That round tummy on your puppy may look cute, but it could mean that your puppy has worms. Internal parasites in dogs, such as roundworms and hookworms, are common and can be deadly. Regular parasite prevention is an essential part of maintaining your dog's health. Always consult your veterinarian if you think your dog or puppy may have worms.
Symptoms of worms in dogs and puppies
Many different types of worms can affect adult dogs and puppies. Those seen most frequently include intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Heartworms damage a dog's heart and lungs. Knowing the symptoms can help in early detection and treatment.
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Signs of tapeworms and roundworms may appear in your dog or puppy's poop or around their anus. Tapeworm segments look like small grains of rice, while roundworms have a spaghettilike appearance and may also be vomited up. Roundworms may cause a potbellied appearance in puppies. They can also cause coughing, a dull coat, diarrhea with mucus, and vomiting. Itching, licking, and chewing around the anus as well as scooting may also be symptoms of irritation caused by worms.
Hookworms and whipworms can cause symptoms such as pale gums (caused by anemia), weight loss, and diarrhea. As a whipworm infection becomes more severe, diarrhea may become bloody, leading to fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance. If this occurs, the dog may experience more serious symptoms, such as lethargy, weakness, labored breathing, irregular heartbeat, and even seizures.
The most common symptoms of heartworm disease are a reluctance to exercise and a persistent cough. Dogs with heartworms will often have a reduced appetite and lose weight. They become very fatigued after exercise. In rare cases, they can cough up blood or even heartworms.
If your dog has any symptoms of worms, seek advice from your veterinarian. They will test your dog's stool to identify the type of intestinal parasites or conduct a blood test in the case of suspected heartworm disease. Once they know which type of parasite affects your dog, they will consider your dog's age and health and recommend the most appropriate deworming treatment.
Preventing worms in dogs and puppies
Because internal parasites can cause life-threatening illnesses in dogs, starting a preventative and treatment protocol early is essential. Young puppies should receive their first doses of broad-spectrum deworming medicine every two weeks from 2 weeks to 8 weeks of age or until the worms are gone.
Your veterinarian will provide you with an appropriate deworming schedule for your puppy and advise you on the most suitable puppy deworming medications as they get older. Other essential preventive health care for your dog will include vaccinations starting at 6 to 8 weeks and then every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks. In high-risk situations, puppies may require an additional booster at 20 weeks. Heartworm prevention must be given monthly.
Provide your veterinarian with a stool sample from your dog and have your dog tested for heartworm annually. This is not just important for your dog's health but also because these internal parasites can be spread to other animals, either directly through fecal oral contact, or in the case of heartworm, through the bites of mosquitoes.
Hookworms and roundworms can also be transmitted to humans and can cause serious illness. When humans are infected by roundworms through contact with worm eggs, it can cause a condition called visceral larval migrans. Seizures, encephalitis, and blindness can occur in severe cases. Children are the most vulnerable. Always pick up after your dog to reduce the risk of parasite transmission.
If the worm infestation is heavy and has caused symptoms of illness, such as weight loss or diarrhea, your veterinarian will provide additional supportive care to ensure that your dog is dewormed safely.
How long will my puppy poop worms after they are dewormed?
The bulk of the worms will be evacuated within two to three days, but it is not unusual to find dead worms in your dog's poop up to a week after treatment depending on the seriousness of the infection. You may notice worms in their vomit or feces, and some may still be moving. The treatments in liquid or pill form will start working very quickly. Once your veterinarian has started treating your dog for internal parasites, you will see signs of the worms leaving your dog's body and improvement in their physical health. During the deworming process, do not allow your dog to visit dog parks and other areas where dogs socialize. It is also helpful to avoid other dogs' poop to prevent recontamination.
Heartworm disease is preventable when dogs are placed on appropriate preventive medications at an early age, but treatment for heartworm is uncomfortable and sometimes risky for the dog. Heartworm treatment normally involves a series of injections to kill adult worms. Your veterinarian will determine the schedule depending on your dog's condition. Further treatment is necessary to kill the heartworm larvae, called microfilaria.
Additional veterinary care for heartworm infection can involve antibiotics to fight Wolbachia, a bacteria that inhabits heartworms; pain relief; diuretics; and a special diet.
Heartworm treatment can take months, and dogs must be on complete rest to prevent pieces of dead heartworms from causing further medical complications as they are reabsorbed into the body. Your dog may continue to cough during recovery, but if the coughing becomes severe, if your dog is coughing up blood, or if there are symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, or depression, see your veterinarian immediately.
Side effects of deworming dogs
Deworming under the supervision of a veterinarian typically results in few side effects, but they can occur. Some dogs and puppies vomit shortly after receiving deworming medication and may have a reduced appetite, diarrhea, and even some blood in their stool. If these symptoms persist for more than a few days, consult your veterinarian.
The bottom line
Intestinal parasites and heartworms can make your dog very ill and are life-threatening in some cases. More serious symptoms include lethargy, persistent coughing, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, bloating, and weight loss. In some cases, they can also infect humans. By using preventative medication regularly, you can minimize the risk of your dog catching or transmitting worms. Have your dog tested every six months to ensure that your dog remains worm-free. If your dog does have worms, your DVM will provide you with a treatment plan appropriate for your dog.