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Intestinal worms in dogs: Get the facts

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Learn how dogs can pick up intestinal worms, as well as how to prevent and get rid of them.
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A dog digging in the dirt

It’s an unfortunate reality of pet ownership that your dog will probably pick up intestinal worms at some point in their life. It’s even more unfortunate that intestinal worms often go unnoticed and undiagnosed because symptoms may not present themselves. If left untreated, your dog may fall seriously ill – and there’s also a chance that you can become infected, too. Here’s what you need to know to protect your dog and your family from intestinal worms.

What are intestinal worms? 

Intestinal worms are parasites that infect a host – like your dog – and take up residence in their intestines, feeding off their blood, or the food in the intestines, and causing a wide array of symptoms. Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and whipworm are all common worms your dog or puppy can pick up. Learn more about these common worms in our complete guide.

How do dogs and puppies get infected with intestinal worms?

One of the reasons intestinal worms are so common in dogs and puppies is because they can be picked up in several different places:

In utero or through their mother’s milk:

Puppies frequently get worms from their mother. If the mother is infected with worms, she can pass them to her pups in-utero or through her milk.

From worm eggs or larvae in faeces or soil:

Dogs can get worms if they ingest eggs or larvae – for example, if your dog sniffs, digs or plays with a toy in contaminated dirt or grass. Hookworms in the soil can also infect your dog by burrowing into your dog’s skin, typically the paws or belly.

From scavenging or hunting:

Your dog can contract worms from eating infected animals like rodents, wildlife and grazing animals. Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms can all be contracted this way.

From fleas:

Finally, your dog can get tapeworms from infected fleas. If a dog consumes a flea carrying the tapeworm parasite (perhaps in the process of grooming), they may have to contend with tapeworms as well as a flea infestation.

Symptoms of intestinal worms in dogs 

Most dogs will show few or no symptoms of an intestinal worm infection. If symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • Scooting on their bottom
  • Worms or worm segments being visible in your dog’s faeces
  • Bloody or mucoid faeces
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Coughing
  • Anaemia and even death
     

To determine if your dog has worms, and which kind of worms, your veterinarian will complete a physical exam and take a stool sample for a faecal examination. You can also ask your vet to include a faecal exam as part of your dog’s regular wellness check to ensure your dog isn’t infected.

How to treat intestinal worms in dogs

An intestinal worming treatment such as Advocate® Fleas, Heartworm and Worms Treatment for Dogs kills all common intestinal nematode worms in dogs, including immature adults and larvae of roundworms and hookworms. An easy-to-use, spot-on treatment, Advocate provides comprehensive parasite protection against intestinal nematode worms, heartworms and fleas.

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