The presence of parasites or worms is the most frequent health issue your furry friend can encounter. With a careful, caring routine, you can prevent your dog from getting any disease related to parasites. There are about five types of worms that are known to generally affect dogs: heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. We compiled a list with a couple of signs and symptoms of a dog having worms so that you can better understand the nature of these parasites.
Types of worms and specific symptoms
A large percentage of dogs are born with small larvae in their tissue, which is passed to their system through the uterus of their mother. Roundworms can also pass from the mother to the puppy through milk. This larva makes its way to the intestine where it feeds on intestinal fluid, tissue, blood, and mucus while producing a chemical that prevents the host from digesting them. There, they can grow up to 5 inches in length, and they will start shedding eggs.
Female roundworms can produce up to 200,000 eggs in just one day, and these eggs have a hard shell, which means that they can live in soil or moist areas for years. When the eggs hatch, larvae are released internally to migrate to the animal’s lungs where the larvae are coughed up, then swallowed, and finally, they reach the small intestine where they continue their life-cycle.
Symptoms of dogs having these worms are often represented by coughing, poor growth or the appearance of a pot-belly. These worms could be sometimes also seen in your dog’s stools or vomit.
Whipworms resemble tiny pieces of thread, with one end being enlarged. They live in the cecum, the first part of the dog’s large intestine. Whipworm infections can occur after ingesting or getting in contact with water or dirt contaminated with feces containing whipworm parasites.
Once they reach the small intestine, whipworm eggs will hatch and release larvae, the adult worms that live in the large intestine. The female worms begin to lay eggs about two months later and can lay between 3,000 and 20,000 eggs per day
Anyone who came in contact with contaminated feces can also get a whipworm infection.
Common symptoms include chronic weight loss, stools that are covered in mucus or that are way too frequent, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Unfortunately, whipworm infestations are difficult to prove because whipworms lay fewer eggs compared to other worm species. There are cases where not even an examination of several stool samples might reveal the presence of whipworms.
These worms are very small, and thin. They attach themselves to the wall of the small intestine and they suck blood from the vessels in the intestinal lining. Dogs can get hookworms through larval migration in the uterus, from their mothers, through direct contact with the larvae from stool-contaminated soil, or by ingesting the eggs.
Usual symptoms of intestinal worms in dogs include bloody diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and progressive weakness. These parasites can be deadly for your furry friend, especially if we are talking about puppies, which have a weaker immune system. Dogs can get severely anemic from the loss of blood caused by these parasites.
The tapeworm parasite is transmitted to dogs that ingest fleas or hunt and eat wildlife or rodents infected with tapeworms or fleas. These worms can reach 6 inches in length within the intestine, and they are structured in an interesting way. This parasite has a small head at one end and up to 90 segments connected to the head which form its body. The last segment is usually shed and can be found in your dog’s stool or on the fur of the pet’s tail. This is a telling sign for diagnosing your dog.
Other usual symptoms include that tapeworms can irritate your dog’s rear end, so watch out if the dog shows any signs of discomfort. Your dog might also be in a lethargic state or losing weight while eating normally.
Heartworm disease starts with an infected animal, known as the source, that has circulating microfilaria in its blood. Through a mosquito bite, infected blood is transferred from the infected animal to a healthy one. Once this worm finds a host, it continues its development. It takes at least 6 to 7 months for the heartworm to become sexually mature before the infection can be finally detected through a Heartworm test. It will continue to live in the heart until its death, but it lives between 5-7 years.
The heartworms actually continue to grow in size after reaching sexual maturity and the females are passing microfilaria into the blood, which results in dogs being infested with numerous worms. They can cause mechanical blockage to the normal flow of blood, adult females being able to grow up to 14 inches long.
When dogs have worms, many symptoms are not visible and there might be no detectable signs. One of the most severe signs of heartworms in dogs is the Vena Cava Syndrome, where up to 100 worms invade the heart, causing an almost complete blockage of blood flow. Prevention is the best cure for the disease caused by these parasites, so if a dog is suspect of having heartworms he or she should immediately undergo a physical exam, chest X-rays and blood tests.
Can humans get worms from dogs? What are the symptoms?
Humans are most likely to be infected with roundworms from dogs, and usually, children are prone to infestation, due to their weak immune system and poor hygiene. Humans can get in contact with these parasites through contaminated soil or feces. Symptoms include eye, lung, and neurological issues.
Hookworms can also infect humans, by penetrating through the skin. This can happen when a worm travels from your dog’s skin to yours. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, fever, blood in the stools and loss in appetite.
Humans can’t really get tapeworms, heartworms or whipworms from dogs, but rare cases have been recorded among children.
To sum up, it’s very important to pay attention to your dog’s health and watch out for any signs that could prove he has a parasite infection. The sooner you act, the higher the chances for your dog’s life to go back to normal.