Can a healthy dog get worms?
Frankly, it may not always be easy to tell when a dog has worms. In severe cases, of course symptoms are obvious.
Dogs may suffer a general loss of condition, rough, dry, coat, anaemia, vomiting, diarrhoea and or constipation with potentially serious consequences. In case of a mild infestation, you may simply not know, and this is one case where you may remain unaware.
The majority of worms pose no threat to human health. However there are some which can be potentially transmitted to people e.g. The roundworm Toxocara canis, can be transmitted to children where it can cause potentially permanent eye damage, the results could be serious.
How could my dog get worms?
The short answer is "all too easily". Even the most cared for, well fed, happy and healthy dog, can become infested with worms.
Even though you cannot see it, other dogs may have left behind worm eggs and larvae. These eggs and larvae can remain infectious for months, even years. These can be picked up on your dog's coat, muzzle or paws and are ingested during grooming. In this way, worms can then infect your dog, home and garden.
Types of Worms
There are a dozen different species of roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms, which may infect the dog in the UK.
Fortunately there are very effective ways to control these and minimize the spread of infection.
Roundworms - The life cycle
The term roundworm also includes, hookworms and whipworms. It is helpful to look at the different lifecycles.
- It grows up to 180mm in length and can be transmitted in several different ways:
- Transfer of the immature worms (larvae) across the womb to the unborn pups, so they are already infected at birth.
- Transfer of worm larvae to the pups as they feed on the mother's milk.
- A nursing bitch may be re-infecting the pups while cleaning them.
- Dogs in the environment may accidentally pick up roundworm eggs.
- An adult dog may eat birds, earthworms, or mice that may be harbouring roundworm larvae.
- Roundworm eggs are great survivors; they can remain infective for several years.
Unlike the roundworm, the tapeworm requires a third party called an intermediate host, to develop in before infecting your dog.
The two tapeworms found commonly are The Taenia species and the Flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninum.
- Some types of tapeworm can grow up to 5 metres in length.
- Tapeworms look like strings of rather flattened rice grains.
- Dipylidium caninum has a small head, which attaches itself to the wall of the small intestine, with hooks and suckers a long segmented body, which grows continuously.
- The oldest segments, containing the eggs are shed one or more at a time. It is these segments that we commonly see passing out of the anus.
- These segments can contain many thousands of eggs.
There are many preparations available sold on the market, we recommend routinely worming your puppy and adult dog with the most effective preparations, which are sold by your Veterinary Surgeon. It is only by working with your Veterinary Surgeon that the correct advice, preparation, dosage and routine can be given to your dog.
However effective the wormer, it cannot prevent re-infestation. There are a number of steps we can take to reduce the spread of worms, including:
- Effective flea control on the animal and in the home, to help reduce the transmission of the Flea Tapeworm.
- Training your dog to defecate on the gutter or an approved dog toilet.
- Using a poop scoop to clean up after your dog.
- Avoidance of raw offal or unsterilised pet food.