Worms are intestinal parasitic infections that are extremely common in dogs. In fact, most dogs will likely carry worms at some point in their lives. Unfortunately if it goes untreated, it can cause serious long term damage. That’s why as a dog owner it’s important to learn how to tell if your dog has worms. Luckily, many types of worms can be easily treated at home if you find them early. However, some do require attention from the vet.
There is a broad spectrum of intestinal worms. Each type presents general symptoms and specific symptoms. When trying to figure out if your dog has worms, you’ll want to look at the general symptoms which we will discuss below. Once you’ve come to the conclusion that your dog has an infection, you’ll want to look at the specific symptoms to figure out what type of worm your dog is infected with. Of course the only way to know for sure is by taking your dog to the vet.
Here are the general symptoms to look for when trying to figure out if your dog has worms. One symptom by itself may not mean much, but if multiple are present at the same time, that’s a sign your dog has a worm infection.
- Scooting Their Rear End On The Floor
- Bloated Belly
- Decreased Energy with Sudden Weight Loss
- Dull Coat
- Visible Eggs in Feces
- Visible on Fur or in Ears
The final two may seem like a guarantee that your dog has worms, but that’s not always the case. You’ll see why later in this article.
Those are the top symptoms of worms, However, any unusual behavior may warrant further investigation. You know your dog best, if something seems “off”, it’s always best to take them to the vet for an opinion. Also, this article is about worms in adult dogs. Almost all puppies are born with worms and be wormed up to 12 weeks of age
Let’s talk about each of these in more detail.
General Signs your Dog Has Worms
Scooting Rear End Across Floor
You’ve probably seen dogs do this before. The reason they do it is because live worms itch! Dogs excrete worms through their feces. When they go to the bathroom, some of these live worms will be left of their rear end. This causes extreme itches. Since dogs don’t have the ability to scratch an itch down there, their only option is to scoot their rear end across the floor. This is one of the most common signs of worms since dogs dogs don’t do this for many other reasons.
Though this is more common in young pups who get worms from their mother, older dogs can still suffer from bloating due to a worm infestation. Bloating can also be caused by a digestive blockage or excessive drinking, so this symptom by itself doesn’t mean your dog has worms. If the dog’s eating habits have not changed in recent weeks and bloating is noticed, a visit to your vet is in order.
Decreased Energy, Sudden Weight Loss, Increased Appetite
The most common types of worms live and grow in the digestive and intestinal tract of dogs. They are parasites that feed off the food the dog eats, decreasing the amount of nutrition the dog can absorb. This lack of nutrition causes lethargy, weight loss, and often a noticeable increase in appetite, though not all of these will necessarily occur at the same time.
Diarrhea is another result of a decrease in adequate nutrition, as well as a disruption in the normal digestive process. When a dog suddenly has diarrhea and nothing in the diet has changed, it usually mean they aren’t absorbing enough fiber. They may not be absorbing enough fiber because the worms are getting to it before the dogs body can absorb it. Bloody diarrhea is usually the result of a severe worm infestation, and you should contact your vet immediately.
Another result of poor nutrition is dullness or lack of luster to a dog’s coat. This is particularly noticeable in dark single-colored coats, such as black or brown. Additionally, an increase in shedding that is not attributable to a change in seasons may be caused by worms. A dog’s coat is a good measure of overall health so be sure to keep an eye on any subtle changes.
Coughing or Respiratory Distress
Unfortunately, some kind of worms such as heartworms can enter the respiratory system of a dog which can be fatal. Coughing not related to allergies or sudden weather changes may be a sign that worms are present in the lungs. Immediate medical attention is required.
Visible Worms Eggs in Feces
Visible worms are perhaps the most reliable way to confirm that a dog has worms, look for long, brown or light-colored insects. Be aware that not all types of worms are visible to the naked eye. One important thing to keep in mind here is that the worms may not have originally been in your dogs feces and entered after your dog went to the bathroom through already contaminated soil. The only way to know for sure is if you see worms or eggs in the feces immediately after your dog goes to the bathroom.
Worms Found in Fur or Ear
Small worms that resemble grains of rice once they die may be seen in a dog’s fur. Tapeworms are the most common worm to be visible on fur. However, you don’t want to confuse worms with ear mites. Both are an issue but require different treatments.
Specific Signs to Determine What Type of Worm it Is
The only way to know with certainty what type of worm your dog has been infected with is to take your dog to the vet. With that said, each worm has unique symptoms. Below we will go over the symptoms of the most common types of worms.
- Tiny live worms or eggs in the stool of your dog
- Rapid weight loss along with an increase in appetite
- Bloating in the belly
- Excessive coughing
- Difficulty breathing
- Low energy
- No appetite
- Bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Bloody stool
- Random pain
So Your Dog Has Worms – Now What?
Now that you know how to tell if your dog has worms and it would appear all the signs are there, the first step is to stay calm. As gross as we think worms are, they are very common and something almost all dogs deal with at one point or another.
Treat Your Dog ASAP
Treatment in this case is not optional. Unless you actively do something about it, the worms aren’t going anywhere. Not only is this potentially fatal for your dog, but it can damage your health as well. Certain worms including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms spread by contact and can all live inside the human body. This means if your dog has one of those three types of worms and you touch anything they touch, there’s a chance you’ll get infected as well which will cause a number of health issues.
Although there are a few types of worming treatments that can be treated without medication, the best thing you can do for your dog is take your dog to the vet and get a prescription for deworming medication. At home treatments typically take longer and aren’t as guaranteed to work like prescription medication. If you suspect your dog may be infected with worms, get them to the vet ASAP. They’ll be all healed up in no time.
Keep Your Dog Away From Other Dogs
When you find out your dog has worms, it’s important to keep them away from other dogs. Worms are highly contagious so any sort of contact puts the other dog at risk. If you have two dogs, the unfortunate truth is that if one dog has been infected by worms, there’s a good chance the other dog has as well. Dogs are constantly making contact when they play with each other, they sniff each others rear ends, drink out of the same water bowl, etc. All these things can cause your other dog to get worms as well.
Keep Yourself Clean
As stated earlier, some worms can live inside humans as well. This is obviously a situation you’ll want to avoid. Until your dog has eliminated all worms, make sure you wash your hands any time you touch them. Don’t immediately eat anything right after you pet them, and don’t let them lick you…especially in the face! Also, make sure you don’t walk barefoot where your dog poops. Even when you clean up the mess, worm eggs that aren’t visible to the human eye can still be in the area.
As you can tell, it’s fairly simple to tell if your dog has worms. They don’t try to hide the symptoms. Even if they did, you’d still see the worms in your dogs poop. Right when you notice those signs, be sure to schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as you can. Once you find out from the vet what type of worms your dog has, you’ll be better prepared to prevent it from happening again in the future.
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