I always check out my dogs’ poop. This might sound weird, but I know that I can tell a lot about their health by just taking a quick look at the state of the waste leaving their system.
When things are good, poop should be a nice chocolate brown color with a firm consistency. (Here’s a quick guide on that.)
But, have you ever checked out your dog’s poop and seen little white rice-like speckles? That’s never a good sign, and while worms in dogs are quite common, you want to do all you can to avoid them and get them gone ASAP!
But rice-like shapes in poop are not the only indication that your pup might have worms. There are other symptoms as well. And of course it always helps to know how dogs get worms in the first place…
Let’s dive right in to talk about the different kinds of worms in dogs, how to spot the symptoms, where these worms come from, and what you can do to get rid of them!
Types of Worms
The most common types of worms that dogs get are:
Roundworms are some of the most common intestinal worms in dogs. There are two types: Toxocara canis (T. canis) and Toxascaris leonina. T. canis is more common in puppies and can also be transmitted to humans.
Roundworms are long and thin and whitish-grey in color. They can grow to as long as 8 inches in length, and look like cooked spaghetti noodles.
Roundworms take up residence in the small intestines and feed on your dog’s food. From the intestines, roundworms can migrate into the lungs and through the liver and the brain, shedding eggs continuously. Because they feed on food, they can lead to poor growth or an intestinal blockage if left untreated, or even death in very severe cases.
Whipworms are about 2 inches long and tapered at one end, like a whip (hence the ominous-sounding name). Adult whipworms look like tiny pieces of thread, with one end enlarged. They’re minuscule though, and you won’t see them in your pup’s poop unless they pass a large clump of them. They attach to the mucous membranes in the cecum and colon and feed on your dog’s blood.
These worms can cause weight loss, dehydration, and anemia.
Tapeworms are flat, segmented worms that can live in your dog’s intestines. They can get as long as two feet in length (!!), and small sections break off – that’s what you’ll see in your dog’s stool.
Of all the worms, tapeworms tend to be the least dangerous. Tapeworms tend to cause very mild symptoms, but in severe infections can cause malabsorption of nutrients and diarrhea. With tapeworms, you’re most likely to see the scooting and licking of the bum because they can cause irritation.
Like roundworms, hookworms hang out in your dog’s small intestines, but instead of feeding on your dog’s food, they feed on blood.
They are grey in color and small, from about ½ an inch to ¾ an inch in length. They have teeth that attach to a dog’s intestine, drinking blood. The blood loss that comes with hookworms can cause anemia and iron-deficiency, making them especially dangerous for puppies.
There are also two other intestinal parasites, giardia and coccidia, that aren’t actually worms, but they’re important to mention.
- Giardia – Giardia is a very common protozoal parasite. Giardia can be transmitted through infected stool, contaminated soil or other surfaces, or contaminated water. These parasites make their way to the intestines and feed from your dog’s intestinal wall.
- Coccidia – Coccidia is a microscopic parasite that can cause an intestinal tract infection in dogs. Dogs get exposed to it by swallowing contaminated soil.
Heartworms are another type of worm that can be problematic. They’re different from the intestinal ones listed above because they infect the heart. Their symptoms are often different as well. Heartworms can cause respiratory symptoms such as coughing, lethargy, weak pulse, weight loss, abdominal distension, and in extreme cases, labored breathing, pale gums, and death.
How do Dogs Get Worms?
There are several ways a dog might encounter, and get, worms:
- Eating worm-infected poop – if your dog eats poop, either from another dog or other animal, that contains worm eggs, this is a common way that worms get into your pet.
- Passed to puppies from mom – if a mother dog has worms when she births her pups, those worms can be transmitted, either through the placenta, or when the puppies are nursing.
- Fleas – tapeworms live in and are transmitted via fleas, so, if your dog eats fleas, they can become infected.
- Skin contact – if a dog comes in contact with stool that has hookworm larvae in it, they can attach and burrow through the skin and infect your dog.
- Contaminated items – this can include anything from contaminated soil, to grooming tools, to water bowls.
Knowing is often half the battle. Keeping your pup out of these situations, if you can, is a great step at preventing worms in dogs in the first place.
But if you can’t prevent them, you have to be able to spot them.
Symptoms of Worms in Dogs
Sometimes, as with tapeworms or roundworms, you might see the worms in your pup’s poop. But that’s not always the case, and so it’s good to know what else to look out for.
Other symptoms of worms in dogs include:
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Bum scooting
- Loss of appetite
- Mucus-y or bloody stool
- Bloating or stomach pain
- Letargy/loss of energy
- Dull coat
Often the best way to determine if worms are present is with a fecal test. Simply collecting your pet’s stool and bringing it to your local veterinarian will let you know, and often very quickly. Your vet will examine the poop under a microscope to determine if these microscopic parasites are present.
Natural Remedies for Worms in Dogs
Ok, so you’ve received confirmation that your dog has worms.
In some cases, especially extreme cases, your vet will recommend anti-parasitc drugs to clear an infestation.
But, there are also several natural remedies that can help get rid of worms without the side effects.
We’re big fans of garlic for dogs for its many health benefits. And one of those fantastic benefits is helping to get rid of worms.
To use it, grate some raw, organic garlic and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes to release the beneficial compounds that help fight off those parasites. Work your way up to these amounts, based on your dog’s weight, for at least 5 days:
- 10 to 19 pounds: ½ clove
- 20 to 44 pounds: 1 clove
- 45 to 74 pounds: 2 cloves
- 75 to 99 pounds: 2½ cloves
- 100 pounds and over: 3 cloves
*Feeding garlic on a regular basic can help prevent worms and keep the digestive tract healthy, which makes it less attractive to parasites.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
After carving, I love roasting those Jack-o-lantern seeds for myself, but research proves that pumpkin seeds are also a safe and effective way to get rid of worms in dogs! They contain something called cucurbitin, which paralyzes the worms. The paralyzed worms then can’t stay attached to the intestinal walls and are passed.
To feed them, grind the seeds up (raw, unsalted seeds) and mix about 1/2 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight into your dog’s food. Stick with it – 2 weeks of this is recommended to get rid of the worms.
3. Black Cumin Seed
Thanks to its antimicrobial and anti parasitic properties, black cumin seed works against all stages of intestinal parasites. It reduces a female’ worm’s ability to lay eggs and damages the mouth that attaches to the intestinal wall, making them unable to attach. It also damages the adult worm, making them more susceptible to the dog’s immune (read: defence) system.
The suggested dosage is 1/2 tp 1 teaspoon, sprinkled in your dog’s food once a day. To help get rid of the bitter taste, which can turn a dog off, heat the seeds first. If you can’t find whole seeds, you can also use black seed oil, just cut the dose in half.
4. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic natural substance made from the crushed fossils of freshwater organisms and marine life. The razor-sharp particles pierce the protective coating and the worms eventually dehydrate and die. But don’t worry, it’s deadly to any insect, but completely harmless to your animals.
We recommend diatomaceous earth for repelling fleas, but you can also use it to repel and expel worms.
To feed it to your dog, mix it into food really well. You don’t want to just sprinkle it on – if your dog inhales it it can be irritating to the lungs. It’s best when food has good moisture (raw food). If you feed kibble, mix it with some water.
- Small dogs and puppies: 1/2 tsp per day
- Up to 50 lbs: 1 tsp per day
- Over 50 lbs: 1 tbsp per day
- 100 lbs or more: 2 tbsp per day
5. Good Gut Health
A strong immune system, linked to good gut health, is an effective way to prevent worms.
Adding any/or all of these on a rotating basis can help improve the health of the digestive tract and make it less attractive to problematic parasites:
- Fermented vegetables
- Bone broth
- Pre and probiotics
- Fresh, grated vegetables and fruit- carrots, pineapple, fennel are all good choices
Worms in dogs are not only gross, they can pose a risk, sometimes a significant one, to our animals’ health. Try your best to avoid them by understanding where they come from, and if you can’t, try some natural remedies first!
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!