Intestinal parasites (worms) are common in puppies. While they are certainly a cause for concern, effective and safe treatments are available to cure your puppy and keep your family safe.
Symptoms of worms in puppies & dogs
For many puppy owners, the first sign will be a visible presence of worms in stool. Other symptoms vary, but severe cases can cause:
- poor overall body condition and dull coat
- soft or bloody stools
- distended abdomen (pot-bellied appearance)
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
HOW DOES A puppy GET WORMS?
Some parasites are transmitted from the mother to her offspring, while others are carried by fleas, mosquitoes, or via infected eggs shed in feces.
What types of worms & parasites can puppies get?
Heartworms are a serious life-threatening problem. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. The worms live in the bloodstream and cause serious damage to the heart and lungs. More on this below.
Hookworms cause anemia and intestinal distress. Puppies contract this parasite either through their mother’s milk, her placenta, or through the skin (if the mother has hookworm). Several effective methods exist to diagnose and treat hookworm.
Roundworms are passed from other infected dogs and rodents. Clinical signs such as stunted growth, a potbelly and recurrent diarrhea indicate the likelihood of roundworms. Treatments are effective and simple.
Tapeworms are not normally cause for serious concern in adult dogs. In puppies a heavy infestation can be more serious causing anemia, intestinal blockage and stunted growth. Occasionally dogs will “scoot”, or drag their rear ends along the ground to allay irritation, but this behavior is not always due to tapeworms. Tapeworms are transmitted when dogs eat infected fleas or prey animals like mice or rabbits. Diagnosis and treatment is simple and effective.
Whipworms are another intestinal parasite which causes watery, bloody diarrhea, weight loss and general debilitation. Reinfestation of whipworms is a problem as the eggs are extremely resistant to drying and heat so a series of treatments may be necessary.
Heartworm Disease & Prevention
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and in the right side of the heart. Mosquitoes spread heartworms from dog to dog. The onset and severity of disease is mainly a reflection of the number of adult heartworms present, the age of the infection and the level of your dog’s activity. Most dogs infected with heartworm can be successfully treated, but the treatment is costly and carries a significant risk of side effects, including sudden death. Heartworm is a real threat to your dog and the importance of prevention cannot be overstated.
Prevention is safe, economical, and nearly 100% effective if administered correctly. Preventative medications are administered monthly, usually in the form of a chewable tablet or pill. The pills kill larval worms your dog has been exposed to before they mature into adult worms. Some pets are given these monthly pills year-round and others seasonally.
Discuss an appropriate schedule with your veterinarian. Regardless of the plan you choose, it is very important that your pet receives these pills as prescribed.
What to do if your puppy has worms
Call your veterinarian! Depending on what type of parasite your puppy has, you will likely need a de-wormer (such as Panacur or Drontal) or some other type of medication to safely kill the worms. Your veterinarian may also recommend starting your dog on a monthly topical or oral heartworm & flea prevention. Some puppies may also need IV fluids and supportive care depending on their condition.