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How do I know if my dog has worms?

5 Facts Vets Want You to Know about Worms in Dogs

Owner holding her dog while the vet examines the dog.

Whether or not your dog has had worms in the past, you know that worms aren’t good news for your pet. Not only can they cause health problems in your dog — and puppies in particular —some could even pass diseases to you and your family.

In the end, it pays to be well-informed about pests that could potentially harm your dog. Below, we answer five common questions vets receive from dog owners about worms, along with expert answers.

1. Which Worms Should I Worry About?

Roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm, whipworm and heartworm are the primary culprits in dogs, though this can vary depending on the area where you live. Your pet’s lifestyle will often dictate which parasites pose the greatest risk. For instance, dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors can be at greater risk for getting worms.

2. How Do I Know If My Dog Has Worms?

If your dog is fully grown, it’s not always obvious when they have worms, so you might not know for sure. Symptoms for intestinal worms are more obvious in puppies: They might vomit or have diarrhea, and may also have a pot-bellied appearance and a dull coat. However, almost all puppies are born with roundworms, so even those that appear healthy will usually have some worms inside them.

Heartworms are more often diagnosed in adult dogs. These are worms that actually live inside your dog’s heart, causing coughing and exercise intolerance.

3. How Did My Dog Get Worms?

Dogs’ everyday curiosity, behavior and propensity to sample things with their mouths will always put them at risk for picking up worms. Digging in dirt, having fleas, eating soil or feces and chasing wildlife are all ways your pet dog can pick up intestinal worms. It’s very easy for dogs to be exposed to a range of parasites throughout their lives.

Dogs become infected with heartworms through the bite of a mosquito. In other words, anywhere there are mosquitoes, dogs are at risk of infection.

4. Why Is Deworming My Dog Important?

Deworming your pup of intestinal worms is important for two reasons. The first is to stop further discomfort or damage the worms may be causing. The second is to reduce the eggs being shed in feces; dogs that are infected with worms will disperse thousands of microscopic eggs out into the soil through their feces, which contaminates the environment and serves as a source of infection for other dogs.

The best defense against heartworm is to have your dog on a heartworm disease prevention product found at your vet’s office.

5. Can I Get Worms from My Dog?

Unfortunately, yes. Anytime dogs are infected and actively shedding eggs in their feces, they can pose a risk to people — especially children. This is why it’s important to pick up your dog’s waste, get in the habit of washing your hands and teach children to wash their hands and avoid putting their fingers in their mouths. Sandboxes, playgrounds and even some beaches can be high-risk areas.

Remember: Consult your vet to get more personalized information about your dog’s specific risk of worms. They will factor in your dog’s lifestyle and the region where you live, and can recommend a treatment plan or heartworm prevention plan tailored to your pet. If you suspect your dog has worms, schedule a visit to treat the infestation quickly — and get your dog back to optimal health.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Worms?

No need to panic (or visualize)…when worms are discovered early, they can be treated easily.



Dog receive a pill from the vet

The only time a bottom worm can cheer you up is when found at the bottom of a tequila flask. On any other occasion, take your pup to the vet’s office. Do not panic, do not visualize! Worms are treatable.

How do dogs get these slimy pals?

From their mother

Puppies do not only inherit fluffiness from their mama dogs. Sometimes, pups get infected before they are born, as the placenta transports larvae to their tiny bodies.

During breastfeeding, mama dogs can pass larvae to the pups through their mammary glands. On both occasions, larvae will eventually grow to worms in the puppies’ small intestines.

By eating feces

For some reason, still unknown to mankind, dogs indulge in this meal quite often. Turns out, that lone dog poop on the sidewalk is as tempting as a Christmas dish. Science reveals that dogs eat feces if they are missing certain vitamins in their bodies. They’ll receive the vitamins without a doubt, but there’s a special on the menu: a swarm of worms.

By ingesting fleas

  • Dogs may not enjoy bubble baths, but they often groom themselves by licking their body or even biting their fur. This is a healthy process that dogs inherit from their mothers. Licking might remove the extra beach sand, but for sure, it lets parasites in.
  • The dreaded flees make a partner jump to your dog’s fur, where they transmit tapeworm eggs. And yes, those tapeworms come bearing gifts- a free trip to the vet’s clinic.

During breastfeeding, mama dogs can pass larvae to the pups through their mammary glands. The larvae will eventually grow to worms in the puppies’ small intestines

What are the signs of worms in dogs

There are several signs that your dog might be infected with worms. First, you might just see them in the dog’s feces and around the anus. Heartworm-infected dogs have a dry cough. Your dog will usually cough after exercising, as the parasites migrate to the dog’s lungs, blocking the oxygen supply.

Diarrhea is a serious symptom of a worm-infected stomach. As soon as you notice the soft stool, you should consult a vet, as your dog might get dehydrated.

All worms cause vomiting. Whipworms induce yellow-green vomit, while dogs infected with while roundworms and hookworms will vomit actual worms (sorry for that graphic description…)

Low energy and change in appetite are considered severe indicators, as they may be caused by serious internal bleeding.

Heartworm-infected dogs will suffer from a dry cough as the parasites migrate to the dog’s lungs, blocking the oxygen supply.


When your dog has been diagnosed with a worm infection, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-parasitic medicine as a first step. This medicine can be injected or taken orally. If your dog suffers from worm-related side effects such as inflammation, the vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory.

Dog receiving injection

After being diagnosed with worms, the vet will start the treatment with tablets or injections, depending on the types of worms. Drontal, Mibemax, and Panacur are the most regularly used dewormers. They will start working in a few hours. The trickiest aspect of this is getting the dog to swallow a tasteless dewormer. Seeing worms in your dog’s feces is not a pleasant view but is a sure sign that the dewormer worked its magic.

Even if your dog appears to be recovering fast, the medicine must be taken until the treatment is completed. This is critical to prevent them from becoming infected again right away. Anti-parasitic drugs should start working within a week and full recovery should take a month.

How to prevent dogs from getting worms

A clean environment can help protect your pup from getting intestinal worms.

If your dog stays in an outside kennel, you should clean and sanitize the living area often. Bleach is a good disinfectant and cleaner. Sodium borate is the true warrior. Every great battle in history has resulted in collateral destruction. It will be the grass and flowers around your house in this case. And, certainly, the worms will perish as well.

Control the infestation of mice and mosquitos. If your dog eats an infected mouse, he will become ill. Mice carry parasites as hosts until the parasites move to a larger animal, like the dog.

Mosquitos breed in stagnant water, often near the kennel. While feeding on infectious animals like foxes or wolves, mosquitos pick up worms. Your dog will become affected when bitten by mosquito-carrying worms.

Protect your dog with flea medicine monthly, as fleas transmit worms to your dog. If you are unsure which flea medicine to use, consult your vet.

Can humans get worms from dogs

You may wonder if your dog can transmit worms to you. After all, you spend a lot of time snuggling, petting, and playing with them. The unsettling answer is that yes, certain types of worms that infect dogs can transfer to humans.

Worms are well-known for their tendency to switch hosts and species, and you might appeal juicier than the tiny puppy. The problem is that since they are not accustomed to the human body, they will often head to places like the brain, eyes, liver, and lungs.

You may experience the same symptoms your dog did, such as fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting. But no need to panic- when worms are discovered early, they are easily treatable.

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