[Dr. Jeff Werber:
Dogs have a nose for adventure, but sometimes, they can get into trouble without even knowing it. Intestinal parasites, or “worms,” as most people call them, are a common and widespread danger to your pet. It’s important to distinguish intestinal worms from heartworms. They are two completely different things, and dogs get them in very different ways. Here, we’re talking about intestinal worms that infect your dog’s digestive system.
Dogs get intestinal parasites in one of four ways: by ingesting worm eggs or worm larvae in feces or infected soil; by ingesting raw meat or remains of an animal that has been infected; by becoming infected by worm larvae puncturing the skin, as is the case with hookworm infection; or directly from their mothers, either while she is still pregnant or through her milk.
The larvae migrate throughout your dog’s body before attaching themselves to the intestinal tract, where they grow into adult worms that feed off your pet and cause significant health issues.
Dogs with intestinal parasites can suffer from diarrhea, dehydration, blood disorders, inflammation of the large intestine and coughing. Worms can cause weight loss in adult dogs and failure to thrive in puppies. In severe cases, intestinal parasites can be fatal. Some of the most common intestinal parasites are roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. Let’s take a closer look at the lifecycles of these three dangerous parasites.
Roundworm eggs can be found in dog feces, infected animals and animal remains. The eggs can remain in the yard even after the initial source has disappeared. Dogs ingest the infected eggs. After hatching, the immature worms usually pass through the dog’s liver and lungs and settle into the dog’s intestines, where they mature into adults. From there, adult roundworms lay more eggs, which are passed through the dog’s feces back into the environment.
Dogs can get hookworms through animal feces, small infected animals and insects, or when hookworm larvae penetrate the dog’s skin. When a dog becomes infected, the larvae move to the small intestine, where they mature into adults. Sometimes, they move into the lungs or skeletal muscles, where they remain dormant until migrating to the intestinal tract. Hookworms can live up to two years, feeding off your dog’s blood and the walls of his intestines.
Finally, dogs get whipworms by ingesting the worm larvae present in the environment. Whipworm eggs can remain viable in the soil for many years. Once inside the intestines, the worms take approximately three months to mature into adults. Once this occurs, adult whipworms live in the dog’s large intestines and only shed eggs intermittently. However, female whipworms can produce up to 2,000 eggs each day.
So how do you know if your dog has worms? Your veterinarian will test your dog’s stool for worm eggs at his yearly checkup. Other signs to watch for include coughing, vomiting, diarrhea (especially if there are signs of blood), worms in his stool, lethargy, an appearance of a “pot belly,” weight loss, dull coat or scooting his bottom across the floor. Only veterinary tests for intestinal parasites can provide an accurate diagnosis, so be sure to visit your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may have contracted worms.
To reduce the risk of your dog or family coming in contact with worm eggs and larvae, pick up feces immediately when walking your dog and clean your yard often. And follow the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s guidelines for fecal testing. Worms are a continuous threat, so ask your veterinarian about effective treatments that can help protect your dog from intestinal parasites all year round. Just one dose every month can make a big difference in the health and well-being of your pet.
Ask about Trifexis, the combination product that kills fleas and prevents infestations, prevents heartworm disease, and treats and controls hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections. See the full product label for complete safety information.
Serious adverse reactions have been reported following concomitant extra-label use of ivermectin with spinosad alone, one of the components of Trifexis. Treatment with fewer than three monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Trifexis, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infection. Use with caution in dogs with pre-existing epilepsy.
The most common adverse reactions reported are vomiting, depression, itching and decreased appetite. To ensure heartworm prevention, observe your dog for one hour after administration. If vomiting occurs within an hour of administration, redose.]