Dogs can contract a variety of intestinal parasites, including roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and hookworms. However, they cannot get pinworms. Pinworms infect humans, rabbits, and horses. Luckily, pinworms also stay within their specific animal host species, meaning that human pinworms can only be passed to humans, horse pinworms can only be transmitted between horses, and rabbit pinworms can only pass to other rabbits.
What are pinworms?
Pinworms are small, tubular white worms that range in size from 2 to 13 millimeters long, or 0.07 to 0.5 inch. This type of worm infects the intestinal tract and can cause severe itching around the anus. Tapeworms are often misidentified as pinworms in dogs, as sections of the tapeworm (which look like grains of rice) shed in the dog's stool, or the dog drags their bottom (also known as "scooting") on the floor due to irritation caused by the intestinal worms.
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What about tapeworms in dogs?
A tapeworm is flat and segmented. Occasionally they can be seen moving around a dog's anus or the segments can be seen in poop. Tapeworms are a little more complicated than other intestinal parasites. Dogs cannot become infected by eating fertilized tapeworm eggs. First, the tapeworm eggs must be ingested by flea larvae. Then, the tapeworm egg, which is inside the flea, continues to develop. Then, while grooming or scratching the flea bite, the dog eats the infected flea.
Tapeworms are usually not serious but they can be uncomfortable and your dog may try to itch their butts. Tapeworm infections, as with other parasites, is more serious in puppies. If you have a new dog or a new puppy in the home, be aware of parasites and what to look for.
Can dogs get pinworms?
No, dogs cannot get pinworms. As mentioned above, pinworms are species-specific. While there are types of pinworms that live in humans, rabbits, and horses, there is no pinworm type that affects canines. Enterobius vermicularis is the human pinworm. Its larvae hatch in the small intestine. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no blood test for diagnosing pinworms.
Can you get pinworms from dogs?
No, humans cannot get pinworms from dogs. Humans can only get pinworms from other humans. Pinworms enter their hosts through the mouth as eggs. In the case of a human infestation, eggs are often transferred via ingestion, such as from the anal area to the mouth by unwashed hands, making pinworm infections far more common in children than in adults.
What is whipworm in dogs?
While dogs can't get pinworms, they can get a similar parasite: whipworms. Whipworms are small parasites that are about 1/4 inch long with short, wormlike bodies and long, whiplike tails. They infect dogs, cats, and other domestic animals but are extremely rare in humans.
The eggs of whipworms are expelled in a dog's feces. They can live for up to five years outside a host. Typical infestation occurs when the eggs become attached to a dog's paws, and they then ingest them during regular grooming. Whipworms attach themselves to a dog's large intestine and cause damage by slowly making small tears in the intestine. Both adult dogs and puppies can be susceptible to whipworms.
Whipworm symptoms in dogs
Most dogs don't show many outward signs of whipworm infestation. However, if they do exhibit symptoms, these will most likely occur in the form of:
- Chronic bloody diarrhea, which can cause anemia
- Weight loss
Your dog might also appear to be lethargic or uncomfortable due to abdominal pain caused by intestinal inflammation.
How to treat whipworms in dogs
To identify a case of whipworm, your DVM (veterinarian) will examine your dog's fecal sample under a microscope to check for eggs. It might take several examinations to find whipworm eggs. This is because only a few eggs are shed at a time, and they might not be present in every fecal sample even if a dog has whipworms.
Dogs are treated with deworming medications to kill the parasites. They will need to be retreated every three to four months because the eggs can survive for a long time without their host, meaning that once a dog's environment (such as your yard) is infested with whipworms, it can be very difficult to eradicate the parasite. Your dog can easily be reinfected from whipworm eggs present in the environment.
Because it can be difficult to treat, the best course of action is to prevent whipworm infection from ever occurring in the first place by giving your dog a monthly preventative. There are many broad-spectrum preventatives that help avoid whipworm while also preventing other parasites, like fleas and roundworms, and providing heartworm prevention.
If you're worried about your dog contracting pinworms, the good news is you don't have to be. Pinworms are not found in dogs; they only affect humans and a few other animal species. However, dogs can get a similar parasite called whipworms. If your pet contracts whipworms, they might not show any signs, but if they do, the symptoms might manifest in the form of bloody diarrhea, weight loss, or lethargy. Dogs with whipworm will need several rounds of medication, given that whipworm eggs persist in the environment for a very long time, and reinfection is very likely. With time and diligent treatment, though, whipworm can be completely cured.