If you're planning on owning a puppy for the first time, you probably know by now that worms are a pretty big buzzword. While they're obviously gross, you may not know much about them beyond their ick factor. Rest assured; there is a lot for you to learn.
A Look at Puppy Worms
There are several different types of worms that can manifest themselves inside your puppy. Each of them creates their own unique path to destruction. They also have their own distinctive look; one that goes beyond the realm of “gross.”
Types of Worms that Can be Found in your Puppy
There are four major types of worms that can affect your puppy's health through his digestive system: roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Each parasite can wreak havoc within a puppy's insides although it should be noted that some worms are more serious than others.
The most common worm that you may see in a puppy is a roundworm. The reason for this has to do with developmental nature, as a large percentage of pooches are born with microscopic worms or larvae in their tissues.
The reason these nasty critters get there in the first place is due to maternal migration. In other words, they will pass directly through the mom’s uterus and into the developing pup’s body. Roundworms can also be transferred through nursing via the mother’s milk.
These worms can create a pretty serious infestation when they reach adulthood, especially when you consider that female roundworms can produce a whopping 200,000 eggs in a single day. Unfortunately, a major infestation can be fatal to a puppy as it can cause a severe intestinal blockage.
Hookworms don’t seem to be as prevalent as roundworms in a puppy. However, they can also be transferred to a puppy from the mother through in utero migration or though the mother’s milk. They can also be picked up through contact with stool-riddled dirt.
The best way to describe these tiny, skinny parasites is to think of them as little vampires. As their name may suggest, their method of operation is to hook themselves into a pup’s small intestine and suck blood. A severe hookworm infestation can cause extreme anemia in pups, and can even be fatal in some cases.
The third type of worm, the whipworm, is primarily picked up through contaminated soil or in sub-optimal living conditions, such as a kennel. These particular pests tend to hang out at the junction of a pup's small and large intestines. They too are known to be bloodsuckers, although they tend to cause milder issues compared to their hookworm counterparts.
The other big intestinal parasite to worry about – both figuratively and literally – is the tapeworm. This pest is just as fascinating as it is disgusting, as the 4- to 28-inch worm can consist of up to 90 segments. What’s more, these segments can contain eggs, meaning that even if they break off from the rest of the worm, they can still create more critters.
Tapeworms are a nuisance because they drain nutrients from a puppy as food is being processed in the digestive system. They are also annoying because they usually aren’t knocked out by medications that can knock out other worms. Plus, it should be noted that these worms can transfer to humans in some cases.
A Look at Heartworms
While most of the worms that can affect your pooch tend to attack the digestive system, there is one particularly dangerous worm that does things differently – the heartworm. This parasite, which can grow to be as long as 14 inches, will lodge itself into the heart as well as the arteries that carry blood into the lungs.
An infestation of heartworms can disrupt proper functionality in the heart, lungs, and blood, and can negatively affect things from blood clotting to breathing. If left untreated, an infestation could be fatal. While heartworms can only be transferred via mosquito bite, all it takes is one chomp for a heartworm-fueled infection to occur.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Worms?
Determining whether or not your dog has worms can be a frustrating pursuit for novice dog owners. After all, some of these parasites are microscopic and are practically impossible to spot with the naked eye – if they ever leave your dog’s body in the first place.
However, there are several symptoms that a puppy may go through that will provide you with the information you need to help you determine whether or not there is a potential worm problem. Not surprisingly, a lot of these symptoms have to do with the health of your pooch’s digestive system.
Some of the signs you will see have to do with certain activity on either end of the digestive system, such as vomiting or diarrhea. If your dog has tapeworms, you may be able to spot segments of the critter within your dog’s poop or in the fur around your dog’s butt.
Puppies may also start to manifest a bloated or potbellied look if they have a worm infestation. This is particularly common if the pup picked up roundworms of hookworms from his mother.
Some of the associated symptoms present in a worm situation are more behavioral in nature. If you see a puppy develop a sudden change in appetite or rapid weight loss and if you didn’t change his diet, don’t assume he suddenly grew finicky. He could have developed an issue with one of several worm types.
Dullness in more ways than one could also be a tell-tale sign of worms. If your energetic little pup suddenly turns into a ball of lethargy, or if his coat has suddenly lost its sheen, your pup may have a worm issue. Your pup’s skin may also become noticeably irritated in the event of a severe infestation.
How Do I Deal with My Puppy’s Worm Problem?
Puppy worms sound like they can be a pretty brutal affair. Fortunately, they typically aren’t as difficult to deal with as one may think. However, dealing with them should happen within a certain time frame.
If you are going to deworm a puppy, it is recommended that you do it as early as you possibly can. Your best bet is to start the process at two weeks and continue the process every other week until they reach three months. From there, you should deworm monthly until six months.
Deworming is not as gnarly as a practice as it sounds. More often than not, the process involves visiting your veterinarian and getting a prescription for a deworming medication. In some cases, these medications will take the place of needing to deworm on a bi-monthly basis.
There are a few things that you should be aware of before obtaining a deworming prescription. Firstly, you may be able to get a prescription for a heartworm medication that will also prove to be effective against round-shaped intestinal worms, like roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms.
With that being said, there is no “one med kills all” type of deworming medication on the market. The big outlier here is the tapeworm, which requires their own special medication to make them go away. Fortunately, these meds dissolve the parasites, so you won’t have to worry about potentially needing to pull long strands of worm from your dog’s butt.
Preventing Worms from Re-Entering Your Puppy
While worm issues aren’t exactly rare in puppies, keep in mind that your little buddy won’t grow out of the worm phase. The truth is, worms can adversely affect your dog at any stage of his life. In fact, worm issues can be quite common in older dogs.
However, you can be proactive throughout your dog’s life in order to stem the tide of internal worm development. Some of these preventative measures stem from a clinical standpoint. Other concepts are firmly rooted in common sense.
For instance, the single most important preventative measure you can take at home is to pick up your pup’s poop. Worms thrive in dog’s feces, and the unpleasant substance can be an excellent place to find worm eggs and larvae. Removing the poop diligently will lower the instances of your pooch coming into contact with these critters.
Also, be very cautious with providing your pup with worm medications. The best way to do this is to have a thorough conversation with your veterinarian. Doing so will allow you and your pup to be on a healthy regimen, one that is free from issues caused by medications that don't work well with each other.
Deworming is an Ultimate Sign of Puppy Love
When you think about it, dealing with your puppy’s worms is a pretty gross endeavor. However, you’d be hard pressed to dispute any claim stating how vital the procedure is in order for your dog to properly maintain good health, both in the pup stage and as he matures into an adult. Besides, isn't your pup's loyalty worth dealing with a few icky worms?