We received a question on the All About Worms Facebook page about worms that are harmful to dogs. The question was actually a bit more specific than this, taking the following form: “Can this worm be deadly to dogs if ingested?” Unfortunately, “this worm” is left undefined. No picture is given, and no information about the worm is supplied either. We asked for more information about the harmful or “deadly” worm, but received no further details, so we’ll have to address a broader question: is it harmful for a dog to eat worms?
Generally, questions that involve dogs and worms focus on several well-known canine ailments, such as tapeworm, heartworm, hookworm, whipworms, ringworm, and roundworms. However, we have written about these “dog worms” several times before, and we’ve also written about how you can detect if your dog has worms, so we’ll focus on dogs eating any given worm, not just the worms that are associated with dogs. (For the record, ringworm isn’t a worm, but a skin infection caused by fungus.)
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We’ll begin by stating the obvious: it is harmful if your dog eats any of the worms (or worm eggs) that are known to cause canine health problems. For instance, if a dog ingests a tapeworm, or some insect (like a flea) that carries tapeworm, this will obviously cause problems. A dog essentially never has the occasion to eat a live worm that directly causes these routine health problems for dogs – again, a dog would generally get tapeworm from a flea, or heartworm from a mosquito – but we just want to cover all our bases. We should also state that we are not veterinarians, so nothing we say should be construed as professional medical advice for dogs. Only a vet can provide that, and if you have concerns about your pet, it is always advisable to visit a professional.
We suspect the reader might be wondering about her dog eating something like an earthworm, which is by no means unheard of. Dogs eat all sorts of random things they find outside, and it isn’t particularly out of the ordinary for a dog to pull something like an earthworms out of the ground to eat it. While an earthworm (or a similar worm) might not be harmful in and of itself, any worm could potentially be harmful to your dog because of what the worm carries within it. For instance, an earthworm will not only contain lots of different bacteria that could be harmful to your dog, it might also carry something that is definitely harmful to your dog, like roundworm eggs. Indeed, roundworm eggs should probably be a dog owner’s number one fear if their dog eats worms. Roundworms lay eggs prolifically, and these eggs are passed by animals (domestic and wild) in their feces all the time. These eggs therefore end up in soil, which can be ingested by a worm and then transmitted to your dog, according to the American Kennel Club. Thus, it is inadvisable for your dog to eat any sort of worm, not necessarily because the worms themselves are harmful (although they could be), but because of what may be in or on the worms.
So, the answer to the question we posed at the beginning of this article is this: yes, it could be harmful for dogs to eat worms, depending on other factors. This isn’t necessarily to say that the worm our reader asked about (whatever worm this may be) is “deadly” to her dog. Indeed, worms that afflict dogs are eminently manageable in the modern era, provided you follow suggested health guidelines (again, we are not veterinarians and you should seek those guidelines from your veterinarian) and take your pet to the veterinarian whenever it is presenting worrying symptoms. Obviously, though, this is no excuse to be reckless with your dog, and you should protect them from themselves whenever possible.
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