the eggs looking similar to grains of rice and they may irritate your dog resulting in them dragging their behind across the floor; a very telling sign in itself.
If left untreated for some time, your dog could experience quite considerable weight loss and will also have a strong appetite due to the worms consuming the food your dog eats. They may also cause your dog to throw up and that might even reveal adult worms in the vomit which are usually between 5 and 8 inches long.
A key prevention technique is to ensure you also prevent fleas as they are the intermediate host the worm uses to infect. Make sure to keep flea spray, powders, collars or your preferred anti-flea and deworming products to hand.
Also, ensure to always remove your dog poop form your yard and especially form public areas to prevent the infection from spreading between dogs. A good community standard through awareness is the best way to reduce the risks.
Roundworms or nematodes are a group of worms with many species including your common earthworm but not all roundworms are parasitic. The ones that are most likely to make a host out of your pet are Toxascaris leonine and Toxocara canis, the latter being able to infect humans.
They are the most common of all parasites to be found in dogs and it’s inevitable that the dog will have a run in with them at some point in their life. Unlike flatworms and as their name suggests they have a rounded shape and have a pale pinkish white coloration.
A dog is first at risk of transmission from inheriting the juvenile forms from their mother at birth. The juvenile worms can become dormant and resist treatments. They can then be reawakened at a certain stage during a dog’s pregnancy to be passed through to the pups or through suckling after they are born. Parasitic roundworms can also enter your dog’s system if they were to, unfortunately, ingest the eggs in the environment that can be found in soil and foliage or through wildlife that is also infected.
Detection and Symptoms
Adult worms can be spotted in your dog’s stools and vomit. The worms can cause upsets with your dog’s digestive system causing them to vomit and also resulting in diarrhea ranging from mild to chronic.
Much like the tapeworms, roundworms also sap the nourishment form the food that is eaten by your dog and in this case, can cause malnourishment, so you’ll notice your dog losing weight despite eating more. If untreated, the worm population can give your dog a potbellied stomach too; it is critical to see a vet if it gets to this point!
The worm can also be quite dangerous if it migrates to the lungs, you’ll see your dog coughing and wheezing if that is the case. In worst case scenarios, pneumonia can occur.
It’s really difficult to prevent roundworm infection by any means other than making sure to clean up after your dog swiftly to reduce the reinsertion of eggs into the environment and the risk of reinfection. Use deworming products to treat and be sure to keep any dead animals out of your yard; do not let your pets go near them!
Hookworms also belong to the family of roundworms but are distinct because they possess hook-like teeth or plates as mouthparts that can be seen under a microscope. The mouthparts are what they use to attach themselves to the wall of the poor dog’s intestines so that they can feed on your dog’s tissues and blood.
The hookworm species found in domestic dogs go by their scientific names Ancylostoma caninum and Ancylostoma braziliense and just like other parasitic worms, their eggs are taken from the environment, the adult form grows within the dog and passes more eggs into the environment through your dog’s feces.
They are also motile and very small and so can make their way into their intended destination by moving, sometimes through the skin. Additionally, they can be transmitted through an infected mother breastfeeding their young and can become doormen during pregnancy much in the same way as parasitic roundworms.
Detection and Symptoms
Loss of appetite and diarrhoea are issues that can arise from this infection as well as blood occurring in the stools in more severe infections. Coughing can be a symptom of the migration of juvenile worms into the lungs which are coughed up and swallowed allowing access to the intestines.
Your dog might show some irritation on the skin around their feet and toes as the worms penetrate the skin and migrate through it. Due to their blood-sucking nature, anemia can also occur and can be fatal in puppies. The severity of symptoms can range between mild and severe depending on your dog’s age, health and the number of worms present.
Since the eggs are present in the environment, there is little you can do as preventative measure other than dog worming products. Be sure to recognize infection if you have a pregnant female and see your vet get it treated as soon as possible.
The whipworms found in dogs have one species that we are to be concerned with and that’s Trichuris vulpis. Their eggs can be very resilient and live in the environment for up to a year, giving them good chance to find a host to ingest and contract them.
They’re typically around a quarter of an inch in size and their body gets progressively thinner as you move towards the tail end which is what gives them their name. They make their home in the colon and large intestines.
Detection and Symptoms
An early infection of whipworm can be quite difficult to detect and sometimes your dog will show no symptoms during the early onset. At larger infections with more worms present, bowel inflammation and bloody diarrhea can occur.
You might also notice some weight loss and your pet drinking more water due to dehydration whilst a vet will be able to detect anemia through a blood test.
As with most of the other parasitic worms, the best prevention is keeping their living area clean including their food/drink bowls, toys and bedding. Keep the yard clear of dead animals which are a potential risk of infection and always clean up after your dog so not to infect other animals, pets and to reduce the risk of reinfection.