- Roundworms. Roundworms (ascarids) can be transmitted either by the mother dog through birthing or nursing, or from dirt and grounds contaminated by animal feces. These critters can really make your puppy very sick with diarrhea, and for small dogs and puppies it can be deadly. Antibiotics and dewormers will cure these in just a few doses.
- Hookworms. Hookworms are parasitic nematodes with toothy jaws that drink the blood of their host. Puppies can be infected from their mother during birth, and adult dogs through feces or contaminated soil This worm causes weakness, malnutrition, and dehydration. Puppies are treated and cured with one or two doses of an oral dewormer.
- Whipworms. Whipworms (trichuris vulpis) is usually transmitted from ingesting infested items, such as dirt or minute particles of feces. While whipworms in adult dogs can cause some illness, usually diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and vomiting, puppies can become seriously ill with even a small infestation, due to their smaller size and weaker immune system. Because whipworms are ingested, keeping puppy kennels clean, and not allowing puppies to eat dirt/grass/rocks outside is key to preventing an infestation. This parasite is treated with a broad spectrum dewormer but can take multiple doses because of its hardiness.
- Heartworms. Heartworms in dogs are not transmitted through infected matter or during the birthing process, but come from a simple mosquito bite. One bite from an infected mosquito can release heartworm larvae into the pet’s bloodstream, where they grow and head for the heart. There they grow, essentially crowding the heart and causing decreased blood flow and diminished heart function. This is more common in states where mosquitoes live all year round and have no cold weather to keep their spawning in check. While heartworms can be deadly, they’re the easiest to prevent with a monthly supplement. Heartworm disease is treatable, but treatment can be costly and dangerous to the dog.
- Tapeworms. Tapeworms are transmitted through the ingestion of fleas. If your pet has fleas, or ingests a flea while grooming, he can contract tapeworms. These are the only parasites that can be visible to the naked eye, and when they are shed in the dog’s feces, they look like small grains of rice. Tapeworms are preventable with a monthly flea prevention, and can be treated with a single dose of dewormer.
Even the most insidious of the worms we’ve discussed can be preventable with the proper medication. Oral medications such as Heartgard and Interceptor will prevent heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. Topical medications like Frontline or Advantix will help prevent fleas as well as tick borne diseases, which I’ll cover in a future post. All puppies are routinely dewormed as they grow to help get rid of any worms that might have traveled out of mom with them, before they are placed on the monthly preventative.
If you think your dog has worms, make sure you speak with your vet. They will usually suggest checking a fecal sample to see if any of these critters show up under the microscope. Then they’ll be able to advise on the proper cure for whatever might be lurking.