Your dog can be infected by a variety of intestinal worms. Regular worming is essential to protect your dog, and to protect your family. Some intestinal worms can be transmitted to people, and can even cause blindness in children.
Young pups are very prone to intestinal worms – most pups are born with them, and they’ll pick up more from eggs contaminating the ground. The major intestinal worms are roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm. These must be controlled to prevent problems such as vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss and anaemia.
All pups must be given an allwormer (eg. Drontal tablet)
- every two (2) weeks until 12 weeks of age, then
- monthly until six (6) months of age, then
- every three (3) months for the rest of its life.
Adult dogs simply need to be wormed every 3 months.
Always weigh your dog prior to worming and be sure to give the correct dose.
Many things can be done to protect your dog and your family.
You can start by regularly and reliably worming your pet with products such as Drontal. Allwormer Chewables or Tablets or Milbemax tablets. For very small puppies you may prefer a liquid such as Canex Puppy Suspension.
- Children(and adults) must wash their hands after playing with their pet
- Wash your hands after playing and working in your yard
- Avoid dogs licking you and your family about the face
- Remove dog droppings from your yard and litter trays
- Clean kennels and sleeping areas regularly (Concrete runs are best)
- Worm any cats/other pets in the household as well
- Control fleas on your pets
- Don’t feed your dog raw meat and sheep offal
There are a number of different intestinal worms that can infect your dog:
Hookworms are the most destructive of the intestinal worms because they burrow into the pet’s intestinal wall and suck blood. Signs include diarrhoea, dehydration, pale gums (anaemia), weakness and death if puppies are infected with large numbers of worms.
Infection can take place by eating worm eggs from the ground; larvae present in the environment can penetrate the skin of the abdomen or feet or larvae can pass out in the mother’s milk to suckling puppies. The cycle from adult worms laying eggs, the eggs hatching into infective larvae and maturing into new adult worms takes only 2 – 3 weeks.
Hookworm larvae can also penetrate the skin of humans, causing intense itching. Always wear gloves when cleaning up after your dog.
Roundworms are the most common of the intestinal worms and are long (up to 10cm), white and cylindrical, and can be easily seen in dog droppings. Unborn puppies are usually infected with roundworm larvae via the mother’s placenta and will have adult worms in their intestines within 2 weeks of birth. Infection can also occur by eating infected rodents, droppings of other pets and contaminated soil. Roundworm eggs are quite sticky and attach to dog hair, feeding bowls and bedding and, unless you worm your dog regularly, constant reinfection will occur.
Signs of infection include ill thrift, a ‘pot-belly’ appearance, diarrhoea, vomiting (sometimes including whole worms) and coughing. Heavy infections can cause death, especially in puppies.
Roundworm larvae can also infect people, especially children, by accidentally swallowing infective eggs that get on their hands after playing with the dog or from the soil. Once infected migrating larvae can cause damage to the liver, eyes and nervous system of humans. This disease is called Visceral Larva Migrans (VLM).
Whipworm infection occurs when a pet eats whipworm eggs. After the eggs hatch the larvae move to the lower bowel where the mature worms can survive for up to a year. These mature worms produce eggs that are passed in the pet’s droppings and are able to survive in the soil for a long time making reinfection common, especially in dogs confined to small outdoor yards.
Symptoms are mostly chronic, including weight loss, abdominal pain and intermittent diarrhoea (occasionally with fresh blood). Neurological signs can also occur.
The tapeworm Dipylidium caninum is the most common of the tapeworms and is spread by fleas, an intermediate host. Part of the tapeworm’s lifecycle develops in fleas & when a dog eats an infected flea (mostly during grooming) the tapeworm develops in the animal’s intestine.
Infection is not usually serious and people are rarely infected. The most common sign is your dog ‘scooting’ or dragging its bottom along the ground due to irritation. You may also find worm segments in the droppings or on the dog’s coat around the anus – like flattened rice grains.
The hydatid tapeworm, Echinococcus granulosus, is a serious risk to human health, especially in country areas.
An intermediate host is required for the lifecycle of the worm to be completed. These are grazing animals, such as sheep, cows or kangaroos, that pick up worm eggs from dog droppings in the pasture, which then form cysts in their body organs (such as the lungs and liver). Dogs are infected by eating raw meat and offal (body organs) infected with cysts but suffer no ill effects.
People, also an intermediate host like sheep and cows, become infected by swallowing eggs found in dog faeces. After the eggs hatch the larvae pass through the body forming cysts in organs such as the liver, lungs, brain and kidneys and can be fatal.
By Macarthur Veterinary Group