Roundworm in Dogs

Roundworm in Dogs

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Roundworms in Dogs

What are Roundworms in Dogs?

Roundworms are parasites that are common to dogs. They live in the animal’s intestines and they survive by eating partially digested food.

It’s not unusual at all for dogs to have roundworms at one point or another. They seem to be more common in puppies than adult dogs.

Of all the species, dogs end up with two main types of roundworms: Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina.

The worst of the two is Toxocara canis, and it isn’t limited to just dogs. Humans can contract it as well. The parasite is either white or light brown and they can measure several inches. They resemble spaghetti.

How do Dogs get Roundworms?

If a mother dog has puppies, it’s very likely that she will pass the worms on to her young. Dormant roundworms set up camp in an animal’s body so that they can be passed on to other, more suitable hosts.

A puppy can get the worms from its mother simply by drinking her milk. A mother that doesn’t have roundworms in her digestive tract may have them in other places.

The eggs swallowed by a dog hatch and become larvae. The larvae then have to make a journey from the liver to the windpipe. When the dog coughs the larvae up, they’re then swallowed, which is how they get into the intestinal tract. There they finally grow into adult worms. Then they lay eggs of their own and the cycle repeats.

Puppies can also get roundworms from their environment. The eggs can be found in feces and in the bodies of small animals that the dog might prey upon. A dog’s tendency to sniff another dog’s poop is enough to bring them into contact with the parasite eggs.

Roundworms in Puppies

If you find yourself the new owner of a puppy, it would be wise to check them for roundworms as soon as possible. The only thing more common than roundworms in dogs is roundworms in puppies.

Generally speaking, roundworms will not kill a puppy, but the presence of the parasite certainly does detract from the animal’s quality of life. It is possible to have a population of roundworms so dense that the puppy can get overwhelmed and die. It isn’t common, but it is possible.

Symptoms of Roundworms in Dogs

Since roundworms eat food directly out of the animal’s intestinal tract, malnourishment is a symptom that will become visible sooner or later. Look for weakness, weight loss, and stunted growth in your pup.

A disturbing consequence of a roundworm infestation is the dog taking on a pot-bellied appearance. This is due to the high concentration of worms in the intestines.

Coughing will also be a symptom since the life-cycle of roundworms involves migrating to the dog’s lungs. Here they can contribute to respiratory conditions as severe as pneumonia.

With that many worms concentrated in the digestive tract, vomiting and diarrhea are natural conditions of being infected.

And finally, the worms will be visible in the vomit or the stools of the dog.

Below is a list of symptoms that might suggest your dog has roundworms:

  • Potbelly
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Belly pain
  • Dull coat
  • Weight loss
  • Visible worms in your dogs stools

How are Roundworms in Dogs Diagnosed?

The veterinarian will want to look at a stool sample from your dog under a microscope and check for the presence of the parasite’s eggs.

Because of how common roundworms are in dogs, this is usually part of the dog’s first vet visit, especially as a puppy.

It’s possible for the infestation to be so light that no eggs show up in the fecal sample. Still, it’s recommended that you just assume they have some level of presence in your puppy and treat it routinely every few weeks.  

If you suspect your dog might have roundworms it is always best to get it checked by a vet.

Treating Roundworms in Dogs

There are plenty of deworming drugs that are safe and effective. They include piperazine, fenbendazole, milbemycin, moxidectin, and pyrantel.

The first dose from the vet will be in a rather high concentration. This is to kill the adult worms in a single swoop. After that, the follow-up doses will be at a lower potency to kill any immature parasites that are left in your dog.

Then it’s a good idea to treat your dog on a regular basis, or at least have them examined. That’s 2-4 times a year for puppies and 2 times a year for dogs older than a year.

How to Prevent Roundworms in Dogs

The odds are stacked against your dog. A single worm can produce up to 85,000 eggs a day.

Other than having a schedule for treating your dog for worms, keep things clean, like their eating area and also where they sleep and play. Don’t delay in disposing of feces from the park and the yard. By all means, discourage your dog from using the bathroom in a public playground or sandbox.

Keep your dog away from small wild animals that your dog might size up as food. A leash or a fenced-in yard will help greatly.

If your dog is pregnant, congratulations… but talk to your vet about deworming to lower the chance of worms turning up in the puppies when they’re born.

Are Roundworms a Threat to my Dog?

Will roundworms kill your dog? Not likely. Can they? Certainly. More likely, they’ll weaken your dog to the point that the poor dog becomes susceptible to other conditions. Roundworms essentially starve the dog by robbing it of nourishment, so you can imagine what sort of health problems you would have if you were starved.

The physical presence of a mass of worms in anyone’s intestines or lungs wouldn’t foster good health for anyone.

A dog with worms can live, but the quality of life will be reduced.

Can Humans get Roundworms from Dogs?

Yes, they can.

Since roundworms travel throughout the body in their life cycle, you should consider them to be slow-moving bullets. The presence of roundworms in the human body can mean eye, lung, heart, liver, and neurological problems.

Children are at a higher risk of getting roundworms from dogs since they come into physical contact with them more than adults and also tend to not wash their hands afterward.