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Worms in Dogs: An Overview

by Geoff Works |

Being a responsible dog parent means knowing about the most common canine issues and the best practices for addressing them. Injuries, obesity, digestion, and rehabilitation from surgery are just some of these instances.

One of the most unsettling yet common canine problems that is important to understand is parasitic worms in dogs. After all, nobody wants to imagine those pesky parasites wriggling themselves inside your fur baby’s stomach. This is why it’s important to know the signs of worms in dogs. In this blog, we’ll be talking about canine worm infestation, treatment, and preventive measures you can take.

Signs and Symptoms of Worms in Dogs

Spotting early symptoms of worm infestation can significantly increase the chances of your dog having a fast and complete recovery. While different parasites manifest a myriad of symptoms, you can still look for general signs regarding worm infestation, including:

  • Vomiting & persistent coughing
  • Decrease in appetite & weight loss
  • Lethargy & dehydration
  • Poor coat appearance
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood in the stool
  • Scooting their hindquarters on the ground
  • Rice-like pieces in the stool
  • Tapeworm segments clinging on their hindquarters

Once you notice these indications, take your dog to the vet immediately. Although worms in dogs are treatable, they can be fatal if left unchecked, especially for newborn pups. 

Types of Worms in Dogs


This is by far the most serious dog worm infestation out there. Mosquitoes transmit these worms, making the infection impossible to avoid.

While heartworms have been reported in all 50 states, including the following areas:

  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Atlantic coast
  • New Jersey
  • Areas in the Mississippi River and nearby tributaries

Even if you do not live in these areas, it’s best to follow preventive measures like giving your dogs pills, topicals, or a six-month injectable. The cost will vary based on the size of your dog but will typically range from $30 to $80 and should last you for a year. As for symptoms, there are no early warning signs regarding heartworm infection since it’ll take about seven months for the larvae to mature once an infected mosquito has bitten your dog.

Once the larvae develop, however, they’ll make their way to the heart and lungs, where they’ll start reproducing. The dog will start exhibiting symptoms like:

  • Cough
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal wheezing sounds

If your dog is already infected, it should be treated immediately. Your vet will perform a pre-treatment workup to evaluate the seriousness of the situation and give it around three injections. All of these treatments will cost between $500 to $1000, depending on where you live. The treatments can be costly, which is why prevention is far more manageable. Lastly, if your dog has heartworms, it’s highly unlikely it can pass down infect you and your family.


Roundworms are the most common worms in dogs, categorized into two types: the Toxocara canis (T. canis) and Toxascaris leonina. Toxocara canis is more prevalent in puppies, and both types can also be transmitted to humans.

Roundworms or ascarids are lightly colored worms that look like spaghetti. Your dog will usually get infected through various means, such as:

  • Getting it from their infected mother – the worm can either make its way to the placenta or through ingestion via the mother’s milk.
  • Eating infected prey animals
  • Eating stools with roundworms

For adult dogs, there are no typical signs they’re infested with roundworms. For puppies, the symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Poor growth
  • Abnormally large bellies
  • Roundworms in the poop or vomit

This type of worm in dogs is usually treated using deworming medications like pyrantel, piperazine, and fenbendazole. They’ll receive one to three doses at first to kill the adult roundworms. Afterward, once the undeveloped larvae present during the first treatment matured, a follow-up treatment is given. 

Take note that even if your dog has been fully treated, it’s best to have them undergo yearly stool exams. Puppies should have these examinations two to four times a year, while dogs that are one year or older should undergo these checks once or twice a year. Make it a point to follow this routine strictly, as roundworms can be transmitted to humans and cause eye, heart, lung, liver, and neurological complications.


This is another common worm in dogs. Tapeworms also have different species that can infect your fur baby. They are:

  • Taenia
  • Echinococcus
  • Mesocestoides
  • Dipylidium caninum

Dipylidium caninum is the most common type among the four species. Tapeworms are not as threatening to adult dogs compared to puppies. However, puppies infected with tapeworms will suffer from anemia, poor growth, and intestinal blockages.

Unfortunately, there are no obvious signs in puppies or older dogs regarding a tapeworm infection. What you’ll often observe is them incessantly licking their anus or dragging their hindquarters on the ground to relieve itching. You may also see rice-like pieces around the anus, hindquarters, poop, or even in their vomit.

As for treatment, the praziquantel drug is often given either orally or through injection. The dose will depend on the dog’s weight. Since praziquantel is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication, it’s best to first consult your vet before administering the drug to your dog.

Side effects of praziquantel are uncommon. However, there are instances where your dog will exhibit the following:

  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite

Since tapeworms come from ingesting infected fleas, the best preventive measure you can take is giving your dog flea pills and proper hygiene. These either come in oral or topical form and are also OTC medication. You’ll constantly need to clean after your dog so the tapeworms in the soil won’t proliferate.

Worms in Dogs: Keeping a Vigilant Watch

Worms in dogs aren’t a complicated problem as long as you maintain a vigilant watch. Prevention is still the best practice since it will lessen the risk of your dog getting further complications from the infection. Cleaning the environment, monitoring your dog’s health and feces, following proper hygiene, and administering the appropriate medication are just some of the many ways you can achieve this. Visit your vet to spot early warning signs and other health issues that you may have overlooked to keep your dog healthy.

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