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Intestinal Worms in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Posted on 16 June 2022
Intestinal Worms in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

An unfortunately common unwanted guest. Intestinal worms are a concern for pet owners, and the three things they should know are how to tell if they have worms, how they can get them, and how to get rid of them.

 

The 4 most common types of intestinal worms in Australia

Intestinal parasites are less common in Australia now than in previous years due to vaccinations, early intervention, and the diligence of pet owners. In southern states, intestinal worms are even rarer, but in Queensland, our dogs are at higher risk. 

There is more than one type of worm that can affect our dogs. The four most common in South East Queensland and the Toowoomba region are:

  • Whipworms

  • Hookworms

  • Roundworms

  • Tapeworms

Each type of intestinal worm infection can be contracted differently, cause different health impacts, and have varied recommended treatments.

 

Whipworms

Whipworms are far less common compared to other worms in Australia. They’re intestinal parasites that are shaped as their name suggests, thicker at the front and thinner in the back. Whipworms are usually around 6mm long.

They can cause severe irritation to the lining of our pet’s intestines and have a greater chance of causing disease compared to other intestinal worms.

Symptoms of whipworms in dogs:

A dog affected by whipworms may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Sudden or chronic weight loss

  • Diarrhoea (often with blood or visible mucus coatings)

How dogs get whipworms

Whipworm eggs are passed in animal droppings and are resistant to elements like heat and dryness. An egg could remain alive in the environment for up to five years. 

A dog may then unknowingly ingest dirt or feces containing whipworm eggs and become infected after 10-60 days. 

 

Roundworms

Roundworms are one of the most commonly noticed intestinal parasites in Australia because they’re visible to the naked eye and can be spotted in our pet’s droppings. They can also be coughed and vomited up. 

Roundworms can grow as long as 9 to 18cm in length and are usually a cream-yellow colour.

Symptoms of roundworms in dogs

Roundworms can cause the following effects on our dogs:

  • Diarrhoea 

  • Weight loss

  • A loss of energy and general lethargy

  • A change in coat colour or feeling

  • A thick, more rounded or bloated stomach/abdomen

How dogs get roundworms

Roundworms are most commonly passed through droppings of animals– usually when a dog sniffs, licks, or tries to eat an infected animal’s feces. 

Their eggs can also be passed through common animals and insects like mice, worms, birds, and cockroaches.

 

Tapeworms

Tapeworms don’t often cause serious health problems in fully-grown dogs but can cause great discomfort and agitation. 

In younger dogs, however, a serious tapeworm infestation can stunt growth and cause anemia and intestinal blockages.

Symptoms of tapeworms in dogs

The well-known scooting behaviour in which dogs drag their backside along the ground is often an indication of tapeworms in pets. Other than scooting, common symptoms of tapeworms in dogs include visible signs of agitation like:

  • Itching

  • Chewing or licking at their rear end

How dogs get tapeworms

Tapeworms are unusual in contraction as they must be passed through an intermediate host before infecting dogs. 

In Australia, tapeworms are most commonly passed via fleas after dogs accidentally ingest them when grooming or responding to agitations.

 

Hookworms

Hookworms are small and barely visible to the naked eye. They get their name from their behaviour and how they latch onto pets with their hook-like mouths. 

Hookworms only grow to 2-3mm in length, but despite their size, they can cause serious health problems, like anemia, for both dogs and cats. 

Symptoms of hookworms in dogs

A dog that’s affected by hookworms might show the following signs:

  • Diarrhoea (often with blood)

  • Anemia (lack of red blood cells. Characterised by pale or white gums)

  • Weakness and lethargy

How dogs contract hookworms

Dogs can contract hookworms through:

  • Their mouth

  • Their skin

  • Utero (through the placenta)

  • Their mother’s milk

Because dogs can attract hookworms through their skin, they could become infected when lying or playing on contaminated ground. 

 

Most effective ways to prevent intestinal worms in dogs

Worm prevention

All dogs (even as young as two to three weeks) should be treated with veterinary-approved anthelmintic products to help the prevention of worms. 

Depending on your recommended treatment advice, you may need to treat your pet as commonly as once a month or every three months. The recommended prescription depends on variables like your pet’s age, breed, weight, and lifestyle.

Make a booking online to see a veterinary specialist, and to determine the best worming tablets for your dog. 

Contact us to find an available date or use our online booking service. Alternatively, call our vet reception between the wide hours of 7 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday and Saturdays 8:30 am to 1 pm, at (07) 4630 8399.

Treatment of worms

If you suspect that your pet has an intestinal parasite, or they’re exhibiting similar or unusual symptoms, contact us

Your veterinary doctor will likely prescribe an oral or injectable dewormer and will provide advice on administering it and future prevention.

While most worm infections aren’t lethal, every case is unique. Your pet’s infection could be worsened by its age, breed, and existing health conditions.

Call Highfields Vet Surgery at (07) 4630 8399 to make a booking.

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