Intestinal Parasites

Worms in dogs are a small part of a larger realm of intestinal parasites, which live inside the host animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Examples include roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and protozoa, such as, giardia and coccidia.

Common Intestinal Parasites in Cats and Dogs

  • Roundworms (Ascarids) – Acquired by ingesting soil/feces contaminated by eggs and larvae, or by eating infected rodents, birds and insects.
  • HookwormsMost commonly infected by ingesting larvae or by the actual penetration of larvae through their skin or feet.
  • WhipwormsDogs acquire them by ingesting eggs from contaminated soil/feces.
  • Tapeworms Infected by eating small rodents/rabbits, or by ingesting fleas which carry the infective stage.
  • CoccidiaInfected by ingesting contaminated dirt/feces or intermediate hosts, such as mice. 
  • Giardia A protozoal (one-celled) organism that parasitizes the small intestine of dogs and cats.  Pets are infected by ingesting the cyst form of this organism from contaminated food and water.
  • Physaloptera (stomach worms) – They are often treated for by your veterinarian if your pet has chronic vomiting.  Pets are infected by eating an intermediate host such as a cricket, cockroach or another animal which has ingested one of these insects.

If you suspect that your pet has Worms

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What are the symptoms of intestinal parasites?

While external parasites like fleas and ticks are easy to spot, intestinal parasites like worms in dogs are rarely seen, because they live inside your pet’s intestinal tract and pass microscopic eggs or spores in your pet’s stool that are too small to be seen by the naked eye. Tapeworms are one exception–they shed segments that resemble sesame seeds or grains of rice and are typically seen in your pet’s stool or around their rectum. Roundworms are another exception since they may occasionally be seen in your pet’s vomit or stool. Nevertheless, intestinal parasites are difficult to spot and you should not rely on seeing them before taking your dog to the veterinarian.

Besides being hard to detect, many dogs infected with intestinal parasites are asymptomatic. Even symptomatic dogs may go undetected because their symptoms can be nonspecific. The most common signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites are:

  • Scooting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (bloody, intermittent, or any combination)
  • A distended abdomen
  • Weight loss
  • Occasionally coughing

Worms in dogs: How?

worms and parasites in dogsDogs can contract intestinal parasites via different routes. Parasites are usually transmitted when an animal inadvertently ingests parasite eggs or spores in contaminated soil, water, feces or food. In the case of tapeworms, they can also be transmitted when a dog eats an infected flea. Puppies, on the other hand, usually get intestinal parasites from their mother. Transmission can occur in utero or from nursing.

The most common places that dogs get whipworms are in dog parks, common dog-walk areas, doggy day cares, etc.  Whipworm eggs can survive in the soil for up to 10 years.  If your dog frequents these places, it’s important that they are on a preventative, as many dogs are not.  It’s important to discuss the lifestyle habits of your pet with your vet, so your we can recommend the best heartworm preventative for your pet.

Interesting Facts About Roundworms

  • Roundworms, or nematodes, are slender worms that can live, feed and reproduce in an animal intestine.
  • Roundworms can lay up 100,000 eggs per DAY.
  • There are about 12,000 different VERIFIED species, worldwide.
    • There are probably many more unrecognized species.
  • Roundworms range in length from less than a millimetre to a metre.
  • Many Roundworms are predatory carnivores that have TEETH.
  • All freshwater nematodes secrete a sticky mucous from the tip of their hind end which anchors the worm in place, whether it be on a rock or inside an intestine.
  • Round worms inhabit virtually every habitat in the seas, freshwater, and on land, although some species have very specific habitats.
  • Infections of roundworm happen more often in warm, tropical climates in poor, rural communities.
  • Round worm eggs can survive in the soil for up to 10 years
  • Roundworms can also infect humans
  • Most nematodes have the ability to suspend their life processes completely (like being dead), when food or oxygen become scarce.
  • They have sex and lay eggs.
  • They are cannibalistic, when necessary.

How to prevent worms in dogs?

While the thought that your pet may have intestinal parasites may make you uneasy, intestinal parasites are not only treatable, but preventable. In fact, many people are already protecting their pets and family from intestinal parasites and don’t even know about it.   Most monthly heartworm medications contain a broad spectrum dewormer that also from many intestinal parasites.  If your dog is not already on monthly parasite preventatives, bring them in to discuss how you can protect your pets and family from intestinal parasites.  Also, before you bring a new pet into the household, it’s important to have them checked by your veterinarian, so as not to expose your other pets or family to parasites.

Remember:  The best way to protect your pets against parasites is to keep them on parasite preventatives and have their stool checked at least once a year.