Welcome to our complete guide to puppy worms. From symptoms to diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
You will learn all about the different types of worms that can impact upon your puppy’s health, and what to do about them.
They’re cute, active, playful and often full of worms.
Yes, that last bit is disgusting, but a puppy with worms is common.
Puppies are often born with certain types of worms.
Fortunately, puppy worms treatment is effective. So your playful little pal will soon be worm-free!
Puppy worms symptoms
Signs a puppy has worms include an extended belly, poor coat quality, lack of weight gain and vomiting.
You can’t miss the telltale symptoms of a puppy throwing up worms or a puppy pooping worms.
But remember that just because a puppy seems fine, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have worms.
Some types of worms can cause diarrhea in puppies.
While most puppy worms inhabit the intestinal tract, some may migrate to other parts of the body.
If worms head to the lungs, puppies may start coughing and develop breathing difficulties.
Any respiratory issues in a puppy require prompt veterinary attention.
If one puppy has worm symptoms, it’s important to treat every puppy in the litter or every dog in the household. Replace all dog bedding and vacuum thoroughly.
Worm eggs are tough, and you want them out of your house.
Roundworms are among the most common type of puppy worms. Puppies get these worms from their mothers.
Puppies can also pick up roundworm eggs when playing outdoors. These eggs are found in soil or on plants.
Puppies eating dead birds, worms or insects –or an infected animal’s poop – can also ingest roundworm eggs.
Severely infested puppies may die from roundworms. The roundworms devour the food the puppy needs for nourishment.
Adult dogs can often fight the effects of roundworms, but that’s not the case with puppies and their immature immune systems.
The classic signs of a puppy roundworm infestation include a potbellied appearance, along with weakness and delayed growth.
If you see spaghetti-like white worms in puppy poop, you’re looking at roundworms. These worms may head to the lungs and cause coughing and respiratory problems.
If you spy what looks like tiny grains of rice near your puppy’s anus, odds are your pup has tapeworms.
“Scooting” may also indicate tapeworms within. Inside the animal, the tapeworm may grow as long as 8 inches. Segments appear near the anus or in the stool.
Puppies and adult dogs acquire tapeworms from fleas. Good flea management can prevent your puppy from becoming a tapeworm host.
Without strong flea control in the environment, a puppy can easily become re-infected after treatment.
A tapeworm infestation in puppies is serious. Besides affecting the puppy’s growth as the tapeworm is consuming needed nutrients, a tapeworm load can result in anemia and intestinal blockage.
In a worst-case scenario, tapeworms can kill a puppy.
When you take your pet to the vet for tapeworm treatment, ask about flea control appropriate for your puppy’s age. Many topical flea control products are approved for dogs aged 8 weeks and up.
Your vet will know if there are flea products no longer effective in your region.
Heartworms can prove fatal in dogs, and preventing them in the first place is the best option. In affected dogs, heartworms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels.
Treating dogs with active heartworm disease is difficult, expensive and risky. Fortunately, puppies may receive preventive heartworm treatment.
Heartworms are transmitted via bites from infected mosquitoes. It takes at least six months for a canine to test positive after heartworm infection.
Many vets start puppies on heartworm preventive at the age of 8 weeks.
Once the puppy reaches the age of 7 months, the vet may perform a heartworm test using a blood sample.
Usually, the preventive dewormer eradicates any infection in puppies, but it is wise to undergo the testing to make sure. Of course, preventive dewormer can’t keep mosquitoes from biting your puppy, but they can keep heartworms from developing.
Your dog must stay on heartworm prevention for the rest of his life. Heartworm preventives are available as monthly pills, chews or topical medications.
These dewormers are not available over-the-counter, but require a veterinary prescription. Your veterinarian will test your dog annually to ensure he is heartworm-free before renewing the prescription.
Puppies may become infected with lungworms if they drink water containing the parasite’s larvae.
If their mother has lungworm, she may pass it on to her offspring. Exposure to contaminated feces is another way puppies pick up lungworms.
Once ingested, lungworms head to the puppy’s trachea, where they lay eggs. The puppy may cough or exhibit respiratory problems.
Puppies might even cough up lungworms, or you may see the worms in puppy poop.
Sometimes, lungworm infections are minor and you may not notice any symptoms. However, the puppy may develop a secondary, more serious infection. That includes pneumonia, which becomes a life or death situation.
Besides not allowing your puppy to drink out of puddles and streams, there’s another way to avoid lungworm.
Snails and slugs can carry the worm. Keep them out of your garden by sprinkling salt on non-soil areas and use natural predators.
Hookworms got their name because they literally “hook” themselves to their host’s intestinal wall.
These worms possess a hook-like mouth for attachment. These puppy worms can cause severe anemia and even death.
Hookworms are another parasite passed to puppies from their mothers either while in the womb or through milk. Puppies can also pick them up from infected feces.
Hookworms in the grass can penetrate a puppy’s skin.
Anemia symptoms in puppies include pale gums, weight loss and weakness.
Diarrhea, often bloody, is another sign of hookworm infestation. A puppy can actually bleed to death internally from hookworm infestation.
Always take a puppy to the veterinarian immediately if the animal appears sick. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Puppies are delicate and can succumb quickly without prompt treatment.
The whipworm, named for its whip-like appearance, dwells in the dog’s large intestine.
A heavily infested puppy will experience diarrhea with mucus and possibly with blood. The diarrhea can result in dehydration and weight loss.
Whipworms are found everywhere in the environment. Whipworm prevention includes keeping your puppy away from any dog feces. If you obtained your puppy from a shelter, odds are good that he has been exposed to whipworm.
Whipworm eggs take three months to mature in the large intestine. For that reason, they appear in older puppies.
If your older puppy develops diarrhea, whipworm is a possible culprit.
Even after treatment, the rate of whipworm re-infection is high. Your vet may suggest treating the puppy regularly for whipworms. This would involve deworming every three to four months.
Worming a puppy
Routine deworming is part of basic puppy care. Your puppy’s breeder should have performed an initial deworming when your pup was 3 weeks old. The next two deworming sessions occur at 8 and 12 weeks.
Puppy deworming is not “one and done.” Depending on the dewormer, the process requires repeating in two to three week intervals.
The worming schedule is designed to eliminate worms in all stages of their life cycle.
Worming a puppy is usually a simple task. Most puppies will gobble down a tasty heartworm pill.
Topical wormers, some of which do double duty as flea and tick control, are placed between the puppy’s shoulder blades.
Some types of paste dewormers are administered directly into the mouth. Place the correct dosage in the syringe, hold your puppy firmly and inject the dewormer towards one side at the back of his mouth.
Praise him like crazy when you’re done.
Although you can purchase puppy dewormers over-the-counter or online, it is always best to take your puppy to the vet along with a fecal sample.
The vet can put the fecal sample under a microscope and look for worms and eggs. Other tests include the fecal float, in which the sample is placed in a special solution causing worm eggs to float to the top.
Not all worm infestations are obvious from a fecal sample. Tapeworm segments are only shed intermittently. Female whipworms lay eggs periodically.
Once your vet knows what types of worms are lurking inside your puppy, she can provide the right dewormer at the proper dosage.
You can also buy fecal worm detection kits, like this one:
If the tests don’t show the eggs of a particular worm but symptoms point to it, the vet will likely deworm the puppy as a precaution. Many dewormers eradicate several types of worms at once.
Since puppies are so much more susceptible to worms than adult dogs, it is important to test for worms regularly during their first year. Fecal testing every three months until their first birthday is a general rule of thumb.
After that, testing is done annually or semi-annually, depending on the dog’s environment and lifestyle.
Puppy worm medicine
Puppy worm medicines are not one-size-kills all. You can buy some which will work on hookworms, whipworms, roundworms and tapeworms.
But this does not mention heart worm, for example.
That’s another reason it’s vital to have your vet involved.
You could purchase an over-the-counter worm medicine that won’t work on the type of worms affecting your pup.
Your veterinarian will likely recommend a dewormer containing praziquantel for eliminating tapeworm in your puppy.
Whipworms can be treated with a combination of praziquantel, pyrantel pamoate and febantel.
Dewormers used for lungworm treatment include ivermectin, praziquantel, fenbendazole and levamisole.
Piperazine, fenbendazole and milbemycin get rid of roundworms.
Most of the heartworm medications contain ivermectin, which is a broad-spectrum dewormer.
However, some sheepdog and collie breeds have a genetic sensitivity to ivermectin, and milbemycin is the preferred heartworm preventive in these breeds. Labrador retrievers do not have this genetic issue with ivermectin.
Once your puppy is prescribed ivermectin, he will not need most other dewormers. Ivermectin eradicates most common puppy worms with the exception of tapeworms.
Selamectin, effective against heartworm and other types of worms, also keeps fleas, ticks and mites off your pet.
Puppy Worms – A Temporary Inconvenience
Revulsion is likely your first reaction when realizing “My puppy has worms!”
On a scale of one to 10, your Lab puppy pooping worms or a puppy throwing up worms ranks quite high in the gross department.
Treating puppy worms isn’t hard, and it’s part of responsible dog ownership. With lifetime parasite control, you shouldn’t see worms in your dog again.
References and Further Reading
- Bowman, D.D et al. 2010. Hookworms of dogs and cats as agents of cutaneous larva migrans. Trends in Paracitology.
- Colgrave, M et al. 2009. Anthelmintic activity of cyclotides: In vitro studies with canine and human hookworms. Acta Tropica.
- Heartworm Basics. American Heartworm Society.
- Peregrin, A. Tapeworms in Small Animals. MSD Veterinary Manual.
- Salib, FA. 2013. Fading Puppy Syndrome Associated with Toxocara canis Infection. Journal of Advanced Veterinary Research
- Taubert, A. 2009. Lungworm infections (Angiostrongylus vasorum, Crenosoma vulpis, Aelurostrongylus abstrusus) in dogs and cats in Germany and Denmark in 2003–2007. Veterinary Paracitology.
- Traversa, D. 2012. Pet roundworms and hookworms: A continuing need for global worming. Parasites and Vectors.