Many pets have parasites (worms) of various varieties; especially pets who live in close quarters with others or who roam free where they can pick up parasites from feral or other animals.
Many internal parasites have intermediate hosts: animals or insects who ingest or in some way harbor the early stages of parasite development and then pass the parasite to your dog or cat. Tape worms are carried by fleas, and heartworms are carried by mosquitoes.
Many breeders routinely worm puppies and kittens at 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age with mild roundworm wormers. Bitches and Queens are wormed prior to breeding and after giving birth.
Since most wormers cannot be relied upon to prevent re-infection or to remove larvae that are either not present in the intestinal tract at the time of initial treatment or not in a treatable stage of development at that time, it is recommended that (in most cases) worming be done in two treatments, 2 weeks apart.
If your puppy shows symptoms of infestation or you suspect any problem, take a stool sample with you to your veterinarian. The vet can view the sample under a microscope and diagnose which, if any, worms are present.
Round worms (ascarids) are the most common type of worms nation-wide. Although they can be life-threatening, they are usually not considered as dangerous as hook worms which can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and loss of blood. However, they can completely fill a puppy's gut, leaving no room for food or nutrients. Puppies with grossly distended bellies generally suffer from round worms and malnutrition. Sometimes they excrete a pile of worms in their stool, though usually they go unnoticed by the owner.
They can migrate into the lungs.
Puppies can get them from their mother's milk. They are also transmitted through fecal material when puppies walk through piles or ground contaminated with the worms, so it is very important to keep kennels and yards clean. They can be transmitted to humans, though this is rare in developed countries. But children walking barefoot through contaminated soil CAN get them.
There are many over-the-counter round worm de-wormers. See: Quad Wormer
Hook worms are especially common in warm, moist climates. They are far more dangerous than round worms. They attach to the walls of the small intestine puncturing the blood vessels and feeding on the blood. When they detach, they leave an open wound that keeps bleeding, leaving dogs anemic, nutrient-poor, and causing foul-smelling, bloody diarrhea. Puppies frequently die from anemia and dehydration.
Signs of problems include loss of appetite, pale gums and tarry, black stool.
The worms cannot be seen with the naked eye. The eggs (seen left under a microscope) are more oval-shaped than those of round worms.
They are commonly transmitted through fecal material when puppies walk through piles or ground contaminated with the worms, so it is very important to keep kennels and yards clean. They can also be passed to puppies from the mother's milk.
They can be transmitted to humans, though this is rare in developed countries. But children walking barefoot through contaminated soil CAN get them.
There are over-the-counter treatments for hook worms. See: Quad Wormer
Whip worms are less common but can also be serious. They live primarily in the large intestine where they puncture the wall and live off of the blood. They cause severe irritation that results in watery, bloody diarrhea: many of the same symptoms of hook worm infestation.
A dog becomes infected by ingesting food or water contaminated with whipworm eggs.
The microscopic eggs are even more oval and pointed.
See: Quad Wormer
Tape worms might be THE most common worms (transmitted through ingestion of a flea).
Evidence of tapeworms is visible to the naked eye. It is a white, segmented worm, sometimes seen in the stool. If the whole worm is not present, you might see a small, white "rice grain". Because it is passed to your pet when he "chews" a flea (when he swallows the flea), it is a good bet that your pet may have tapeworms if he also has or had fleas.Until now they have been difficult to treat using home-administered treatments, and a visit to your veterinarian was in order. However, there are now effective treatments available over the counter containing praziquantel.
See: Quad Wormer
Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes. When the infected mosquito bites, he injects the larvae into the blood stream of the dog. There they mature and travel to the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels where they reproduce. They are a treacherous, insidious insult to the heart, circulatory system, lungs, and kidneys of infected dogs, causing extreme damage.
An adult worm can grow to 12". And dogs can harbor hundreds of them.
If a dog has an active case of heartworms, taking a heartworm preventative such as Heartguard, Interceptor or Sentinel could be fatal. When the wormer kills the worms, their decaying bodies can travel throughout the blood system, blocking circulation and causing fatal embolisms. For this reason, heartworm medications are by prescription only and require a blood test annually to check for active cases before administering the meds.
To be certain exactly which types of worms (if any) your pets may be harboring, a fecal exam should be performed. If you are not capable of this operation, visit your veterinarian and ask him/her to check. Take a fresh stool sample with you.
Always read directions on label before use.
Under no circumstances should information presented here be construed as veterinary in nature. Always consult your veterinarian if problems persist.