Intestinal Worms

About Intestinal Worms

Intestinal worms are parasites which live within your dog's digestive system and feed off his blood and nutritive supply. Four types of intestinal worms axe common in Australia: Roundworm, Hookworm, Whipworm, and Tapeworm. All of these are potentially dangerous to your dog, and therefore all dogs should be routinely treated against all four to prevent serious infestation.

All dogs, and especially puppies, are susceptible, to worm infestation because the environment is contaminated with eggs and larvae which develop into adult worms when inside the dog. Such eggs and larvae can easily be picked from the surrounds either by licking the ground, their own coat or paws, thereby ingesting attached eggs. Roundworm eggs, for example, are passed out in the droppings of an infected dog, and an adult female Roundworm can lay up to 200,000 eggs every day! Dogs may also become infected by swallowing or drinking contaminated matter, or through direct penetration of the skin (such as the feet), as in the case of Hookworm. Puppies, in addition to their surroundings, are also in danger of becoming infected before they are even born. If the mother has not been effectively wormed prior to the pups, immature worms within her are stimulated to move into the uterus (or womb) to infect the unborn pups; young pups can continue to be infected through the bitch's milk after birth.

What Harm Do Worms Do?

Once swallowed, eggs and larvae develop into adult worms inside the dog, and although they spend the greater part of their lifecycle in the gut, part of their time may be spent in the liver or lungs. During this time they cause inflammation of the liver, lungs, stomach and intestine. Depending on the type of worm and the degree of infestation, worms may cause abdominal pain, indigestion, bloody droppings, weight loss, poor coat condition, and blood loss associated with anaemia and diarrhoea. Because diarrhoea involves abnormal fluid loss and decreased food absorption, an infected dog (especially a puppy) is in danger of dehydration, and in severe cases, death.

How do I detect worms?

Apart from the external symptoms described above, or a specific faecal test, worms are rarely evident in the early stages. Tapeworms, however, are easy to spot as the hindmost segments of the adult worm are shed in the droppings containing thousands of eggs each. These segments are about 1 cm long and cream in colour. In addition to this, infestation may be evident from excessive anal irritation, or in severe cases of Roundworm infestation, the vomiting up worms is common. Puppies are much more likely to be seriously affected than adults and the severely affected pup often displays a pot-bellied appearance with general thinness and poor condition.

Worm cycle

How do I treat my dog for worms?

Most puppies and dogs are treated routinely for these worms without actually diagnosing an infestation, and a suitable worming program should begin immediately. Most dogs from a registered breeder will have already started worm treatment which you should be familiar with and regular worming should proceed from here. A general regime for worming is to treat pups every 2 weeks until they are 3 months of age, i.e. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age, then every month until they are 6 months of age. After this, dogs should be regularly wormed every 3 to 6 months, which should be continued, throughout their adult life.

Seek veterinary advice regarding a worming program, and always use a reputable brand of worming treatment. Worming previously required two different types of tablets: one to deal with Roundworm, Hookworm and Whipworm (e.g. Canex plus), and another to treat Tapeworm (e.g. Droneit). However, now all four types of intestinal worms can be treated with the one product. These "allwormers" are available under various brand names, and vets typically stock "Drontal Allwormers" which are an effective tablets and usually available over the counter. Worming treatments usually come in a syrup form for young puppies but be careful that whatever product, or products, you are using, will cover all four types of worms and that you are administering the correct dosage for your dog's weight.

Are we in danger of worm infestation from our dog?

Yes, people can become infected with worms, and children in particular may become seriously ill through Roundworm infestation. This is likely to occur if, whilst playing, they come into contact with eggs present on the ground, in the droppings etc and subsequently put their fingers in their mouths.

The Tapeworm, or more specifically, the Hydatid Tapeworm, is another worm which can be passed on to humans. Eggs can likewise be passed from dogs, or the environment, on to humans, resulting in illness. Dogs can initially become infected with the Hydatid Tapeworm by eating infected raw meat or offal (especially raw sheep liver).

In conclusion, to reduce the chances of you or your pet becoming ill through worms, the following measures can be taken:

Vaccinations Health and your Siberian Heartworm