From digging in the dirt to chowing down on the faeces of other dogs, our canine companions indulge in a range of pastimes that are not only frustrating but that can also put them at risk of developing intestinal worms. In fact, your new puppy may even have worms before you bring him home, so worm prevention is an essential duty for all dog owners.
From vomiting and diarrhoea to anaemia and a host of more serious health issues, intestinal worms can cause a plethora of problems for our canine companions. Here’s what you need to know to protect your dog from worms.
Worms to Watch Out For
Although there are several internal parasites that can cause chaos for your dog’s health, the most common culprits in Australia are:
These nasty parasites like to set up shop in your dog’s intestines, feeding on the blood from your pet’s intestinal lining. Your dog can catch hookworms from the environment — eating the faeces of an infected dog is a common way these nasties spread —and they can cause bloody diarrhoea, weakness and anaemia. Not only that, but these worms can also be passed on to humans.
These long, spaghetti-like worms live in your pooch’s small intestine and their eggs can be passed on via a dog’s poo. It’s thought that up to 75 per cent of puppies have roundworm, which can cause diarrhoea, bloating (look for a pot-belly) and even death in puppies. Roundworms also pose a risk to humans.
If your dog has started scooting along the ground, he could be suffering from tapeworm. Tapeworms live in the small intestine and come in two types: flea tapeworm and hydatid tapeworm. The latter is usually the more serious of the two and is spread via infected raw meat and offal. Objects that look like grains of rice in your dog’s poo, or that cling to the fur around your pooch’s rear end, could indicate the presence of tapeworm.
Named for their distinctive shape, whipworms are a common cause of diarrhoea and in serious cases can cause weight loss, lethargy and anaemia. They’re spread when your dog eats eggs that live in soil, and whipworm eggs are able to survive in the environment for several years.
Heartworms can also pose significant health risks and even be fatal for your dog, but we’ll touch on heartworm prevention and treatment in another article.
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Worms
There are several dog worm symptoms you should keep an eye out for, including:
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Eggs or worms in your dog’s faeces
- Poor body condition
- Sore or swollen abdomen
If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet for a check-up.
Worm Treatment for Dogs
If your dog is infected with intestinal worms, in most cases the treatment is simple. There are plenty of worming tablets on the market that will do the trick — your vet will be able to advise you on the best worm treatment for your dog.
However, additional treatment may be required if your dog is seriously unwell. For example, dogs that are anaemic may require a blood transfusion to restore them to full health.
Worm Prevention for Dogs
It’s important to remember that intestinal worming treatments only kill worms — they don’t actually prevent them. With this in mind, worming your dog is important all year round.
As a general rule, puppies will need to be given an intestinal wormer every fortnight until they reach 12 weeks of age, and then wormed monthly until they reach their six-month birthday. From that time on, adult dogs can be wormed every three months.
There’s a huge array of dog worming products to choose from, including:
- Interceptor Spectrum – a monthly heartworm and intestinal wormer in the form of a tasty treat
- Milbemax – a tablet that can be given monthly for heartworm or every three months for intestinal worms
- Sentinel Spectrum – a monthly chewable tablet that covers fleas, heartworm and intestinal worms
- Panoramis – a monthly chewable tablet that protects your dog against intestinal worms and fleas
- Drontal – a chewable that controls all intestinal worms
- Advocate – a spot-on treatment that controls roundworm, hookworm and whipworm, as well as fleas and heartworm
- Canex – a multi-spectrum intestinal wormer for puppies and dogs
- Purina Total Care – a range of chews available to treat different types of dog worms
If you’re unsure about the right worming product for your dog, ask your vet for help. There’s also a few other simple steps you can take to prevent intestinal worms:
- Make sure that you worm all your pets
- Clean dog poo from your yard regularly
- Don’t let your dog eat the faeces of other animals when out for a walk
- Wash and clean your dog’s bedding and sleeping area regularly
- Don’t feed raw meat or offal
- Make sure you use a flea prevention product for your dog
With the right knowledge and a sensible approach, you can terminate worms and ensure that your dog is protected all year long.