How to Prevent & Treat Doggy Worms

by Yvette Sajem
Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 U.S. states.

Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 U.S. states.

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Canine worms are parasites that survive by invading your dog's body and using it as a food source and reproduction site. Depending on the species of worm and the extent of infestation, worms can cause considerable damage, disease and even death. Treatment of canine worms is possible, but can be painful, even life-threatening, for your dog. Prevention is easy, readily available and better for your dog's health.

Hookworm Infection

Hookworms use their sharp teeth to dig into the small intestines and feed on blood. They cause bloody diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, anemia, gastrointestinal inflammation and death, especially in puppies. Treatment depends on the severity of infestation. Light infestations can be treated by a veterinarian with medication, nutritional supplementation and iron. Heavy infestations typically require hospitalization for fluid therapy, oxygen and blood transfusions. Prevent hookworm infection in newborn puppies with routine deworming -- under the guidance of a veterinarian -- at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age. Prevent infections in older puppies and adult dogs with routine deworming or by administering a monthly heartworm preventative that also kills hookworms.

Whipworm Infection

Whipworms reside in your dog's cecum, where the small and large intestines meet. Dogs with whipworms show few symptoms, although some present with weight loss, watery diarrhea or bloody, mucous-filled stools. Over-the-counter medications will not treat whipworms. Treatment with medications such as fenbendazole or milbemycin oxime, administered several times over a few weeks, is required. Prevention is much easier. As with hookworms, simply give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative that also kills whipworms.

Roundworm Infection

Roundworms reside in your dog's small intestines, laying eggs and feeding on intestinal contents. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, swollen belly, inappetence, coughing and lethargy. Heavy infestations can cause intestinal blockages and ruptures, stunted growth, and even death, especially in puppies. Treatment for roundworms is administered over several weeks by a veterinarian using medications to kill eggs and larvae. Heavy infestations may require surgery to remove roundworm material. Newborn puppies should be routinely wormed at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 14 weeks of age. Prevent roundworms in your older puppy or adult dog through routine deworming or via the monthly administration of a heartworm preventative that also kills roundworms.

Tapeworm Infection

Tapeworms invade your dog's body when he ingests a flea or infected rodent. They attach to the small intestines, where they feed on intestinal contents and nutrients. An infested dog may bite at his anus or tail base, or drag his bottom across the floor. You may notice white, rice-shaped segments in his feces. Tapeworms typically don't pose a serious health threat to adult dogs, but in puppies they can cause anemia, stunted growth and intestinal blockages. Your veterinarian can treat tapeworms by administering a pill or an injection, usually twice within a few weeks. There's no way to prevent tapeworms except to keep your dog and home free of fleas, and keep your pooch away from tasty rodents.

Heartworm Disease

Dirofilaria immitis, commonly called heartworms, is one of the most dangerous parasites your dog can contract. Transmitted by the bite of a single mosquito, heartworms invade your dog's cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Newly infected dogs show no outward signs of infestation, while dogs with heavy infestations present with coughing, fatigue, inappetence, weight loss, anemia, fainting and heart failure. Heartworms are 100 percent fatal without treatment. Treatment typically involves hospitalization, medication to kill the parasites and restricted activity during recovery. Very heavy infestations may require surgery to remove heartworm material. Heartworm treatment is a long, painful process that some dogs do not survive, but prevention is easy. Simply administer one of the many available monthly heartworm preventatives. Consult your veterinarian for the best preventative for your dog.

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