How to spot worms in your dog

April 7, 2024

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National Pet Month in April is all about responsible pet ownership and so this year, we wanted to highlight the importance of preventing parasite infestations in your pet. A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host. Fleas, tick and worms are all parasites that commonly affect dogs here in the UK. Some parasites are more problematic than others, and how badly your dog is affected will depend on their age and overall health status. Parasites can be transmitted more easily in high density areas like Cambridge, where lots of dogs are walked in parks and other green spaces, so we thought a little more information on prevention, spotting and treatment might be helpful.


Why are dog worms such a big problem?

Worms can cause discomfort and health issues for your pet if left untreated. There are three types of worm that can adversely affect your dog;

  • Roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites found in dogs. They can be transmitted to puppies from their mother before birth or through her milk. Adult dogs can also become infected by ingesting roundworm eggs from contaminated soil or faeces.
  • Tapeworms in dogs are another prevalent intestinal parasite. They are commonly transmitted through the ingestion of fleas or by hunting and eating small mammals or birds infected with tapeworm larvae.
  • Lungworm in dogs can be contracted by ingesting infected slugs or snails, or the slug and snail larvae that is present in the environment. Puppies may also acquire lungworm larvae through their mother’s milk. Once ingested, the larvae develop into adult worms in the dog’s lungs, leading to potentially severe health issues.

How to tell if your dog has worms

Tell-tale signs that your dog could have worms include;

  1. Changes in appetite and weight – some dogs may experience an increased appetite as the worms will be consuming nutrients from their bodies, while others may lose interest in food altogether. Patrick advises that if you notice your dog eating significantly more or less than usual, it would be worth investigating further – contact us.
  2. Visible worms or worm segments in your dog’s faeces, vomit, or around their bottom. These can appear as small, white, rice-like grains or as longer, spaghetti-like strands. If you spot any unusual objects in your dog’s stool or vomit, it’s essential to get your dog checked by one of our vets for proper diagnosis and treatment.
  3. Changes in stool such as diarrhoea, constipation, or stools that appear abnormal in colour, consistency, or odour. Keep an eye on your dog’s bathroom habits, as any persistent changes could indicate an underlying health issue, including worms.
  4. Visible signs of discomfort such as scooting the bottom along the ground or excessive licking around the bottom area. This behaviour is often a result of irritation caused by worms or their eggs and should prompt a visit to the surgery.
  5. Lethargy and weakness and a general lack of interest in activities due to worm infestations draining your dog’s energy levels.
  6. Potbellied appearance in severe cases due to a large presence of worms in the gastrointestinal tract, a swollen abdomen can be a sign of serious worm-related health issues. This should be addressed promptly – contact us.
  7. Dull, dry coat and overall poor condition as a portion of the nutrients that support coat health are being consumed by the parasites.
  8. Persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy and sometimes bleeding disorders in the case of lungworm.

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, get in touch with our team as soon as possible so we can arrange for proper diagnosis and treatment. With timely intervention, most worm infestations in dogs can be effectively treated, and by staying vigilant and seeking veterinary care at the first sign of trouble, you can help ensure your canine companion enjoys a happy & healthy, parasite-free life.

Download our bonus flea spotting guide

While you’re focusing on keeping your dog healthy and free from worms, don’t forget about another common parasite: fleas. These tiny pests can cause itching, discomfort, and transmit diseases to your dog. Download our bonus guide to spotting fleas here!

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to protecting your dog from parasites like worms and fleas. We offer a range of effective, preventative treatments here at the surgery. Three monthly treatment is usually advised to rid your dog of any unwelcome visitors. We are always happy to advise on which product might best suit your dog so feel free to get in touch for further advise.

We are also strong advocates of picking up after you dog in common spaces to prevent the spread of parasites in the canine population. Some worms can also cause significant health issues for people so all the more reason to remember those poo bags when walking your dog!

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