Dark Green Worm Found on Dog is a Flatworm

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“I found this worm on the abdomen of my short haired dog”, writes this reader in her submission regarding the dark green worm-like critter pictured below. “The vet had no idea. The dog was born in South Carolina but has lived six years in western NY, including time spent in one of the finger lakes.” To start with, we want to compliment our reader on the fantastic photo she took, and thank her for it, as it really helps us narrow down what the organism could be. The photo shows a long stripe running down the middle of the worm’s body, and also shows what looks like a bulbous, black head. Additionally, it looks almost as if the worm is more flat than round in shape.

With that said, we think that this worm is a flatworm. Flatworms are predatory worms that feed on insects, snails and crustaceans. They are not harmful to humans and pets, so our reader need not fear for the health and safety of her dog, or for herself. It is likely that her dog just got the flatworm on its fur when it was outside by the lake. That said, flatworms can secrete a toxin which may cause pain and/or irritation upon contact with skin, so our reader should still be wary of making skin-to-skin contact with the worm. It is actually these same toxins that, when secreted onto smaller organisms (specifically the ones that flatworms hunt) will either paralyze or melt them (depending on the toxin). And yes, you read that right, flatworms can practically melt their prey, though it is more like they dissolve them. After their prey has become liquid, the flatworm can drink up their meal using a straw-like appendage that extends from its head.

Now, we do not know what species of flatworm this is in particular: there are over 20,000 species existing today. Some species live on land, while some live in aquatic habitats: and they all range in shape, size and color. What they all have in common is their ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually (without the need of a mate), and that they are hermaphroditic, meaning they can mate with any other flatworm they encounter. In addition to this, many species of flatworms are able to regenerate cells, meaning that if one cuts off a flatworm’s tail, it would grow back, much like a lizard’s. What is more fantastic is that, not only would the head grow a new tail, but that severed tail would grow a new head, meaning one would be left with two flatworms where previously there was only one.

To conclude, we think that the organism our reader found on her dog is a flatworm. They are fascinating creatures, but should not be feared. Of course, we still do not recommend physically handling them, given the toxins they can secrete. We hope this helps and we wish our reader the very best!

 

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Summary
Dark Green Worm Found on Dog is a Flatworm
Article Name
Dark Green Worm Found on Dog is a Flatworm
Description
"I found this worm on the abdomen of my short haired dog", writes this reader in her submission regarding the dark green worm-like critter pictured below. "The vet had no idea. The dog was born in South Carolina but has lived six years in western NY, including time spent in one of the finger lakes." To start with, we want to compliment our reader on the fantastic photo she took, and thank her for it, as it really helps us narrow down what the organism could be. The photo shows a long stripe running down the middle of the worm's body, and also shows what looks like a bulbous, black head. Additionally, it looks almost as if the worm is more flat than round in shape.
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Author: Worm Researcher Anton

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