So, you’ve done everything you can to protect your dog from all kinds of conditions from plaque build-up to heartworm. But somehow, your well-protected pooch ends up with worms. Ouch! First, don’t beat yourself up. Worms can happen to any pet, even pets that have been monitored closely. So how did your perfect pooch end up with a mean case of worms? 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.
Animal carcasses such as rodents and rabbits may also contain tapeworms, so if your dog is out playing and you are not aware of a dead animal or even small remnants of it in your yard, dog run or dog park, then its very easy for him to come in contact with it. And guess what? It only takes second for transmission to take place.
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Dog worms can also be contracted from (surprise) 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. Once your dog has been infected, you will notice a number of different symptoms. Your dog may have only one symptom or he could have all of them.
Hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and whipworms live in the dog’s intestines and the heartworm lives in the dog’s heart and in the blood vessels that lead from the heart to the lungs. Round worms look like spaghetti and tapeworm segments look like grains of rice. If left untreated any type of dog worm can be fatal, but heartworm is the most dangerous of them all. Symptoms of dog worms include:
- Change in your dog’s appetite
- Coughing and hiccupping (due to heartworm)
- Distended abdomen in puppies
- Dull coat
- Inability to exercise
- Weight loss
Heartworm is the deadliest type of worms in dogs, so the symptoms may be different from other dog worm symptoms. Symptoms of heartworm include:
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- Abnormal heart sounds
- Abnormal lung sounds
- Difficulty breathing
- Enlargement of the liver
- Exercise intolerance
- Fluid accumulation in the abdomen
- Temporary loss of consciousness
While heartworm is most common in dogs, it can also affect more than 30 additional species of animals including cats, wolves, coyotes, ferrets, and even sea lions. Unfortunately, heartworm can affect humans as well. Although heartworm (also spelled “heart worm”) can affect other species and humans, dogs are its preferred host. It doesn’t matter where the pet lives either. Heartworms can thrive just about anywhere. In fact, heartworm cases have been reported all over the United States and in breeds of all kinds. Heartworm is not specific to older or younger dogs, male or female dogs, urban or rural dogs or well to do or average dogs.
Dog’s can become infected with heartworm from insect bites, mainly mosquito bites. When a mosquito bites the dog, the infection is transmitted through the dogs skin. The larvae develop in the body over a period of several months during which time they grow and migrate to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
In the earliest stages of heartworm, there are no abnormal signs of infections. In mild cases, coughing is present. In the moderate stage, you may notice coughing, exercise intolerance and abnormal lung sounds. In the most severe cases, all of the above symptoms above may be present. If the infection is severe enough, it can cause death.
One of the most obvious ways to detect dog worms is to simply examine your dog’s feces. This can be accomplished by sight alone. Dog worms can also be found in your dog’s food, on or buried in your dog’s fur, around his anus, around his paws (from scratching) and it is not uncommon to find them in your dog’s ears. Look out for the symptoms listed above for heartworm, as you may never see them in your pet’s feces. Heartworm does not infect the intestines, they infect other organs such as the lungs, heart, and blood vessels.
Once you have established that your dog has worms, the first thing to do is rush him over to a vet. There is no substitution for a vets care, especially if you suspect that your dog has heartworm. Most pet owners would like to hear that they can just go online and find the most effective treatments for dog worms at a low cost. Unfortunately, cutting corners when it comes to dog worm treatment is dangerous. Again, caring for a dog with worms should only be done only under the care of a vet.
Most non-prescription medications don’t work. A professional veterinarian will have access to a number of innovative medications and preventatives that are extremely effective against the most aggressive types of parasites such as roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, and heartworm. These medications and preventatives are not available without a prescription. If you do find prescription dog worm medications that are available without a prescription, be weary. Mainly because: how do you know exactly which ones to give to your dog? How much? For how long? How can you test your dog for worms? How can you tell if an infection has completely cleared? Again, see your vet for the sake of your pet.
How to prevent dog worms
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’s 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. If you notice any of the symptoms of dog worms listed above, please contact your vet immediately.
Treatments for Heartworm
Heartworm is the deadliest parasite infection for dogs, so treatment options are more aggressive. There are many highly effective treatment options for canine heartworm. There are also many natural treatments for canine heartworm that may be effective in the early stages of heartworm infection. The goal for conventional treatments for canine heartworm is to kill all adult worms with an adulticide and all microfilariae with a microfilaricide. The American Heartworm Society offers the detailed treatment description below. Please read carefully.
Adult Heartworm Therapy (Adulticide Therapy)
There is currently one drug approved by the FDA for use in dogs for the elimination of adult heartworms. This drug is an organic arsenical compound. Dogs receiving this drug therapy will typically have had a thorough pretreatment evaluation of its condition and will then be hospitalized during the administration of the drug.
Melarsomine dihydrochloride (Immiticide®, Merial) has demonstrated a higher level of effectiveness and safety than any other adult heartworm treatment previously available. It is administered by deep intramuscular injection into the lumbar muscles. For complete information on the classification and treatment for heartworm infected dogs using this product, consult your veterinarian.
The primary post-adulticide complication is the development of severe pulmonary thromboembolism. Pulmonary thromboembolism results from the obstruction of blood flow through pulmonary arteries due to the presence of dead heartworms and lesions in the arteries and capillaries of the lungs. If heartworm adulticide treatment is effective, some degree of pulmonary thromboembolism will occur.
When dead worms are numerous and arterial injury is severe, widespread obstruction of arteries can occur. Clinical signs most commonly observed include fever, cough, hemoptysis (blood in the sputum) and potentially sudden death. It is extremely important to not allow exercise in any dog being treated for heartworms. Often dogs with severe infections will also require the administration of anti-inflammatory doses of corticosteroids.
Elimination of Microfilariae
The most effective drugs for this purpose are the macrocyclic lactone (ML) anthelmintics, i.e.,milbemycin oxime, selamectin, moxidectin and ivermectin. These drugs are the active ingredients in commonly used heartworm preventives. Although their usage as microfilaricides has not been approved by the FDA, they are widely used by veterinarians as there are no approved microfilaricidal drugs currently available. It is recommended that microfilariae positive dogs being treated with these macrocyclic lactones be hospitalized for at least eight hours following treatment for observation of possible adverse reactions, including those resulting from rapid death of the microfilariae.
Circulating microfilariae usually can be eliminated within a few weeks by the administration of the ML-type drugs mentioned above. Today however, the most widely used microfilaricidal treatment is to simply administer ML preventives as usual, and the microfilariae will be cleared slowly over a period of about six to nine months. –The American Heartworm Society
Natural Cures for Canine Heartworm
While treatments for canine heartworm are best administered under a vets care, some dogs may be too old or too sick to undergo rigorous treatments. They may be too old for preventative medications as well. Preventative care in the form of monthly tablets, chewables, or topicals includes: Ivermectin, Macrocyclic Lactone (ML), Milbemycin, Moxidectin, and Selamectin. Natural cures for canine heartworms are not regulated, so there are literally hundreds if not thousands of products on the market that claim to cure or prevent canine heartworm. It’s best to speak with your vet about alternative cures or contact the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association to locate a holistic vet in your area.