What Are The Different Types of Worms in Dogs? The 6 Most Common

Almost every dog owner at one point or another gets the news that their dog has worms. If you’re like most pet parents, the first thing you’ll do is search the internet for information on how to get rid of these nasty little parasites. You then quickly learn that there are many different types of worms and the treatment for each one is different. Talk about adding to the confusion! Here at K9Nerds, we’ve published a number of articles on how to treat worms, but this one is going to be different. Instead of talking about worms in general, we will be going into detail on each one and then showing you how to treat that exact species of worms.

There are 6 primary different types of worms that dogs can get. Here are all six of them plus how to tell which kind your dog has.

The most common types of worms are:

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Whipworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Heartworms
  • Lungworms

If you already know what type of worm your dog has been infected with, feel free to skip to the appropriate section. If you aren’t sure, make sure you go through each one below and read the signs/symptoms section and figure out which one matches up the closest with your dogs symptoms. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to have your dog examined by the vet so make sure you schedule an appointment ASAP.

Roundworms

Roundworms are the most common type of intestinal worm found in dogs. Puppies are incredibly vulnerable to this type of infection because they can become infected from their mother before birth or from their mothers milk. That’s why puppies should receive deworming medication every two weeks until they are 12 weeks of age. Roundworms go through the lungs as they make their way to the gastrointestinal tract, this can cause damage to the lungs resulting in respiratory damage.

Signs/Symptoms

Though there may be no early signs of roundworm infection, owners should look for changes from normal behavior and eating patterns. Roundworms reside in the intestines of a dog, so they will likely affect the digestion of a dog which may lead to diarrhea, occasionally vomiting, and weight loss.

As previously mentioned, roundworms travel through the lungs. As a result, a dog may cough up the roundworms to then swallow them, which means frequent coughing may be another sign of roundworms. Additional symptoms include a dull coat (from malnutrition) and distended (bloated/swollen) abdomen.

Treatment 

Treatment of roundworms includes multiple doses of oral deworming medication. Although there are several OTC meds, we recommend going to the vet for medication since prescription meds typically work faster. If you just welcomed a puppy into your own, it’s a good idea to make sure they’ve receive their cycle of deworming medication. If they haven’t, it would be a good idea to make sure they are dewormed even if they show no signs of an infection.

Prevention

Hygiene is the key to preventing roundworms. Make sure you clean up your dogs feces immediately since this will attract roundworms. Another common way roundworms are spread is through rear end sniffing. All dogs love to do it, but your dog can actually inhale the larvae from an infected dog, so do your best to prevent your dog from “getting to know” other dogs in this manner. If your dog is in the habit of chasing around and killing other small animals such as rats, do your best to prevent this behavior. Rodents can carry worms and pass them along to your dog.

Hookworms

These types of worms received their name because they hook into the intestines of the dog. They survive on the blood of the host. Hookworms are contracted through the skin and feet from contaminated soil. Dogs can also ingest hookworms from grooming themselves after being in contaminated areas.

Signs/Symptoms

Hookworms are one of the hardest worms to identify outside of a veterinary visit. Since hookworms attach themselves to the intestines of dogs, there may be few signs that can alert to an infestation. Still, some dogs may experience weight loss and diarrhea. However, many dogs exhibit no noticeable signs or symptoms. If you think your dog has been exposed to hookworms, contact your veterinarian.

Treatment 

Treatment involves multiple oral doses of deworming medication. Though there are some over-the-counter medications, the effectiveness for hookworm treatment varies, therefore, for the most effective treatment, consult your vet. Preventative medications are available both from a veterinarian and over-the-counter and work very well.

Prevention

Just like roundworms, one of the best ways to prevent your dog from getting hookworms is to keep the surrounding area clean. Fecal examinations should also be performed in adult dogs 1-2 times per year. If you catch it early, simple medication will quickly git rid of the infection.

Whipworms

Like hookworms, they attach themselves to the intestinal wall of dogs. Your dog can get whipworm from being exposed to contaminated areas. They then ingest the eggs while grooming. Eggs are deposited through a dog’s feces and can lay dormant for years.

Signs/Symptoms

Much like hookworms, few signs are directly associated with whipworms. As a result, sudden changes in a dog’s appetite and behavior may or may not be evident. Whipworms survive on the blood of the host, causing a dog to become anemic and lethargic if the infestation goes on for an extended period of time.

In severe infestations, bloody stools may be noticeable. A stool sample may show whipworm eggs, however, due to their decreased reproduction rate, they are not always present and repeated testing may be necessary to confirm the presence of whipworms.

Treatment

Treatment again involves multiple doses of oral medication. However, there is no over-the-counter treatment for whipworms, so a veterinary visit will be necessary. Also, some heartworm preventative medications have shown to also protect against whipworms in some cases.

Prevention

Your dog should see a veterinarian for an annual fecal examination once per year. Thankfully whipworms aren’t nearly as common as they were a decade ago thanks to advancements in medicine. Most heartworm treatments will also prevent whipworms.

Tapeworms

These type of worms are typically contracted from fleas. Dogs with fleas are more at risk for contracting tapeworms than those treated regularly to prevent fleas. Dogs get tapeworms by ingesting the fleas as they groom themselves or biting the fleas causing their itching.

Tapeworms grow into long segmented sections; these sections contain eggs. As a tapeworm matures, the sections break off and are excreted in a dog’s feces.

Signs/Symptoms

The most common sign that a dog has tapeworms is the dog’s tendency to drag their rear across the ground. The segments containing eggs can also be seen easily in a dog’s stool.

Treatment 

Treatment for tapeworms is one or multiple doses of an oral medication designed explicitly for tapeworms. Additionally, due to their chance of re-infestation, dogs are typically treated for fleas at the same time.

Unfortunately, over-the-counter deworming medications do not treat tapeworms, so a trip to the veterinarian will be necessary. Prevention of fleas, however, will prevent tapeworms.

Prevention

As mentioned, this type of worm is typically caused by fleas. Keeping your dog on a flea prevention schedule will greatly reduce the chances of a tapeworm infection. However, your dog can still get tapeworms by roaming around outside and eating soil that has a flea in it. Make sure you use flea spray all around your yard so your dog doesn’t accidentally ingest one.

Heartworms

These are one of the most dangerous parasites that a dog can contract. Unlike the worms above, heartworms grow within a dog’s heart, lungs, and other blood vessels. Heartworms can grow to an astonishing 12 inches long. Mosquitos spread them from one infected animal to another. Therefore, any area where mosquitos thrive, dogs are at risk for heartworms.

Signs/Symptoms

Mild coughing, fatigue, and a decreased appetite are some of the earliest signs that a dog may have contracted heartworms, but even these can take six months or more before showing up. These signs will increase as the heartworm infection increases until the heartworms begin to compromise major organs and body functions.

Treatment 

The severity of the infection determines treatment. If heartworms are caught very early, oral medications may be enough. More severe cases may include injections, antibiotics, and even long-term prescriptions if there is permanent damage to the heart or other organs.

Prevention

Heatworms can be extremely dangerous, because of that it’s important to take prevention seriously. Heartworms are spread by mosquitos, so the best way to prevent them is to keep your dog away from mosquitos…but you know as well as I do that’s not possible. The only way to truly prevent heartworms is by giving them year-round treatment. The good news is medication is fairly cheap and also does a great job at preventing other worms such as whipworms.

Lungworms

These are the lesser known worms that a dog can contract. They are carried by slugs and snails and can be transmitted between dogs as well. Lungworms travel through the circulatory system and mature in the capillaries of the lungs.

Signs/Symptoms

Few signs or symptoms will alert to lungworm infection. Though lungworms can cause a gagging reflex, vomiting, decrease in appetite and weight-loss like many other worms.

Treatment 

Treatment for lungworms includes medication to kill the worms and corticosteroids to heal damaged lung tissue. Sometimes fuller treatment for respiratory distress and pneumonia may be necessary.

Prevention

True prevention without medication is nearly impossible with lungworms. Dogs eat slugs and snails without you even realizing it. If you let your dog run around outside, you can’t control everything they do. That’s why we recommend you talk to your vet about getting on a 3 month worming cycle. You can also ask them about medications that prevents multiple types of worms instead of just lungworms.

Treat The Issue ASAP

Worms are no joke. They are fairly simple and cost effective to treat/prevent, so there’s no reason to delay a treatment plan if your dog has been infected. If you don’t treat the issue as soon as possible, your dog will quickly become malnourished and possible respiratory/heart damage may occur. Your best option is to keep your dog on dewormer medication year-round that prevents multiple worms.

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