Worms in Dogs
As with fleas, the notion of de-worming your dogs every three months without first checking if they have an issue makes as much sense as de-lousing your kids before they go to school regardless if they have head lice or not. Your child has a 1/10 chance of getting nits (head lice) in school. But we don’t put a chemical on them that, if a bug was to take a bite two weeks after we put it on, the louse would drop down dead. Nothing like this exists for humans for a very good reason, otherwise we’d be rid of malaria and yellow fever and river blindness and everything else plaguing humans of the worms. These chemicals are not approved for humans for very good reason.
Worms are not as rampant as you think they are. For instance, we have 20,000 very natural, largely raw-fed dogs on our Facebook page at the moment. Very few of us are using these flea and worm chemicals. Not much by way of fleas. One or two cases of worms. No big deal, we sorted it out. It’s just not a very prevalent or scary issue.
Unlike fleas, worms can be a bit tricky to spot. If you’re in Ireland I recommend using www.irishequinecentre.ie. You send in a fresh poo sample and within a day or two they get back and tell you if your dog has gut worms or not. They will do lung worm too. And it’s only €14 per sample! If you’re in the UK I recommend www.wormcount.co.uk.
With all that in mind, it is important that you get a little familiar with some of the critters that can inhabit your dog, just so you know the signs and what to do should you detect a problem.
Roundworms in Dogs
Roundworms, also known as ascarids, are small, white or light brown coloured worms a few inches long. They are intestinal parasites, living in your dog’s digestive tract. The adults often look like spaghetti in their stool or vomit. Yep, they can vomit them up too. Gross. A well-infested dog can pass literally millions of eggs into their environment each day so you are perceivably at risk from an infected dog.
There are two types of roundworms that can infect dogs. Toxascaris canis is the more likely, literally meaning dog roundworm. The other, Toxascaris leonina is more likely to occur if they eat an infected rodent.
What is the Life Cycle of Roundworms in Dogs
T. leonina are an intestinal worms with a very simple life cycle. The animal eats an egg. The egg hatches and latches on to the intestine. Once mature, eggs are released into the stool and out into the environment. Within 3-6 days these eggs are ready to populate someone else.
T. canis are more complicated and more successful as a result. The dog eats the eggs which hatch and migrate through the wall of the small intestine. The larvae travel via the circulatory system and go to either the respiratory system or any bit of body tissue. If in tissue, they encyst (becoming inactive, walled off), where they can remain for months or years, breaking out at a time of their choosing.
If eggs are eaten by puppies the larvae are more likely to aim for the respiratory system where they are coughed up, swallowed back down into the intestinal canal and mature into adults. Egg laying begins and the eggs need 10-14 days in the environment before they’re infective once more.
There are other routes of infection too. In a pregnant bitch, should larvae be encysted in her tissue, they can make their way through a uterus to infect the lungs of fetal pups. Should the larvae be in mammary tissue, the pups can ingest them through the mother’s milk and become infected. When puppies pass them in their faeces Mum may become infected when cleaning up after them.
Symptoms of Roundworms in Dogs
Adult dogs do not always have symptoms, and a roundworm infection is very rarely fatal, but look out for:
- Swollen belly (with or without pain)
- Lethargy or weakness
- Weight loss and dull coat (worms are taking the nutrients)
- Spaghetti like worms in stool or vomit
How to Treat Roundworms in Dogs
The good news is, as an intestinal parasite, a roundworm infection is easily controlled. There are a number of things you can do. A small amount of raw garlic in their food every second day (half a clove per 10kg of body weight) is a great anti-helminthic. Yes, garlic is fine to use in dogs in small amounts! While it is a member of the onion family it only contains a fraction of the stuff that can trouble dogs. There’s also pumpkin seed oil and many natural worming products for dogs that will do the job. No need to go nuclear.
How to Prevent Roundworms in Dogs
You can’t really, that’s the truth. They’re not going to pick them up in their back garden. They’ll get them when out and about, sniffing butts, eating grass, whatever. You can’t protect against that.
Can Roundworms Infect Humans?
Yes, humans can pick them up too, thousands do every year worldwide, from picking up infective eggs in the grass at home and in the park. They’re sticky and so can be tough to avoid. But remember, a human is unlikely to get infected by letting an infected dog lick your mouth as, in order for the egg to become infective, it has to spend sometime in the environment for up to 10-14 days before they’re ready to go back in. Signs of an infection in humans include intermittent fever, loss of weight and appetite, and a persistent cough. And no, disinfecting the ground will not kill the eggs, they’re impervious to most of that stuff. Best advice would be to pick up stools daily, preventing worms the time to encyst and get their act together. Also, think about a specific area for dogs to toilet in and preventing children from crawling or playing in that area.
Tapeworms in Dogs
Adult tapeworms are too intestinal parasites. They are the biggest of the worms, long (up to 20cm), flat and segmented, adhering to the gut of your dog via the big sucker on their head. They’re one of the more hideous parasites to look at! They don’t actually feed with this sucker, it’s only for attachment. They actually don’t have digestive organs as such. Instead, they absorb nutrients through their body wall. Very creative. Each segment has it’s own reproductive machinery though. These are constantly generated to be cast off regularly in the stool. They are often the first sign or a problem and will appear as tiny grains of white rice in your dog’s poo or around his anus.
What is the Life Cycle of Tapeworms in Dogs
The dog tapeworm requires an intermediate host, in this case a flea, fish or domestic animal. There are a variety of types but the most common type by far found in dogs is Dipylidium caninum which uses the flea and louse as an intermediate host. Segments are cast off by an infected animal. The segment breaks open in the environment releasing hundreds of eggs. If a flea or a louse eats these eggs they become carriers of the immature form of the parasite. Should a dog consume one of these infected fleas or lice, the immature form will take up residence in their gut and become an adult.
Symptoms of Tapeworms in Dogs
As with roundworm infestation, a tapeworm infestation is highly unlikely to kill a healthy dog. Symptoms will be noticed before that happens. These are
- very small grains of white rice in the poo
- bottom scooting or licking their behinds a lot as the segments around the anus are irritating
- vomiting, which may contain lengths of the worm
- weight loss
- abdominal discomfort
- general nervousness
How to Treat Tapeworms in Dogs
As they are intestinal worms which absorb nutrients through its body wall, tapeworms, like roundworms, respond well to natural worming options. The nuclear options may be used too. These actually dissolve the worm so you won’t see a big worm in their poo, in case you’re waiting for it. We rarely recommend going chemically nuclear so if you do, please research carefully which drugs are safe in Google and discuss your concerns with your vet.
How to Prevent Tapeworms in Dogs
As this horrible creature requires the flea and louse as an intermediate host, controlling these will control most infections. In this respect, you should dust your dog regularly with a safe, natural flea control such as D.E. Flea, which is a tried and tested, entirely safe and very effective natural flea and louse killer in dogs. Also, pick up after your dog. This is number one.
Can Tapeworms Infect Humans?
Yes, and it’s usually children. Again, they must eat the infected louse or flea. Transmission from a dog is highly unlikely. Control fleas and lice as above and pick up after your dog.
Lungworm in Dogs
Lungworms are very small and you are unlikely to ever see them, only their symptoms. Like tapeworms, lungworms require an intermediate host, in this case, slugs, snails and sometimes frogs. Your dog must ingest the slug or snail or simply lick / eat / drink from anywhere their slime trail may have left the parasites.
Lungworm is sometimes called heartworm as, confusedly, it can reside in the heart. What’s more, it is sometimes called French Heartworm. However, true heartworm uses the mosquito as it’s intermediary host. Thus heartworm is a warmer climate bug and not seen in Ireland or the UK.
While still the worm you are least likely to see, a quick survey of Irish and UK vet clinics would indicate that lungworm infections in Irish / UK dogs can happen, but they are extremely rare. VermX, makers of probably the best, at least the most potent, natural worm treatment, indicate that the incidence is blown out of proportion by vested interests.
There is only one single study of 790 dogs suffering respiratory issues in an area known to be endemic with the worm, paid for by the makers of a worming chemical. 16% were found to have lungworm. We don’t know how they responded to treatment.
Everything else we see in the media or hear from professionals is opinion, conjecture or extrapolation from other countries. You wouldn’t think the evidence was so flimsy if you looked at all the television, magazine and internet advertising, would you?
Dr. Nick Thompson, Natural Vet, https://verm-x.com/lungworm-aware-verm-x
Dr. Nick Thompson’s point was “are we lungworm aware or lungworm advertising aware”. I thoroughly agree with this. There are 20,000 of us on Facebook and only once have I ever heard of a lung worm case in Ireland. I like those odds.
What is the Life Cycle of Lungworms in Dogs
Dogs must eat these intermediate hosts (snails, slugs, frogs) to become infected. Once inside, the eggs hatch and make their way to the lungs and heart, they set up camp and start releasing eggs, the larvae of which penetrate the airways of the infected animal where they are coughed up, swallowed and passed out into the environment via the faeces where they can reinfect snails, slugs and frogs.
Symptoms of Lungworms in Dogs
Unlike roundworm and tapeworm infestations, lungworm infestations can kill your dog. Symptoms include
- breathlessness, tiring easily
- bleeding excessively from minor cuts and scrapes
- paleness around the gums
- weight loss
- neurological issues including sight loss and seizures
How to Treat Lungworms in Dogs
Unlike roundworm and tapeworm, which inhabit the intestines and are therefore highly susceptible to natural treatments, lungworms are harder to kill as they have migrated out of the gut to reside in other tissue. Dr. Nick Thompson advises that dogs living with snail / slug fetishes, or in areas known to have lungworm, should request a Baermann worm egg count (specific for lungworm larvae) done on 3 days’ worth of stool samples every three to six months. If it is present, Nick would use conventional worm treatments to kill it, such as Advocate. That aside, a good prevention, such as regularly adding raw garlic or pumpkin seed oil will make the gut toxic to worms, reducing their chance of infection.
How to Prevent Lungworms in Dogs
It is this author’s opinion that good dog food is one of your best preventions in this case. The reason being, slug and snail eating by raw fed dogs is rare to non-existent and at a stretch is likely linked to hunger or nutrient deficiency in dry fed dogs. I have only every heard of a lungworm infection in a dry fed dog. And I’ve only ever heard of one case. Thus I feel the first step to prevention would be to feed your dog lots of fresh protein, which will reduce to nil their interest in eating snails unless it has now become a habit! That aside, worms and slugs will of course crawl everywhere. However, they are most likely after your dog’s food. Puting some salt around their outdoor feeding area will stop slugs and snails feeding on their bowls. Also, wash bowls before use.
Can Lungworms Infect Humans?