Pet Health
worms in dogs guide

Worms in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Written by Ryan Gliozzo


Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of worm parasites in dogs. Find out how to identify and treat different types of intestinal worms to keep your pet healthy.
A sad looking pug

The lowdown of worms in dogs

Remember when Cat Stevens said, “I love my dog as much as I love you, but you may fade, my dog will always come through.” 

All of us dog owners relate to it big time. However, it's important to make sure that you show your dog this love by protecting them from the “Infection of the Wriggly Worms".

As doggie mums and dads, we know that taking care of our canines is no easy task. 

While there are several troubling health problems in dogs, some of the most notable diseases include cataracts, ear infections, fleas and ticks, and of course, the horribly despised and parasitic worms.

Before warming you up to the trouble of worms, you have to understand that your pooch could likely get infested with this at some point, but it’s generally nothing to panic about. 

Veterinary opinions claim that puppies are often born with or develop roundworms or hookworms from their mother's milk.

Studies show that throughout their lifetime, dogs are extremely vulnerable to getting worm infections. Roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and hookworms are easily the worst of the lot and have a greater chance of causing a severe infection.

Let's look into some of the commonly asked questions about worms in dogs.

In many cases, it can be difficult to determine if your dog has worms but it’s usually done by your vet so that’s always the go-to advice.

 If your dog is a grown-up (more than you are ready to give them credit for), you might not be able to detect worms in them.

 If you find worms, or suspect you have infected animals, then we're here to help you learn a little about any common type of worm your dog may have.

Again, nothing can substitute the advice of a trusted vet. 

They can professionally analyse a stool sample, or take blood tests and identify the signs of worms. So when in doubt, give your vet a shout!

Firstly, if your pup starts throwing up, shows signs of diarrhoea, has weight loss (or pot-bellied appearance), or starts shedding too much, it's possible to say that they likely have a worm infection.

The scary part is that they might come in small packages but they're harmful enough to push your puppy towards anaemia. 

At that point, some puppies even need a blood transfusion to survive, so the earlier you catch the infection, the easier it is to treat.

Worms in dogs: a common parasite

A dog being given a tablet

Worms in dogs mostly develop from childbirth. There is no possible way you can reverse this, but you can definitely treat it. 

The solution to this is worming your little best friend(s) and keeping up with their routine checkups and preventative treatment.

Even if your dog is, well, a 'grown up', your big baby needs to check on his worming routine frequently. 

Your guilt may make you feel like the world is ending if your dog gets the worms, but step back - take a breath and understand it’s a regular occurrence in dogs.

Leaving aside the fact that puppies are either born with roundworms or get them eventually from their mother's milk, grown up dogs can also get these worms from elsewhere. 

Remember how your dog sometimes chomps down on the grass? Or that one time your dog chewed everything around the house to a pulp?

All of these subtle factors amalgamate and lead to roundworms and hookworms in dogs. 

They end up ingesting the microscopic eggs or larvae in these cases. You can almost hear your dog barking, "No 'woof', Sherlock" by this point.

On a serious note, grown-up dogs can also get roundworms, tapeworms or hookworms from chomping on the flesh of other animals. 

Note that even feeding raw meat or offal to your little fur babies can lead to the development of these worms.

This is no horror story but you might want to brace yourself to gracefully accept the upcoming info about to crash land on you.

Worms in dogs such as hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms can also affect owners. 

Little parasites make their homes anywhere; dogs, other pets, or humans, so the regular application of deworming medication can help to keep your family absolutely healthy and safe from these parasites…

Again, this is the reason why routine worming is so important. Vets can curate and work out a schedule at your convenience.

Also, it's always better to prepare for any unforeseen illnesses or injuries, and one of these is by getting reliable pet insurance. 

Do insurance and the technical terms confuse you? Fear not! Read our handy pet insurance FAQ for a helpful guide!

Types of worms in dogs

dog on table in vets

Let's look at the types of worms in dogs that are most commonly found:

Roundworms in dogs:

Roundworms in dogs are the most commonly found type of worms. 

Several puppies are either born with or eventually develop roundworms. This is the reason why roundworms in dogs need immediate veterinary help if you are not taking preventative measures.

If left untreated for a long time, it might cause severe problems or even death. 

Roundworms in dogs are a very wrong 'Welcome to the world' gift that they get directly from their mums. If that's not the case, they definitely would get it from drinking their mum's milk.

To make things worse, you must stay alert about what your pooch "nom-noms". 

While it's okay to eat grass, eating the microscopic larvae or eggs leading to roundworms in dogs is absolutely "nom NO”!

Tapeworms in dogs

If you're feeling a little icky with this subject, you must measure the 'gross' weight of knowledge about worms against no knowledge at all. 

In other words, you must especially look out for tapeworms in dogs. They're also known or identified as white worms in dog poop.

It's an intestinal parasite that dogs usually get from consuming infected fleas or feeding on animals infected with tapeworms.

Tapeworms in dogs keep growing if our fur babies consume the flea. 

The tapeworm eggs hatch and then cling to the inner intestinal lining of the dog; not cool! Worms in dog poop are the main identifier of tapeworms.

You may notice Segments of tapeworm being pooped out by your canines. 

Affected dogs may even resort to doing a butt-to-ground rub. Do not mistake this for a hilarious, meme-worthy antic of your dog because it is one of the 'cliche' giveaway signs of tapeworms in dogs.

To remove tapeworms, the vet uses a drug that clears up the problem. 

This drug is either administered through ingestion or injection. A classic instance of "one way in, the other way out."

Hookworms in dogs:

Hookworms in dogs are really scary, especially in puppies. They might be microscopic but they easily suck large amounts of blood. 

They are extremely detrimental to the health of a puppy and can even lead to their death from anaemia. Hookworms in dogs can occur in various ways.

Apart from the risk that puppies might get it from the environment, the bigger trouble is faced because they can literally get it from mama dog's milk.

 These are also identified by the worms in dog poop. It can appear that almost hundreds of these microscopic hookworm eggs are ‘thrown’ out along with their stool.

These microscopic eggs can thrive pretty well in soil for a really long time and can infect dogs when they eat the dirt or lick infected soil off their paws.

 In other words, they can get hookworms from contact with various sources.

The only way to recognise it in dogs is through faecal flotation.

Deworming meds are the way to go for this kind of worm trouble.

Heartworms in dogs:

"Mirror mirror on the wall, Who's the deadliest of them all?" Heartworms in dogs are definitely the most pernicious. However, they aren't all-powerful because heartworms in dogs are highly preventable.

They are usually transmitted through mosquitoes, so it’s not generally a concern in the UK unless you have travelled with your pet to a more tropical climate. Heartworms in dogs can serve to be an epitome of "prevention is better than the cure."

Heartworm preventatives are usually recommended as a routine medication by vets. 

They're so feared because they are highly morbid. The heartworms in infected dogs can cause failure of the heart, organ damage, and severe lung disease etc.

Ringworms in dogs:

Ringworms in dogs result in an infection on a dog's skin, hair or claws because of a certain type of fungus. 

Younger or specially-abled canines are more prone to them and need special care. These worms leave tale-tell signs on the body of the dog.

Ringworms in dogs often multiply in a vulnerable environment of broken hair. 

Once your vet has diagnosed ringworm in your dog, you will likely be recommended a specific medicated shampoo to clear up the infection. Other recommendations include using apple cider vinegar on the affected area.

Lungworm in Dogs:

Lungworm in dogs is a serious condition caused by parasites that live in the lungs and heart. This type of worm can cause severe health issues and can be potentially fatal if not treated promptly.

Lungworms are different from other types of worms in dogs as they can be ingested through intermediate hosts like slugs and snails.

Dogs can be infected by lungworms when they come into contact with infected slugs or snails. It's crucial to be aware of the risks and take preventive measures to protect your dog. For more information, read about whether slugs are poisonous to dogs.

Signs of Lungworm Infection

Lungworm infection in dogs can present a range of symptoms that vary in severity. The signs of infection can include:

  • Coughing and breathing difficulties

  • Weight loss and poor appetite

  • Lethargy and depression

  • Bleeding disorders, including nosebleeds and blood in the urine or stool

Preventing Lungworm in Dogs

To prevent lungworm in dogs, it’s essential to take proactive steps, such as:

  • Avoiding areas known to have slugs and snails

  • Regularly cleaning your dog’s living environment

  • Picking up after your dog to prevent environmental contamination

  • Using vet-recommended worming treatments that specifically target lungworm

Treating Lungworm in Dogs

If you suspect your dog might have worms, particularly lungworm, it’s crucial to ask your vet for a proper diagnosis and worming treatment.

Treating worms in dogs often involves a course of medications prescribed by a veterinarian. The best treatment plans will get rid of worms effectively and safely, ensuring your dog can recover without complications.

Adult dogs need worming regularly, and lungworm prevention is a critical part of this routine. This ensures that dogs of all ages are protected against these dangerous parasites.

By taking these steps, you can help ensure your dog stays healthy and free from the threats posed by lungworms.

Always monitor your dog for signs of worms in dogs and consult your vet promptly if you notice any symptoms. This vigilance will help keep your puppy or dog safe and maintain their overall well-being.

dog and vet

Top 10 symptoms of worms in dogs

Some of the miscellaneous symptoms of worms in dogs are:

  • Scooting or rubbing their furry bottoms against the ground in a dragging motion

  • Small white particles in their poops. These are microscopic worm eggs. It is an immediate hint at worms in dog poop

  • Diarrhoea

  • Severe vomiting

  • Swelling in their abdomen

  • Lethargy

  • Nutrition deficiency

  • Dehydration

  • Heart failure

  • Dehydration and coughing

These are some of the many symptoms of worms in dogs.


What if the worms in my dog are not treated?

People often ask what can happen if worms in dogs remain untreated. 

Well, through proper deworming/flea treatments and/or vaccinations dogs can be properly protected against these worms. However, if left untreated for a long time, worms in dogs can lead to something fatal.

Do worms have the power to kill my dog?

Some worms like heartworms in dogs are extremely severe and lead to organ failure, severe lung diseases, heart failure and eventually death. So yes, the risk is real in these cases!

Should I consider worms in dogs an emergency?

If you start noticing the symptoms and take preventative medications such as treating your dogs with ingestive drugs to protect them from these worms, they aren't an emergency. 

However, in certain cases when preventatives aren't taken beforehand and the symptoms are difficult to put a finger on, dogs may suffer from further complications. Remember though, even heartworms (which could lead to death) can be treated entirely.

How to treat a dog with worms?

The treatment for worms in dogs is mostly through regular deworming/anti-flea treatments and vaccinations. 

If you see that your dog has worms in poop, and/or regular soft stools, you must immediately talk to the vet and arrange for an appointment to get a definitive diagnosis.

A final note

Please note that pet insurance does not usually cover conditions that they think are preventative. 

Deworming dogs through regular medication or vaccinations are considered to be a part of this and do not get covered by insurance. That’s why it's always important to make sure you are proactive in your dog’s preventative care!

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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