Does My Dog Have Worms? Signs and Symptoms

No one wants to put the health of their dog in danger, but sometimes problems can develop inside of your pet that you may not even realize are happening. One of those worrisome issues is worms. These parasites can cause serious damage if not treated. If you ignore the signs your dog has worms, often long-term health woes can occur.

According to the U.S. government, some strains of worms are most prevalent along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, making Florida one of the hotspots for worm activity. This means dog owners in Florida should be on high alert and be aware of the signs of worms in dogs to keep their four-legged friends healthy and happy.

 

Dog sick with worms lying on a carpet

What are worms in dogs?

Worms are small parasites that are relatively common in most dogs. There are five different types of worms that affect domestic dogs: roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms and heartworms. The symptoms of worms in dogs depend on the type of worm and the breed of dog.

How would my dog get worms?

Most puppies with roundworms or hookworms get them passed down from their mothers. Other worms are contracted by how your dog interacts with its environment.

Here are some common scenarios in which dogs can contract worms:

  • Mosquito bites, which can lead to heartworms
  • Dog feces, where roundworm eggs grow
  • Fleas or rodents, which can result in tapeworms
  • Licking their skin or coat, which may potentially lead to hookworms
  • Contaminated soil, grass or sand, which can result in whipworms

How do I know if my dog has worms?

Coughing, diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy are the general signs the dog has worms. Other symptoms depend on the type of worm. For example, if your dog has a tapeworm, clear identifiers can be rapid weight loss or what appears to be grains of rice in their stool.

Here’s how to tell if your dog has worms based on each of the major parasites:

  • Tapeworms: Rice or spaghetti-like worms in feces and “scooting” its bottom on the ground
  • Roundworms: Vomiting
  • Whipworms: Diarrhea and weight loss
  • Hookworms: Pale gums

Even if you pay close attention to the moods and actions of your pet, sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your dog has worms. But if you want to give your vet an idea of what is happening with your pet, these are some of the primary symptoms to watch for.

What about heartworms?

While all worms are dangerous to your pet’s health, experts generally agree that heartworms are the most troublesome. Since most dogs acquire heartworm through mosquito bites, a regular series of heartworm treatments are recommended to maintain your dog’s health. Heartworms can grow and multiply in your dog’s heart, causing lung and organ disease and death if left untreated. If you suspect heartworm, your knowledgeable, local veterinarian will perform a blood test to determine if your pet is ill. Note that you’ll need to test for heartworms before simply giving them medication, as dead worms in your dog’s heart can cause major complications.

What steps do I need to take if I think my dog has worms?

While you may suspect your dog is sick, you may still wonder, “How do you know if your dog has worms?” In most cases, the answers will have to be determined by your vet. You may need to collect a stool sample, which will be examined microscopically for evidence of worms. In the case of heartworms, blood work is usually necessary.

How can I keep my dog from getting worms?

While there are no foolproof methods for worm prevention, if you maintain regular hygiene, vet appointments, flea and tick controls and other protective measures, they will go a long way in keeping your dog safe from worms. Take annual tests for heartworms and ask your vet for their recommendations for preventative medications.