Intestinal worms cause few outwardly noticeable symptoms at the early stages of infestation. Knowing your dog's regular behavior patterns helps you detect subtle clues when something -- such as intestinal parasites -- is amiss. While symptoms may not seem life-threatening at the time, getting your dog treated by a veterinarian will eliminate needless suffering your dog just can't communicate to you.
She's Acting a Little "Off"
Maybe Fifi isn't prancing around the way she usually does but prefers just lying around. She's looking a little thin, you think, but you're not really sure. Her eyes don't sparkle the way they used to, and she wears out easily when you take her for a walk or throw her favorite toy for a game of fetch. Often the first signs of parasites are those vague, nondescript symptoms signalling that a dog is getting drained of her energy by a parasitic worm. Don't be afraid to call your vet with vague symptoms -- he'll usually recommend a test for parasites.
She's Obsessed With Her Nether Regions
Your reaction to Fifi dragging her bottom across your carpet may range from hilarious to horrified, but the cause for her antics are no laughing matter. Worms are commonly passed through your dog's feces to continue their life cycle, and they make her bottom itch and burn along their way. She might spend an inordinate amount of time licking her backside to sooth the feeling, so that's your signal to check the hair around her anus for tiny wriggling worms and call your vet for treatment.
She's All Choked Up
Coughing and gagging can indicate the presence of mature heartworms or lungworms. The heartworm larvae circulate in the blood until they mature, when they migrate to the heart's right ventricle. As the heart gets congested with worms, your dog has an irrepressible urge to cough in an attempt to dislodge the parasites and makes a "soft cough" kind of like clearing her throat. Lungworms fill the trachea and lungs as they grow, causing Fifi a harsh, hacking cough as well as wheezing or other signs of respiratory distress.
She's Getting Sick
Intestinal parasites such as roundworm or tapeworm may make your dog nauseous. Sometimes the nausea shows up on a car ride as excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth in dogs that don't usually get car sick. If your dog vomits or has diarrhea for no apparent reason, check to see if tapeworm segments or small rice-like roundworms are visible in her excrement and call your vet to determine and treat the cause of her illness.