If you’re easily grossed out, this might not be the blog for you…but here is our quick reference guide to the main gut worms which can affect your dog – from where they come from, to what they look like.
Resembling strands of spaghetti, adult Toxocara roundworms are whiteish brown in colour and 4-10cm long, although you’re unlikely to see them, as they hang out in your dog’s guts. Sometimes you’ll see them in your dog’s poop though, especially after worming.
It’s not a nice thought but these gruesome beasties can infect puppies before they are even born. The larvae of Toxocara canis are able to pass from Mum to her pups via the placenta. And, as a double whammy, the larvae also find their way into Mum’s milk. So not only are most pups born with worms already on board, they continue to be infected every time they feed. This is why a good worming programme for pregnant bitches and puppies is so vital.
Your dog can also pick up roundworms when snuffling out and about in their normal daily routine. Infective eggs lurk in soil, having been pooped out by other infected dogs and foxes – surviving for years in the right conditions. Scarily, a recent study found that 86.6% of parks in the UK and Ireland tested positive for Toxocara spp. eggs!4 Roundworm larvae can also be found in small mammals and birds, so if you have a hunter or a scavenger, this can be another source of infection.
These wriggling beasties can cause serious issues for puppies, from vomiting, diarrhoea and a pot belly, through to a life-threatening gut obstruction. In older dogs, you may not see any symptoms, but your dog will be shedding eggs in their poop, which puts your family at risk.
Unfortunately, yes they can, and it is thought that one-quarter of the UK and Irish population have been exposed to Toxocara spp.4 Although the long-term impact of Toxocara in people isn’t fully known, it has been linked with blindness, epilepsy, cognitive development delays in children, and asthma4 – children, the elderly and immunosuppressed are most at risk.
This is why you should always pick up your dog’s poop! It is also recommended, by the experts at the European Scientific Counsel for Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP), that dogs living with these groups should be wormed monthly. It takes time for the infective life stages of worms to develop into adults, so monthly treatment means that the worms don’t get a chance to start producing eggs, reducing the health threat to your dog, as well as your family and friends.
The most common, D. caninum, can grow to be VERY long inside your dog’s gut, however, you’ll usually just see the ‘grains of rice’ segments crawling around.
D. caninum is also known as the flea tapeworm as your dog becomes infected when they eat fleas (yep, those pesky little blighters again!) which are carrying tapeworm eggs. You may not think your pooch would eat a flea, but it’s actually pretty easily done when you lick and nibble to groom yourself, which your pooch will be doing more than ever if that are super itchy with fleas! So, flea prevention also plays an important role in D. caninum control.
Your dog can pick up other types of tapeworm if they hunt, scavenge or eat raw meat and offal.
Tapeworms often won’t cause any symptoms in your dog, although you may see the gross little segments crawling around.
Yes, the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus can cause serious disease in people – leading to cysts in the lungs and liver.
Your pooch can become infected by eating hookworm larvae, which live in eggs in the soil. These little horrors can also directly penetrate your pet’s paws. Like roundworms, hookworms can also pass from Mum to puppies through the placenta or milk.
As these horrible beasts latch onto the lining of your dog’s guts and feed on blood, they can cause blood loss, as well as diarrhoea and weight loss. In severe infections, the blood loss can be significant, and in puppies even fatal.
The larvae can burrow into your feet too, although thankfully this is rare!
Dogs can pick up whipworms by eating infective eggs, which are in the soil.
If your poor pooch has a heavy infection, you may see bloody diarrhoea, weight loss and signs of blood loss.
So, as you can see, these little blightes get everywhere and are pretty easy for your four-legged friend to pick up in their normal daily lives. ‘Prazitel Plus tablets for dogs’ kill all types of intestinal worms that affect UK dogs, in a tasty chew. As no treatment can prevent your pooch from picking up these horrors, regular treatment is key to protecting both your canine and human family. To find out more, check out ‘Dog worms – all you need to know about treating them!’.