Intestinal Worms and Dogs
No one said intestinal parasites are fun. But, as a dog owner, it’s important to know about the different types of worms and the effects they have on a dog’s health. And since people can become infected with roundworms and hookworms, it’s that much more important to keep your dog parasite-free. Here are some basic facts about the more common parasites to help:
ROUNDWORMS (Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina) are the most common type of worm to infect the animal kingdom. These worms are usually 2 – 4 inches long, tan or white “spaghetti-like” creatures with tapered ends. If a roundworm burden is heavy, a dog may vomit these worms or pass them (whole) in the stool. Roundworms can cause vomiting and diarrhea and can have an effect on a dog’s overall general health and appearance. Puppies infected with roundworms will have a “potbellied” (bloated) look to them. Roundworms can become so numerous that they can cause an intestinal blockage and stool cannot pass. As mentioned above, roundworms are zoonotic (can be transferred to humans) and can cause an infection known as “Visceral Larva Migrans”, which may result in possible inflammation of muscle tissue and blindness. Anthelmintics (dewormers) that are frequently used to treat roundworms are pyrantel pamoate, fenbendazole and piperazine
HOOKWORMS (Ancylostoma caninium) are blood-sucking intestinal parasites and have the ability to cause anemia (and sometimes death) in puppies and adult dogs. Hookworms cannot be seen by the naked eye, and the severity of adverse effects will depend on the amount of worms in the intestine, the animal’s overall health and age. In humans, hookworms can cause “Cutaneous Larva Migrans”, commonly called “creeping eruption”. The hookworm larvae will burrow into the skin of a human’s foot or leg causing a linear, red lesion, which is intensely itchy. This parasite has also been known to cause chronic intestinal bleeding, abdominal pain and diarrhea in small children. Deworming medications usually include pyrantel pamoate and fenbendazole.
TAPEWORMS (Dipylidium caninum) are the other parasites that can be seen by the dog owner. Actually, what the dog owner with observe is tapeworm segments that have broken off from the adult parasite attached to the lining of the dog’s intestinal tract. These tapeworm pieces are ¼ - ½ inch in length, are usually white and are usually seen (while still alive) contracting and expanding around the dog’s rectum or on a dog’s stool immediately after elimination. Once these segments die, they will appear like a grain of uncooked wild rice or a sesame seed and are often found in the dog’s bedding. The most common route of infection occurs when the dog swallows a flea that is carrying the parasite’s eggs. Tapeworms cannot be directly transmitted from dogs to humans but small children could accidentally ingest flea larvae or pupae on the floor containing an immature tapeworm and get a tapeworm infection. Deworming can be done by either oral medication or by injection and the most common antiparasitic agent used is praziquantel another is epsiprantel.
WHIPWORM (Trichuris vulpis) is one of the less notable parasites and it cannot be seen by the dog owner. Unfortunately, this particular parasite is the most difficult to eradicate and control and the symptoms may include severe diarrhea, flatulence, loss of weight and general overall condition. The anthelmintic for whipworm most commonly prescribed is fenbendazole (Panacur). One note of importance to pet owners, monthly doses of the common heartworm preventative medication containing milbemycin oxime will help to keep these parasites under control.
COCCIDA (Isopora canis) is not a worm, but a single cell microscopic organism that will cause “havoc” in a dog’s intestinal tract when present in great numbers. This protozoa will cause watery diarrhea in young and susceptible animals that have immature or compromised immune systems; in some cases, the diarrhea can be severe enough to be life threatening. Eradication of this parasite is usually successful with a daily dose of a sulfonamide antimicrobial agent.