Worms are pesky small intestinal parasites that are relatively common in dogs. There are four varieties that can affect your dog:
Note: heartworm isn’t included in this article, as it’s not an intestinal worm and is only transmitted by mosquito bite.
So how to tell if your dog has worms? There are a few telltale signs and symptoms of worms and other parasites in dogs. Before exploring those, let’s take a closer look at how dogs get worms in the first place.
How Do Dogs Get Worms?
Most of the time, dogs contract worms by eating soil, feces, or other material that has been contaminated with worm larvae. But there are a few other ways that dogs get worms that you should be aware of if you want to prevent worms in dogs.
1. Eating Worm Eggs And Larvae
If an animal is infected with worms, the eggs and larvae of these worms are deposited in the environment via the infected animal’s droppings. Even in harsh weather, these eggs can survive for long periods in the soil. Your dog doesn’t necessarily have to eat infected droppings … he can contract the eggs of these parasites by licking the ground, and by eating dirt or grass.
Even close skin contact with larvae in the soil can expose your dog to worms. Some larvae can burrow into the skin on dogs’ feet. Since dogs are outdoor-loving animals, this puts most dogs at risk of contracting worms at some point in their lives.
It’s even possible to bring worms into the house … by tracking mud and soil inside your home from the bottom of your shoes. So minimizing the dirt you bring inside is one simple way to help prevent worms in dogs.
Flea infestations are a pain in and of themselves, but they also put dogs at risk of picking up tapeworms. This usually happens if a dog swallows an infected flea while licking or biting at himself. If your dog gets a flea infestation, deal with it quickly to help prevent tapeworms in dogs.
Roundworm eggs can be swallowed when your dog is grooming himself. These eggs often attach themselves to a dog’s coat, so licking them can lead to roundworm infection. Giving your dog a shower or bath after he’s rolled around outside can help prevent roundworms in dogs.
4. From The Mother
Some worms can also be transmitted from the mother to puppies in the womb before the puppies are even born. Worms can also be passed from an infected mother while nursing.
Since worms can be very dangerous in young puppies and even be fatal in severe cases, be sure to check in with your vet if you have a nursing or pregnant dog that might have worms. Also, if you’ve adopted a puppy or young dog, you may want to implement a gentle, natural deworming strategy ASAP just to be safe.
5. Scavenging And Hunting
Infected animals like birds, rabbits, rodents, and more can pass worms to dogs who like to scavenge or hunt. In these animals, the worm eggs stay dormant and can survive for a long time even after the animal has died. When they’re passed to a dog the eggs then “wake up” and develop into worms. So to prevent worms in dogs, you may want to limit how much your dog scavenges these animals and keep an eye on him while he’s outside.
How To Tell If Your Dog Has Worms
So how can you tell if your dog has worms? The tricky thing is that symptoms of worms in dogs usually can vary a bit depending on the type of worm and the breed of dog.
However, there are a few general symptoms of worms in dogs that all owners should keep an eye out for.
Common worm symptoms in dogs include:
- Dull coat
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Pot-bellied appearance
The above are general red flags to alert you and help you know if your dog has worms in his stomach. But each worm has slightly different symptoms. In some cases, you may see worms in your dog’s stool … especially tapeworms which have segments that break off and looks like grains of rice in your dog’s poop.
So to tell whether or not your dog has worms, monitor him regularly for any sign of the symptoms above.
How To Tell If Your Dog Has Worms Or Parvo
Dog owners sometimes wonder whether their dog’s symptoms are due to worms or parvo. Parvo is a serious virus with some distinctive symptoms that are different from signs of worms.
Symptoms of parvo include severe, often bloody diarrhea, frequent vomiting, extreme weakness and lethargy, and rapid dehydration (especially in a puppy).
If you suspect parvo in your dog, contact your veterinarian immediately. Parvo is a life-threatening emergency that needs round the clock care.
How To Get Rid Of Worms And Treat Worms In Dogs
Many people wonder if they can get rid of worms in a dog without going to the vet. Your vet will usually prescribe conventional deworming drugs that have harsh side effects. However, if you suspect worms, it’s a good idea to confirm the diagnosis and type of worm by taking a fecal sample to your vet.
There are plenty of gentle, natural deworming techniques and ways to treat worms in dogs that may be more healthy and sustainable over the long term. Whole foods like pumpkin seeds and black cumin seed in particular are both safe and effective natural dog wormers.
But the best dewormer of all may surprise you: it’s feeding your dog a healthy diet that can support his immune system! In fact, your dog has antibodies that can protect him from worms and destroy parasites on his own. The trick is consistently feeding him healthy foods rich in zinc, vitamin D and other immune boosting nutrients.
Apple cider vinegar and food-grade diatomaceous earth are also natural options for detoxing and getting rid of worms in dogs.
How Long Can A Dog Have Worms Before It Dies?
Now you know how to tell if your dog has worms ... with the right approach, worms in dogs will usually be harmless. A dog with a healthy immune system can recover well from getting worms. The natural dewormers mentioned above, or, in more severe cases, deworming medication, will often help worms pass in one to two weeks. You may even see dead worms in your dog’s stool.
RELATED: White specks in dog poop
However, worms can lead to intestinal damage, loss of consciousness, and even death if severe cases are left untreated for too long.
Worms also pose much higher risk to puppies and young dogs, since these animals need more food to grow and their bodies are still developing. So it’s important to prevent and treat worms in puppies as soon as possible.
The most common worm affecting newborn puppies is the roundworm, so monitor for roundworms by looking out for common symptoms, and taking the recommended steps above to prevent worms in dogs. Keeping your puppy worm-free for the first 6-8 weeks of life is critical.