One of the most obvious and most disturbing signs of a worm infection is finding worms in your pets stool. Worms in the stool can indicate any number of worm infections ranging from hookworm to tapeworm. The parasitic hookworm is around a half-inch-long while a tapeworm can reach up to a staggering three feet long if left untreated. In fact, a single tapeworm can have as many as 90 slimy segments. Other types of parasitic worms common to dogs include: roundworm, whipworm, and the heartworm. 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. If left untreated any type of dog worm can be fatal, but the heartworm is the most dangerous of them all.
In addition to finding worms in your pet’s stool, other symptoms to look for include:
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A change in your dog’s appetite
Distended abdomen in puppies
Inability to exercise
Coughing and hiccupping (due to heartworm)
It’s also important to recognize what the different types parasitic worms look like. Round worms look like spaghetti and tapeworm segments look like grains of rice. In addition to your dog’s food, dog worms can be found in 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.
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. Caring for a dog with worms should be done only under the care of a vet. Most non-prescription medications don’t work. Your vet will have access to a number of cutting edge preventatives that are extremely effective against the most aggressive types of parasites such as roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, and heartworm.
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It is important to keep in mind that fleas are a source of certain types of tapeworms. When a dog accidentally swallows an infected flea, the tapeworms 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.
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. Whipworm and roundworm eggs can remain infectious for years, and hookworm larvae can multiply in the soil in and around a dog run.
If your dog shows symptoms of heartworm or intestinal parasites, please contact your vet immediately.