Worms are irritating to your dog as well as potentially harmful to his health. Some types of worms are visible in the dog's feces, but others require an examination of a stool sample to detect the microscopic parasites. Thus, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of different types of worm infestation in your dog. Your dog's veterinarian should be consulted for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan to eliminate the worms.
Although roundworms are generally found in the dog's intestines, some varieties live in other organs, including the stomach, esophagus, colon, heart, lungs and kidneys. According to the Dog Health Guide, puppies can acquire a roundworm infection from their mother while still in the womb or from nursing. Symptoms of roundworms include weight loss or gain, a pot belly, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, coughing and difficulty swallowing. Adult roundworms can be seen in the dog's stool; roundworm eggs can be seen only under a microscope. There are roundworm treatments and preventatives available, and the worms are relatively easy to eliminate. Areas where the dog has had bowel movement should be cleaned with a bleach and water solution to help rid the areas of roundworm eggs. Roundworms can be very dangerous to humans.
Dogs become infected with hookworms in four ways: through their mother's milk, from the mother while in the womb, through the skin and by ingesting contaminated material, such as food, water or the feces of an infected dog. Symptoms of hookworms include anemia, listlessness, weight loss, itchiness, bloody diarrhea or lack of healthy growth. Hookworms are small and hard to see with the naked eye, so are usually diagnosed by microscopic examination of the dog's stool. There are oral and injectable medications available to kill adult hookworms; more than one treatment is typically required to kill all hookworms. Hookworm prevention is also available as well as treatments to remove hookworms from your lawn.
Adult whipworms are approximately 1/4 inch in length and are found in the dog's colon and cecum, where they can live for up to 15 months. Whipworm eggs can live for up to five years in feces; thus, dogs usually acquire whipworms from moist soil or grass. Symptoms of whipworms include weight loss, listlessness, anemia and bloody diarrhea. Whipworms are diagnosed via a microscopic look at the dog's feces. Since whipworms produce few eggs, it is often difficult to diagnose these worms; the examination of several stool samples may be necessary. Medications for the treatment of whipworms are available, but treatments may need to be repeated over a several-month period.
Tapeworms can grow up to 2 feet long and attach to the dog's intestine. The worms break off into 1/8-inch pieces that are shed in the dog's stool. Eggs, which look like grains of rice, are released as these pieces dry. Tapeworms are commonly spread from dog to dog through fleas, as the flea ingests tapeworm eggs when biting an infected dog, and then the flea is ingested by another dog that it tries to bite. Once the dog swallows the flea, and thus the tapeworm eggs, the eggs enter the dog's intestine and begin their cycle. Dogs can also become infected by eating dead rodents or rabbits that are infected with the worms. Tapeworms can be detected by visually examining the dog's stool, as the segments are easy to see. Symptoms of tapeworm infestation include diarrhea, vomiting, listlessness and anal itching, usually noticed when the dog begins to scoot its rear end across the floor in an attempt to scratch. The best prevention is to decrease the chance of fleas by placing the dog on a flea-prevention program, but tapeworms can be treated easily with medication.