Worms are bad news for dogs. These parasites that mostly live on the intestines of the dog can be the cause of deaths of puppies because of their immature immune systems and can cause ill health in mature dogs. Pet parents would know that worms come in all shapes and sizes and cause varying degrees of infestation. Most helminthes or worms appear to have a predilection for the gastrointestinal tract of the dog. Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are considered as intestinal tract denizens. These intestinal worms can make the dog lethargic. Weight loss, inappetance, distended abdomen, dull coat, diarrhea and vomiting are the common signs of infestation. Segments of worm on the feces and clinging on the fur in the anal area are signs that the dog is infested with worms. As some worms are not visible to the naked eyes, a fecal floatation examination is usually done to determine if the dog is infested. With the easy availability of deworming products, the intestinal worms of the dog can be easily eradicated. However, other types of worms that infest the dog would not only be hard to eliminate. These types of worms would have more dangerous effects to the health of the dog.
Among canine worms, heartworm is considered to be the deadliest type of internal parasite that can infest the dog. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bites. The larva that was injected into the body of the dog will develop and migrate to the blood vessels, lungs and eventually settle on the right chamber of the heart. Eradicating the worms and treating the infestation is challenging because the dog normally would not show clinical signs until the infestation have worsened. Heartworm treatment must always be done under the supervision of vets. Heartworm treatments administered improperly can result to the death of the dog as dead worms can obstruct blood flow and cause arterial injuries.
Flatworm or fluke is another type of parasite that can infest your dog. These are organisms that belong to the platyhelminths group. Flukes have leaf shaped and unsegmented flat bodies that are expanded and contracted to allow the worm to move. These flatworms can be contracted when the dog eats feces or drinks infected water. A fluke has a pair of suckers that are attached to the intestines, liver and lungs. The flukes can also migrate to the skin, heart and brain. Flukes in the digestive system will disrupt the digestion process. Infected dog cannot absorb nourishment properly. Chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain are the common symptoms of the infestation. Liver and intestinal wall damage can result to hemorrhage.
The esophagus of the dog can be home to a type of parasite too. To complete its life cycle, the parasite would need an intermediate host which is usually a dung beetle. The worm can be acquired when the dog eats the beetle. Chicken, rodents and reptiles can be the transport host of the Spirocerca lupi, the bright red worms commonly known as esophageal worms. A dog infected by S. lupi may not manifest clinical signs until the lesion in the esophagus makes swallowing difficult. The dog would become emaciated due to vomiting episodes every time food is ingested.
Lung worm is another parasite that affects human’s best friends. This parasite is rarely seen in dogs living in the city. Crayfish and snails are carriers of the parasite. These carriers are commonly eaten by raccoons and as raccoons are eaten by dogs, the parasites will be transmitted. When ingested, the worms will stay in the dog’s windpipe and after the larval stage the worms will be coughed up, passed with the feces or swallowed and infect the respiratory system. Chronic cough is the primary symptom of lung worm infestation. Coughing will worsen after strenuous activities. A dewormer given for other types of worms can also eliminate the infestation.