What are worms and how do dogs get them?

April 13, 2012

Fleas, ticks and mites are not the only parasites of dogs. As these pesky buggers make the life of our canine friends uncomfortable by living and feeding on the exterior part of the dog’s body, other types of parasites live inside the dog’s body too and cause a more dangerous infestation. Almost all dogs have internal parasites. Dog owners would not be surprised if the vet pronounced the dog to have inhabitants inside the body. Different internal parasite cause different degrees of infestation. Some dogs would easily weather the infestation. A few worms in the intestines would show no ill effects to the health of the dog. However, some intestinal parasite infestation would have serious effects on puppies and on immunosuppressed dogs. Worm infestation can result to a significant decline in the health of the pet. The health concern can even be the cause of the dog’s death. Dogs are typically infested by 5 types of worms. Roundworms, hookworms, flatworms, whipworm and heartworms can live inside the dog’s body. Roundworms and hookworms are more prevalent in puppies while the other three types of parasitical worms commonly infest adult dogs. A dog owner has to understand how the pet can get infected and to be able to recognize the signs of infestation so that preventive measures and necessary treatments can be administered.

Heartworm infestation is considered to be the most dangerous internal parasite that can infect the dog as signs of infestation will not be noticed until the worms have multiplied and have prevented the heart from functioning normally. Dogs get heartworms from mosquitoes. Mosquitoes will be infected by biting dogs infested with heartworm. By biting another dog, the mosquito will be able to inject heartworm larvae. The larvae will develop into a fully grown heartworm, travel through the bloodstream and migrate to the heart and cause the dog a lot of harm. Heartworm is a dangerous disease as it can affect not only the heart but also cause other vital organs to shut down.

Roundworms and hookworms are commonly transmitted by an infected mother dog to unborn puppies or through the breast milk. Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites of dogs. This infestation is responsible for the pot bellied appearance of puppies and dull coats of adult dogs. An infected dog will shed roundworm and hookworm eggs through the feces. Dogs can easily get these parasites because these animals have the inclination to dig and to eat dirt. Dogs also have the disgusting habit of eating feces. This makes roundworms and hookworms the most prevalent intestinal worms of dogs. Whipworms are parasites that make the dog’s intestines bleed. Infested dogs would shed the eggs of this intestinal parasite through the feces. The same with roundworm and hookworm, a dog can get whipworm by eating the feces of infested dogs or by eating contaminated dirt and soil. Tapeworms are flat segmented worms. Rice-like segments of worms on the dog’s anal area and on the feces are signs of tapeworm infestation. Infected dogs would shed these segments that contain the parasite’s eggs through the feces. Once the rice-like segment dries up, the egg will be liberated. These eggs will be ingested by fleas that serve as the intermediary host of tapeworms. A dog infested with fleas is almost always infested with tapeworm as well. The itch caused by flea bites will cause the dog to scratch and to bite the skin and in doing so, the tapeworm egg-carrying flea will be ingested. Dogs are predators and another way by which these four legged friends can get worms is by eating worm infested prey.

Some types of worms can be seen by the naked eye. Some types of worms would need fecal and blood test to determine the infestation. This type of parasite infestation is not difficult to resolve. Dog owners only need to ensure that the pet is checked by the vet regularly.

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