A complete guide to puppy worms. From symptoms to treatment and prevention. How to get rid of worms in puppies, worm medicine and puppy worming schedules.
You’ve brought home your adorable new puppy. Puppies are cute, active, playful – and often full of worms.
Puppy worms are common so there’s a good chance that your puppy has worms – especially if he didn’t come from a reputable breeder. Puppies are sometimes even born with with puppy worm infestation.
Worms affect young pups more than adult dogs – and when your puppy has worms it can kill them. On top of that, you and your children could become infected.
In this article we explain the possible signs that your pup has worms and how they get worms. Also the many different types of puppy worms.
Then we have a look at worming puppies and how to get rid of worms in puppies for good.
Puppy worms symptoms
The first signs of puppy worms is that they don’t gain weight or grow as they should. Their coat could be dull and they don’t have the energy you would expect.
Later they could lose their appetite, vomit, and have diarrhea – even blood in their poop. An extended belly is usually a sign of a severe worm infestation.
Obviously you can’t miss the telltale signs of a puppy throwing up worms, or worms in puppy poop.
There are many different types of puppy worms. While we usually associate worms with the stomach, you probably didn’t know that some of them travel through or inhabit other parts of the body as well.
When worms, or their larvae, settle in the heart or lungs, puppies could start coughing and have difficulty breathing.
Consult your vet right away if your pup shows any of the above the signs. Diarrhea in puppies is always a veterinary emergency. Your little Lab can dehydrate rapidly from diarrhea, and without fluid therapy, this could prove fatal.
Also always keep in mind that just because a puppy seems fine it doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t have worms. Some worms take long to develop and your pup could show symptoms only after a few months.
But why are worms so common in puppies? Where and how do they get them?
How do puppies get worms?
From dog or puppy poop is the first answer most of us will give. This is how many types of worms are spread – usually through eggs or larvae in the feces of an infested dog.
Remember though, that the eggs and larvae can stay behind and survive for a long time in soil or on plants. Puppies can also get worms when they eat dead animals or birds that were infested.
So your puppy can pick up worms while playing anywhere outside. Be sure to check out our guide to taking puppies outside. But this is not the only way worms are transmitted.
In adult dogs with good immune systems the larvae of some worms can become dormant in various organs. They can then be transmitted through the mother’s bloodstream to her unborn pups or in her milk when she nurses her litter.
Tapeworms are carried by fleas and the puppy can become infested when he ingests the fleas. Lungworm is transmitted by snails, and heartworm by infected mosquitoes that carry the parasite from one dog to next.
So what are the different types worms that can infect your puppy?
Roundworms are the most common type of puppy worms and they can also infect humans.
They’re often transmitted by the mother to her pups, but also via eggs in dog’s feces
Adult dogs can often fight the effects of roundworms, but that’s not the case with puppies and their immature immune systems.
If you see spaghetti-like white worms in puppy poop, you’re looking at roundworms.
Tapeworm infections in dogs is generally rare in the US.
Puppies can get tapeworms from ingesting infected fleas. They can also get it from eggs in dog poop or eating infected dead animals. This could be prey they pick up or from raw meat that’s part of their diet.
Tapeworm infestation in puppies is serious. Besides affecting the puppy’s growth and general health, a high tapeworm load can cause anemia – too few red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of their body. Their intestines could also become completely blocked up.
So in a worst-case scenario, tapeworms can kill your puppy.
Tapeworms can grow as long as 8 inches in your dog’s intestines. Segments break off and appear near the anus or in the stool.
If you spy what looks like tiny grains of rice near your puppy’s anus, odds are your pup has tapeworms. “Scooting” may also be a sign of tapeworms.
Good flea management can prevent your puppy from becoming a tapeworm host. If you feed your dog raw meat make sure you obtain it from a reputable source.
After treatment for tapeworm, strong flea control is necessary. Otherwise your puppy can become reinfected. You can ask your vet about appropriate flea control for your pups age and your region.
Heartworms are foot-long worms that can live up to seven years. They multiply and block up the heart, lungs and blood vessels.
Because heartworm is transmitted only by mosquitoes, infections occur more frequently in some states of the the US than in others. However, cases have been found in all US states and the incidence has been increasing in recent years.
Heartworm infestation is serious, causing severe lung disease and possible heart failure. Even when it’s not fatal, it can cause lifelong organ damage.
This is why prevention is so important. Many vets start puppies on the monthly heartworm preventive at the age of 8 weeks.
Usually, the preventive dewormer eradicates any existing infection in puppies, but it’s wise to have the test anyway to make sure. They vet usually suggests a heartworm test using a blood sample when the puppy is around 7 month old.
The American Heartworm Society recommends that dogs get the monthly heartworm treatment every month of the year for the rest of their life. And that they’re tested yearly.
Heartworm preventives are available as monthly pills, chews or topical medications. These dewormers are not available over-the-counter, but require a prescription from your vet.
Lungworm infestation is quite rare and is mostly found in the UK and Europe. The worm is transmitted only by slugs and snails and not between dogs.
The adult worms live in the dog’s heart and the main blood vessels that supply the lungs. The first signs of infestation are usually breathlessness and a dry cough.
Later on more serious symptoms could develop. This includes widespread internal bleeding and worsening lung and heart problems.
Your dog might not actually eat slugs and snails. But he can ingest them accidentally when he drink from rivers and puddles, eats grass, or generally investigates his surroundings. Your puppy can also get infected by a slime trail left on rocks, plants or even their bowls.
Besides not allowing your puppy to drink out of puddles and streams, there’s another way to avoid lungworm. Keep slugs and snails out of your garden by sprinkling salt on non-soil areas and use natural predators.
Hookworms are another common puppy worm. They get their name from the fact that they literally “hook” themselves to their host’s intestinal wall.
Like roundworms, hookworms can be transmitted through eggs in dog poop or left behind on grass. Besides by ingestion, hookworm larvae can penetrate the skin and from there they travel through various organs until they settle in the intestines.
Puppies can also get hookworms from their mothers, either while in the womb or through milk. They can also be passed on to humans.
These worms attach to the intestinal wall with their a hook-like mouth.They change position often, leaving behind many small, bleeding wounds.
Hookworm infestation is often more serious in puppies than in older dogs. These puppy worms can cause severe anemia because of blood loss. 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 they appear 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 dogs’ large intestines. They are transmitted through eggs in the feces of infested animals.
Whipworm eggs are found everywhere in the environment, where they can survive for up to 5 years.
Dogs show few signs if the infestation is light. A heavily infested puppy will experience weight loss and diarrhea with mucus and possibly blood. The diarrhea can cause dehydration and weight loss.
Whipworm eggs take three months to mature in the large intestine. For this reason, symptoms only appear in older puppies.
Whipworm prevention includes keeping your puppy away from any dog feces. If your puppy came for a from a shelter, odds are good that he was exposed to whipworm.
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.
How to get rid of worms in puppies
Although you can buy products for worming puppies, it’s always best to take them to the vet. This way you can also make sure that it isn’t another illness causing the symptoms rather than worm infestation.
Take a fecal sample along as well. The vet can put this 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, they can prescribe the right medicine and dosage for worming puppies.
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 probably deworm the puppy as a precaution. Many dewormers kill off several types of worms at once.
Worm medicine for puppies
While you can buy an over-the-counter dewormer that kills most of the common worms, keep in mind that worm medicine for puppies is not always one size kills all. Also, some of the most effective dewormers can also only be prescribed by vets.
Not every dewormer works on every type of puppy worm. Treatment for heartworm is definitely not included in these products – this you can only get from your vet.
Furthermore, in some areas of the country certain worms might have become resistant to a particular medication. Certain breeds also have a genetic sensitivity to some worm treatments.
This is why it’s best to consult your vet for puppy worms. He can prescribe the most effective worm medicine for puppies – for your particular puppy, the type of worm, and in your specific area.
Usually the prescribed dewormer will also be effective for other worms that might be lurking in your pup, and possibly even against fleas, ticks and mites.
Your vet might also prescribe other medicines to fully restore your puppy’s health in the quickest way possible.
Once your pup has been treated for worms you should consider measures to prevent future infestations for your pup, other dogs and even your family.
Preventing future worm infestation
Firstly, if one puppy had worms, it’s important to treat every puppy in the litter or every dog in the household.
To get rid of worm eggs and larvae your should also replace all dog bedding and vacuum thoroughly.
Worm eggs are tough, and you want them out of your house to prevent a recurrence of the infestation.You also want to avoid possible infection of other members of your family.
Teach your children to practice strict hygiene measures whenever they might have been exposed to contaminated animals or areas.
Obviously you need to pick up puppy poop in your garden regularly, and also when you’re out walking in a public space. Make sure that everyone washes their hands after accidental contact with feces. Also when they are dirty with soil or dust.
Because worm eggs and larvae lurk everywhere, you should follow a puppy worming schedule to permanently avoid worms in puppies and other pets.
Puppy worming schedule
Routine deworming is part of basic puppy care. Your breeder will probably have done your pup’s initial deworming before you picked him up and you should ask about this.
You vet is in the best position to advise you on the best schedule for your particular lifestyle and area. The following are some of the general guidelines for the control of worms in pets provided by the Companion Animal Parasite Council.
- Dogs should be tested every year for heartworm.
- A dog’s feces should be examined every three months in the first year, and thereafter twice a year.
- Give a dewormer to puppies at 2 weeks, and then again every 2 weeks until the regular broad spectrum parasite control can be introduced.
- Give regular, year round, parasite control – usually four times a year. Vets usually decide on the best treatment according to which parasites are common in the local area. It could also be changed if new threats develop.
- Make sure that pregnant and nursing dogs are on broad-spectrum medication to control parasites.
- Make sure that dogs that are boarded in a kennel have been recently examined and are on parasite control.
- How go give worm medicine for puppies
Worming puppies 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.
Then praise him like crazy when you’re done.
Puppy Worms – A Temporary Inconvenience
Revulsion is likely your first reaction when you realize that your 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.
Puppy worms are common, but treating them isn’t hard. And prevention of future infestation is part of responsible dog ownership. With lifetime parasite control, you shouldn’t see worms in your dog again – and also keep your family safe.
References and Further Reading
- Abraham, M. Lungworm. The Kennel Club.
- American Heartworm Society. 2018. Heartworm Basics. AHS.
- Companion Animal Parasite Council. 2016. General Guidelines. Parasite testing and protection guided by veterinarians. CAPC.
- Heflin, M. 2018. Deworming debate. Should veterinarians recommend year-round prevention when geography is not a factor. Veterinary Practice News.
- Murphy,M.D., Spickler, A.R. 2013. Zoonotic hookworms. Centre for Food Security and Public Health.
- Peregrin, A.S. Tapeworms in dogs and cats (Cestodes). MSD Veterinary Manual
- Peregrin, A.S. Roundworms in Small Animals. MSD Veterinary Manual
- Peregrin, A.S.Whipworms in small animals. MSD Veterinary Manual
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
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