Intestinal parasites in dogs

Internal parasites can take several different forms and can affect the health of your dog or puppy. The most common internal parasite found in dogs are worms. This is in large part due to fact that a majority of all puppies acquire intestinal worms prior to birth or shortly thereafter.

Roundworms – These worms are generally 2 to 4 inches long. They look like spaghetti and are usually white or tan in color. If a dog has a heavy infestation, they can pass these in their feces and on occasion they’ll show up in their vomit. Roundworms can cause diarrhea and vomiting and affect the dog’s basic health and appearance. Puppies that are infected with these worms will appear potbellied. Roundworms may become so bad that they can create an intestinal blockage where the stool can’t pass. These worms can also be transferred to humans and can cause an infection which may even result in possible blindness if not treated.

Hookworms – These worms are parasitic worms that commonly infect both humans and dogs. These thin, tiny parasites can penetrate through the dogs skin whenever it walks on contaminated soil. When they get inside the body, hookworms will fasten themselves to the lining of the small intestine and feed on blood. Hookworms are much smaller than roundworms and can’t be seen with the naked eye. Microscopic stool examination is usually required to detect an infestation.

Tapeworms – These worms can be visually detected with the naked eye and are transmitted to dogs by the ingestion of infected meat or fleas. They are long and flat and attach themselves to the lining of the small intestine. When they reach maturity, they will segment and parts of their bodies will break off and enter the dog’s digestive system where they will be passed in the urine or feces. There aren’t any real noticeable symptoms, but you can sometimes find pieces of the worm in the dog’s feces.

Heartworms – These worms are transmitted by mosquitoes. They burrow into blood vessels and follow the blood stream until they end up in the heart. In about 6 months they grow into long spaghetti like worms about a foot long. These worms form a ball-like clump in the heart and interfere with the heart’s pumping action eventually causing heart failure. If the dog is not treated, they usually die from this parasite.

Dogs that are in good condition may not show any outward symptoms of most worm infestations. However, it’s a good to detect and treat these conditions so that if disease does occur, the dog’s immune system is in the best possible condition to handle a crisis. Also, some of these worms can also transfer to people. To avoid this, action should be taken to eradicate these parasites as soon as possible.

Early diagnosis of intestinal parasites is very important. Depending upon the type of worm present, the vet will prescribe a specific medication. Not all worms will be affected by the same medication and no single treatment works against them all.