Dogs Understanding Worms & Worming with your Dog

Published on May 23rd, 2017 | by Debbie Martin


Understanding Worms & Worming with your Dog

Most dog owners understand many of the dangers that can affect their pets, but many still think they can treat once and forget.  As well as fleas and ticks pets can also be affected by intestinal worms and like other parasites they need treating on a regular basis.

These parasites are found in UK dogs in a number of different types and whether you like it or not your dog is likely to suffer from one of them at some time in its life. Understanding how to recognize the signs of these parasites in your dogs and knowing how to worm your dog properly and regularly will help to keep your pet safe from worms.

The main types of worms

Roundworms and Tapeworms are the two most common categories of worm that can affect dogs.

Roundworms: Toxocara canis is the most common of this type of worm and depending on their size they resemble strands of spaghetti reaching lengths of up to 18cm. They survive in the dog’s bowel by living on partially digested food, and adults can release as many as 100,000 eggs a day into the environment through the dogs faeces.

Tapeworms: Made up of strings or flat segments tapeworms can grow to even longer lengths than roundworms, some such as the most common Dipylidium caninum reaching up to 70cm. They reside in the dog’s gut where they attach themselves to the gut wall with sets of sharp teeth. Tapeworms produce new segments continuously that are packed with eggs which periodically break away and are excreted through the dogs faeces. These eggs resemble grains of rice or small maggots and for a short time are capable of movement before eventually drying up, they can often get stuck around the pet’s anus and can cause irritation that makes the pet shuffle their bottom across the ground (note not all instances of this will be down to tapeworm as it can be caused by blocked or infected anal glands).

Lungworm: Present in the UK for over 30 years, until recently this parasite was more confined to parts of Cornwall and Wales but has now spread throughout the UK with more and more owners becoming aware of it. Carried by slugs and snails it is passed to dogs when they ingest the infected carrier, where the parasites develop into adult worms. These then live in the heart and ateries of the lungs of the infected dog and can be potentially fatal. Larvae from the adult worms are then passed through the faeces of the dog which is in turn eaten by other slugs and snails and the cycle starts again.

The spread of this parasite throughout the UK is believed to be partly through warmer temperatures but also the increase of foxes moving into urban environments. Snails and slugs being an important part of a fox’s diet.

 How does your dog catch worms?

There are various ways that your animals can contract worms so it makes sense to understand some of the more common methods.

Roundworms are generally in the environment where your dog plays and exercises, they can be picked up from this on the muzzle, paws and coat as he sniffs and licks in these contaminated areas. Once ingested the lifecycle continues. Eggs from the roundworm are persistent and can remain dormant in the ground for a number of years and can even be passed to your pet by them eating birds and other small rodents that have already been infected.

A pregnant bitch can pass on roundworm to their puppies who are especially vulnerable to this worm as it can be transferred in her milk or as she licks them and even while she carries them, resulting in the puppy being born already infected. Speak to your Vet if you are at all concerned about this as puppies need to be treated differently.

With tapeworms infection is slightly different as it requires the eggs passed by an adult worm to be ingested by another host such as a flea. If the dog then swallows the flea the lifecycle of the worm continues.

Any of these types of parasite can have numerous implications for your dog and in some cases can be fatal.

If you do have pets then you will need to take action to protect them from intestinal worms such as tapeworm or roundworm.  These parasites have been linked to a number of serious conditions which can affect both animals and humans.  If you are new to treating intestinal parasites then here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Use Treatments All-Year Round

It is important that you keep up with intestinal parasite prevention.  Pets can easily pick up new infestations from microscopic worm eggs that are present in any places animals spend time at (parks, gardens, public walking paths etc.).  Eventually worming treatments will wear off and your pets will once again be vulnerable to these parasites.  With many of these products you can treat your pets every three months and build up continual year-round protection for them.

  1. Start Treating Puppies from a Young Age

It is important to remember that puppies can pick up worms from their mothers whilst they are in the womb.  This means even if they have not been in contact with other animals they could still be infested.  This can seriously affect their health and present a risk of cross-contamination to any humans handling them.  It is important with puppies to have a strict worming program from birth, starting at the age of two weeks and treating every two weeks until they are twelve weeks old, it is advisable to treat the mother with the same routine.

  1. Choose Reputable Worming Products

Not all worming products are equal.  Some brands may not contain the right substances to treat all the common forms of parasitic intestinal worms in the UK.  It is important you use a trusted and reputable brand such as Cestem for dogs. This will ensure that with just a single dose you can control and eradicate intestinal worms.

  1. Always Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions

Products like Cestem are not harmful to you or your pets as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.  Once you have applied the product always wash your hands thoroughly.  Make sure you have checked the dosage for the size and breed of your pet.

  1. Administering the wormer

These days many wormers are flavoured to make them more palatable and come in tablet form making them easier to administer. If you have difficulties try concealing them inside a regular treat, make sure you give the pet an un-doctored treat first so they are less suspicious and more likely to gulp down the second one.

If you administer the tablet in the dogs food makes sure that they have eaten all of the food and don’t leave any remnants down that other pets may help themselves to, and always check that they have actually swallowed the tablet and not spat it out a few seconds later.

If you are unsure about any aspect always consult with your vet and be aware that treating your pet regularly means it’s not just safer for them but safer for you.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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