Dogs with worms will show a number of symptoms that will tell you that he has an infection. With the exception of heartworm, most dog worms will cause similar symptoms. However, treatment options will differ depending on the type of worm. Symptoms of dog worms include:
·Coughing and hiccupping (due to heartworm)
·Distended abdomen in puppies
·Inability to exercise
Dog worms come in all shapes and sizes. The most dangerous type of dog worm is the heartworm. Heartworms live in the dog’s heart and in the blood vessels that lead from the heart to the lungs. The female heartworm can grow up to 14 inches long and the male heartworm can grow up to seven inches long. Dog’s can have as many as 300 heartworms. If left untreated, heartworms can clog the heart and major blood vessels leading from the heart. They can obstruct valve action in the heart, which can lead to malfunctioning of all other vital organs in the dog’s body such as the lungs, liver, and kidneys.
While heartworms do not produce symptoms for up to two years, if caught early (through twice yearly heartworm screenings) heartworms can be treated successfully. It is up to the owner to have the pet screened multiple times throughout the year so that the infestation does not get out of control.
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Another type of dog worm is the tapeworm. The tapeworm can grow up to three feet long if left untreated. The tapeworm can also have as many as 90 segments, which look like grains of rice. Other types of dog worms include the half-inch-long hookworm, roundworm and whipworm. Unlike heartworms, which live in the dog’s heart and blood vessels, these types of worms live in the dog’s intestines. Roundworms look like spaghetti and whipworms have a large head and a whip-like thin tail section.
Fleas are a major source of certain types of worms, such as tapeworms. When a dog accidentally swallows an infected flea, worms can hatch in the dog’s intestines. These types of tapeworms can also be transmitted to humans as well. Animal carcasses such as rodents and rabbits may also contain tapeworms, so be sure to keep your pets away from them at all costs.
Dog worms can also be contracted from other pet’s feces, which can be easily be found in parks, on pet runs, and even in your own backyard. Whipworm and roundworm eggs can remain infectious for years, and hookworm larvae can multiply in the soil in and around a dog run, park or yard.
In addition to noticing symptoms, dog worms can be detected by examining your dog’s feces. Dog worms may also be found in your dog’s food, on or buried in your dog’s fur, around his anus, and around his paws (from scratching). They may also be found in your dog’s ears.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent dog worms. One of the most important ways to prevent a serious dog worm infection is to have your pet screened for worms twice per year. If your dog is considered high-risk for worms, you should have him screened more than twice a year. High-risk dogs typically live in condensed urban areas and they usually live in a home with more than one pet. Show pets and hunting dogs are also considered high-risk. In addition to preventative measures, it is also a good idea to keep your dog clean and well groomed. You should also dispose of dog feces immediately. Never leave it in piles around your yard, dog run, etc.
Caring for a dog with worms should only be done under the care of a vet. Most non-prescription medications do not work. Your vet will have access to a number of innovative preventatives that are extremely effective against the most aggressive types of parasites such as roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, and heartworm. If you notice any of the symptoms of dog worms listed above, please contact your vet immediately.