==> Dog Worms?
Puppy Worms and Dog Worms!
Worms in Dogs
Continuing with our present dog health series, we now arrive at dog worms:
In this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL:
- Types of Worms in Dogs
- How Do Dogs Get Worms?
- Worms in Puppies?
- Symptoms of Worms in Dogs!
- Natural Dewormer?
Remember that you can now share your experience with fellow dog owners at the very end of the page.
You may have heard of any or all of these worms in dogs:
So, let's quickly shed some light on the types of canine worms! Again, "an image says more than a thousand words":
We distinguish Flatworms and Roundworms, both indeed are worms (helminths). Flatworms and Roundworms are internal parasites (living inside a host's body) or external parasites (living in soil and/or water - often until they enter a host's body).
Conversely, the Ringworm actually is not a worm (despite its name!), the Ringworm is a fungal skin infection. And the Pinworm (although a worm) does not use dogs as host - but people, particularly children!
Flatworms are the simplest group of worms. Flatworms can be free living (in marine and fresh water), but can also be parasitic (inside a host animal or person). The most familiar flatworm is the Tapeworm (cestode). Adult Tapeworms inhabit the intestines of the host, while its larvae inhabit extraintestinal tissues.
Less familiar are Flukes (trematodes). Of the more than 10,000 fluke species most are flat and leaf-like in appearance, and they range from 5 mm to 10 cm (max) in length. Millions of people, particularly in Africa and East Asia are affected by a fluke-mediated disease called schistosomiasis.
Flatworms have no skeleton, and they reproduce by simply splitting in two! The flatworm is called flatworm because it is typically very thin. However, in length the flatworm can be microscopic to many feet long (in case of tapeworms)! The flatworm moves (inside and outside of a host) with the help of tiny bristles.
Roundworms are Nematodes. You may remember that some nematodes are beneficial (see in the extensive Periodical on fleas, under natural flea remedies). The nematodes we discuss in this Periodical however are not beneficial.
Roundworms too can be free living, but can also be parasitic (inhabiting intestinal and extraintestinal tissues). The most familiar roundworm is the heartworm, the whipworm, the hookworm and (for humans) the pinworm (see the image above).
Roundworms have no skeleton either, but they require a partner to reproduce. The female roundworm lays over 200,000 eggs at a time (quite unbelievable)! The roundworm is called roundworm because it has a thin round smooth body. However, in length the roundworm can extend to four feet!
Up to 800 million people in the world are infected with the whipworm! However, human heartworm infection is very rare (less than 100 cases a year in the entire USA), because humans are not a natural host to the heartworm. In the rare cases where heartworm does affect a person, the heartworm affects the lungs, rather than the heart.
Conversely, heartworm disease in dogs is common and severe: Heartworm ultimately leads to lung failure, heart failure, and other organ failure - in short: death of the dog!
The heartworm is called heartworm because the adults live in the blood vessels of heart, lungs, and other organs of the dog.
Worm Life Cycle
The worm life cycle includes egg, larva, and adult stage. With flukes, all three worm life stages are pathogenic for the host (animal or human), with tapeworms and all types of roundworms the eggs are not (yet) pathogenic.
And how do people get worms?
Most worm infections of dogs and people happen by way of ingestion:
- Dogs eating poop (coprophagy)
- Dogs scavenging 'food' remains covered with contaminated soil
- Dogs licking off the microscopic eggs when scouring the ground
- Dogs eating or drinking from bowls that haven't been cleaned for years
- Dogs ingesting worm eggs or fleas during grooming, and the fleas bear worm larvae
- Dogs consuming raw meats and innards infested with dormant worm larvae
- People and dogs breathing airborne microscopic eggs in bedding etc, or swallowing them
- People and dogs consuming vegetables or fruits that have not been carefully cooked, washed or peeled!
- Children putting fingers with contaminated dirt in the mouth (hopefully no dog poop, although I've seen that too)
Here again you see why our flea Periodical was so extraordinarily comprehensive: Fleas are carriers of countless parasites. Likewise, you get a feeling for why we have to discuss mosquitoes next: Mosquitoes carry the parasites fleas don't want to carry...
Also, here you have yet another reason why MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG does not easily jump onto the current fashion wagon of raw food dog diet: Despite some benefits, for the modern domesticated dog (and particularly for the German Shepherd dog with its generally weak intestines thanks to reckless overbreeding) the risk of catching worms from uncooked/unsteamed meats is just too high in many geographies on the planet.
Very few dog owners have the education to relate a worm disease (which is only discovered months to many years later!) to an individual dog meal served months or years ago - of which the dog will have consumed many, possibly two each day.
Now to continue with How do dogs get worms:
While most worm infections are ingested, the heartworm only spreads from animal host to animal host through the bite/sting of an infected mosquito (mosquitoes will be our next Periodical).
In the USA, heartworm disease is most common along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf coasts, however the disease is transmitted in all states except Alaska and Hawaii (since we are a German Shepherd Dog site we will not join the discussion whether Hawaii actually is a US state or not).
Obviously, in all warm and moist countries around the globe, heartworm infection of dogs and other animals is an issue (because of the many mosquitoes in such conditions).
Finally, some worms (particularly the hookworm and some fluke species) can even penetrate the skin (animal and human)! Meaning, your dog could be happily wallowing on a grassy or not so grassy patch in the dog park and ... catch a worm infection! Yes, really. - Sadly.
However, for us humans to get infected that way, we would need to wallow in infected feces (ie rest half-naked on soil that some dogs considered the public toilet - unlikely), or walk barefeet over such soil (more likely, particularly for kids), because our human skin is thicker than canine skin, thus it is not as easily and as quickly penetrated.
Puppy worms? Is that possible?
Oh yes. For example, many types of roundworm larvae rests in tissue throughout an infected dog's body, and when the larvae develop during extraordinary metabolic changes like pregnancy, they cross the placenta into the unborn puppies. In addition, worm larvae may be transmitted with the mother's milk. In either case, puppies as young as 11 days may then pass fertile eggs from adult worms in their feces.
In fact, almost every puppy has worms! Unless you are regularly deworming your pup (see below), your pup too has worms - although you don't see them, hear them, or smell them. You won't notice your pup's worms - until the worms or larvae significantly impact on the pup's health (eg with the heartworm this may happen four months after infection, but can also happen as late as 5 or 6 years of age).
First note that, like puppies, most adult dogs have worms too! Unless you regularly deworm your dog (see below).
Signs of worms in dogs
Light worm infections may grow unnoticed, with no noticeable symptoms for months to several years (depending on the type of worms). However, worm infections should always be taken serious since at some point they typically become severe.
At that point you may then notice with your dog or puppy any of these worm symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Painful passing of stool (sometimes bloody stool)
- Infected rectum
- Excess gas and Bloat
- Recurrent Diarrhea or Diarrhea over two days in a row
- Recurrent Vomiting or Vomiting over two days in a row
- Weakness, no interest in heavy play or exercise
- Weight loss
- Reduced growth in puppies (and children!)
- Visible worms in stool (or even moving stool!)
- Distended stomach
- Rectal prolapse
I suspect you don't want to let it come that far, hence let's look subsequently at some early worm signs.
Tapeworms in dogs attach to the lining of the small intestine. There, they grow in length by growing new segments behind the worm's head which then move down the tapeworm as they gradually mature.
The oldest, weakest segments are then shed off from the worm's end - either one by one or in short chains - and leave the dog's body with the feces.
Thus, tapeworm infection is best diagnosed from stool samples. Each segment has the size and color of a grain of (white) rice, just flatter. If you see such tiny spots moving on the feces, you have the diagnosis - without having forked out $100 to the vet!
The vet won't necessarily diagnose tapeworm infection from a stool sample anyway, because the segments are only passed intermittently, ie not with every defecation.
Now here's why you should only inspect fresh ('steamy hot') feces - not because they smell so delicate but because:
When exposed to the ultraviolet sunrays (even under cloud cover, see in the Black German Shepherd Periodical), the tapeworm segments quickly dry and stop moving. When drying, they break apart and release myriads of fertilized tapeworm eggs into the environment.
Now RUN! And don't come back to this spot!
Roundworms in dogs may also be diagnosed from stool samples, however here you may not want to do this yourself(?):
A severe roundworm infection will result in eggs being passed with the feces. These eggs are so small that they can only be seen under a microscope - and obviously eggs don't move! Thus you would need to collect some feces with a glass slide, put another slide on top, and place it under the microscope.
Instead of linking blank microscope slides I have linked a beautiful (but bargain!) wooden box with assorted specimens on glass slides, because they make a wonderful present if you have kids or grandchildren!? And then you can let your (or your neighbor's) kids inspect the feces to see if your dog has a roundworm infection - most kids find feces rather fascinating than disgusting...
Today's kids are so smart, they know how to compare what they see under the microscope with googled photos of the different types of worms. - And again, you've saved $100 in vet fees, yeah! Give your kids a kiss.
Just be sure that you have taught your kids or grandchildren hygiene before you gift them the microscope, such that they learned how to properly wash their hands out of routine before they lick their fingers, touch the face or ... touch you!
Although the subsequent types of worms are roundworms too (see the image at the top), let's address them separately because of some specifics.
Hookworms in dogs typically also attach to the intestinal lining, and these worms suck blood from the small vessels in the lining! However some hookworms always 'get lost' when they migrate from the dog's skin where they may have entered the body (see above) to the intestines.
These hookworms then become dormant in the dog's muscle tissue, until some extraordinary metabolic change in the dog's body (like say pregnancy, administration of antibiotics, corticosteroids, or other medicaments) 'awaken' them.
Note that it is these worms (the dormant ones) that are guilty of infecting puppies of a seemingly healthy mother dog. In fact, hookworms and whipworms (next) are considered the most 'obstinate' of all types of worms: It's difficult to get rid of them with old-school medicaments that don't reach the dormant larvae.
Hookworms are more common in puppies than in adult dogs, however a hookworm infection may be newly acquired by any dog, eg when the dog is merely licking its feet after an outdoor walk, or breathing the microscopic eggs while sniffing other dogs' feces or contaminated soil!
Here's a G-rated movie of an adult hookworm hooking on to the colon lining of a dog (G-rated: your kids may watch it too). Think of it as biting into the intestinal wall - as that's what it is, it causes internal bleeding and a bloody stool:
Thanks to Cornell University
Early warning signs of a hookworm infection are microscopic eggs in the feces (again ask the vet or - cheaper - the kids to analyse them!), bloody feces or Diarrhea, pale gums, weakness of the dog or puppy, and anemia.
Whipworms in dogs attach to the lining of the large intestine, and they cause small tears that result in bloody feces and bloody Diarrhea. Another early warning sign is the diagnosis of microscopic whipworm eggs in the dog's stool.
Note that (very different to the tapeworm segments discussed above) whipworm eggs are highly resistant to heat, they don't dry out: These eggs can survive in the environment for up to 5 years! Hence a whipworm infection is the most persistent worm infection to affect your dog's living environment!
Since, again, whipworm eggs are passed with the stool only intermittently (and thus won't be found in a single dog stool sample), I suggest you save another $100 on the vet's diagnosis and rather let your kids detect the eggs under the microscope (or if you don't have kids and no neighbors, you may want to do it yourself).
In short: The early warning sign of an infestation with intestinal worms is found in the dog's feces.
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
However, note that in addition some of the eggs of all intestinal roundworms will stick to the hair around the dog's anus, and from there they intermittently fall off - long after the dog defecated. More so: When an infested dog farts, worm eggs (and with strong farts even tapeworm segments) will be catapulted out into the open.
I don't dare to shock you with a video of an egg airforce strike, but if you'd like to watch the worm infantry (??) here you go:
In other words (short too): If your dog is worm-infested (because you are not regularly deworming, see below), then worm eggs (and possibly even worms, see above) will fall off in your house too - and onto your couch (if your dog may occupy the couch) - and into your bed (if your dog may sleep with you). In this regard, note that eg hookworm eggs easily survive 3 weeks on dry fabrics, and remember that whipworm eggs survive five years(!) on slightly moist surfaces.
Here you see yet another reason why we already 'warned' in one of the very first Periodicals that you received, not to let your dog onto your bed (or your children's bed) - unless you follow a whole array of hygiene and safety precautions, or unless you don't mind to get a worm infection too??
Heartworms in dogs do not affect the intestines but the blood vessels in heart, lungs and other organs (see above). Thus here the warning signs of a dog worm infection are different:
- soft dry cough
- shortness of breath
- loss of stamina
- sudden death after exercise (too late!)
Again, if a puppy doesn't want to play a lot (exercise a LOT), this is a clear sign that something is wrong.
However, since a heartworm infection can take several years before the microfilariae mature into adult heartworms (which then block the blood vessels), the only early warning sign of a worm infection here is a serological antigen test (ELISA, SNAP) from a blood sample.
But even then you can't feel safe because a dog with (yet) less than four or five adult heartworms may not have produced enough circulating antigen to show a positive test result (ie to identify the heartworm infection). This is why, again, regular deworming of your dog is essential (see below).
For effective deworming, three factors need to be addressed:
- Worm Treatment (killing adult worms)
- Worm Prevention (killing worm larvae)
- Environmental Care (preventing re-infection)
If you miss one, you will have to start all over again.
If you got your German Shepherd puppy from a shelter or from a professional breeder, your pup likely will have received the first one to three rounds of dewormers before you collect the pup. Breeders typically start deworming pups at 3 or 4 weeks of age, and shelters at 2 weeks (backyard breeders often not at all, to save money). And you typically won't get - and shouldn't get(!) - a pup younger than 7 or 8 weeks of age (for reasons see the Puppy Development Guide - Puppy 101).
Puppy Worming Schedule
When you bring your pup home, it's wise to continue with the standard puppy deworming schedule that the breeder or shelter has started:
- one more treatment at 8 weeks of age
- then once a month until age 6 months
- thereafter every 1 to 6 months (depending on your dog's living environment)
The above schedule is for when you start socializing your puppy early (like you should, see the Puppy 101 or Ian Dunbar's After you get your puppy), because then your pup will be exposed to a lot of worming risks already at a young age.
Note that only a comprehensively educated veterinarian (really, not all are!) can select the most suitable parasiticide (1), the most suitable dose (2), the most suitable administration time (3), and the most suitable administration schedule (4) - all based on your dog's individual condition.
Your dog's living environment is a factor for dog deworming too, because obviously a German Shepherd kept as a shepherd dog (getting into contact with lifestock feces and fleas and mosquitoes) bears different risk than a German Shepherd kept on an indoor couch.
WHAT?? You won't, right?
If you don't trust your vet to be comprehensively educated?
or you don't have a vet?
or your vet charges 'too much'?
if you don't insist on the most suitable 'fantastic four'
then you may want to consider DIY dog deworming (home treatment) - which is allowed (as opposed to DIY dog vaccination).
In that case take note of the following points:
- Medicaments for intestinal puppy worms or dog worms do not kill heartworms and other worms and larvae that reside in blood vessels or tissue - unless the medicament's label explicitely says so
- The same is true vice versa: Eg heartworm medicaments do not kill intestinal worms - unless the medicament's label explicitely says so
- Often, a dog (even more so, a puppy) is affected by more than one type of worms - then you will need to treat your dog for both types of canine worms, say intestinal worms and worms that reside in blood vessels, heartworm
- Many (but not all) dewormers only either kill adult worms or larvae, but your dog will need a medicament that does both, in order to catch all worm life cycle stages: worm treatment and worm control
- Thanks to the different kind of chemicals used, most (but not all) deworming remedies are far less toxic to dogs than the popular flea and tick remedies (spot ons, tablets, and collars)
- Of course, correct administration of the right dose and strength is essential nonetheless, in order to avoid complications (side effects, up to and including rare death of the dog!)
- DIY misadministration is more common than it should be (the reason is the vast amount of misinformation on the internet that leads overcredulous dog owners to believe "DIY dog treatment is totally safe"
- No, DIY dog treatment is not "totally safe", because with every medicament - even when administered correctly(!) - a small percentage of dogs does experience allergic reactions (here, mostly caused by the sudden die-off of an army of worms, which releases their infectious innards into the dog's body all at once)
- Thus if you go for DIY deworming, accept that you bear some level of risk - although with dewormers this is much smaller than the risk you bear with the popular flea and tick remedies (see the prior Periodicals)
Now, what DIY deworming options do you have for the treatment (of existing worms and larvae) and the control (prevention of future worms and larvae)?
Again, I have integrated the relevant remedies for tapeworm treatment and control, heartworm treatment and control, roundworm treatment and control, hookworm treatment and control, and whipworm treatment and control into the
- opens in a new window/tab so that you can read the following notes along with it:
- Pregnant dogs (bitches) should not be treated with a particular dewormer unless the label clearly permits it. Forget what you can read elsewhere! As always, you can find a LOT of dangerous 'advice' on the internet - which is made up of the typical 'blogger'-type dog blogs of uneducated 'hobby vets'.
- In addition to the above, you can often find the 'advice' to "save a few dollars" by using suspensions, tablets, or pastes produced for lifestock on your dog.
- Further you can read that you may divide deworming products sold for large dogs into several doses to be used on small dogs.
All of the above is dangerous 'advice'! As you know, I love to save dollars myself, I always go for the cheapest source - but without compromising quality. By using lifestock products on dogs, or by dividing a German Shepherd dog dose into several Chihuahua doses, I would not only compromise product quality but product safety. Here's why:
- All dewormers (deworming products) also contain inert ingredients (inactive ingredients)
- Inert ingredients do not have to be listed, and are not listed, on product labels
- Inert ingredients that are safe for lifestock can produce allergic reactions, or even be toxic, when used on the modern domesticated dog!
- In addition, there is a high risk of overdosing because you cannot simply divide the amount of active ingredient alone
- The concentration typically is much higher in a product sold for large dogs than in a product sold for small dogs!
So: Unless prescribed by a veterinary doctor:
Note that I have nothing from holding you back from saving money - instead I encourage you to save money and I show you the remedies to save money - where safe and sensible in terms of product quality.
Doing any of the above is not safe and not sensible. Don't let yourself be talked into saving a few bucks (by people on the internet you don't even know and can't sue!) while risking your dog's life or wellbeing. I would rather give a dog a dewormer more rarely (but regularly, say maybe every two months, or every three months). You choose.
A few final notes on the active ingredients in dewormers (as clearly shown in our Dog Pests Remedies table):
- Fenbendazole is a benzimidazole, and as such mildly toxic (but acute toxicity in dogs starts only at 20 to 50 mg/kg body weight, and you won't give that much). Thus, poisoning with Fenbendazole is rare. When treated at the therapeutic dose (see product labels!), the most common side effect of Fenbendazole is Vomiting.
- ProHeart contains Moxidectin which (like Selamectin, Ivermectin, and all other macrocyclic lactones) is dangerous for dogs with the MDR-1 gene defect (which 10% of German Shepherds have) - although Moxidectin is the safest of the three
- Thus, if you plan to give your GSD a medicament with this ingredient, make sure you first have your dog tested for this gene defect! (See the "GSD warning" notes in the remedies table)
- Pyrantel Pamoate is a tetrahydropyrimidine, and as such mildly toxic (but acute toxicity in dogs starts only at 50 mg/kg body weight, and you won't give that much). Thus, poisoning with Pyrantel Pamoate is rare. When treated at the therapeutic dose (see product labels!), the most common side effect of Pyrantel Pamoate is Vomiting.
- Its sister remedy Pyrantel Tartrate is more soluble in water and thus its absorption into blood is higher, which results in slightly higher toxicity
- Praziquantel is an isoquinoline and its molecular action is not yet fully known, but it is only very mildly toxic (acute toxicity in dogs starts only at 200 mg/kg body weight, and you won't give that much). However, on its own it is not suitable to control worm population, as its anthelmintic (worm-killing) effect only lasts a few hours
- Merial's Heartgard, Virbac's generic Iverhart Plus and Iverhart Max, Novartis' Milbemax etc, they all contain macrocyclic lactones, thus do see the GSD warning note above!
- Iverhart Max and Milbemax further contain Praziquantel to kill tapeworms too, thus they are the more potent dewormer (without increasing the risk for the dog; the risk is the other active ingredient, a macrocyclic lactone)
- Also note that these remedies (at the time of writing) are not sold on Amazon because the vendors try to stop making medicaments a bargain for dog owners (not because they are prescription-only, Amazon sells many such remedies). The vendors seem to merely avoid Amazon to keep the price artificially high
At last, what about natural dewormer or herbal dewormer? Are they viable alternatives to medical dewormer?
Natural dewormer often mentioned are:
- Ground pumpkin seeds (often recommended dose: 1 level teaspoon/5kg body weight)
- Turmeric (ginger-like)
- Probiotic supplements
Again, you can find a LOT of 'blogger-type advice' on the internet regarding all of these (and others). For example regarding garlic, people refer to a "scientific study" (like eg this one), and then make you believe that the research results would be applicable to your dog (probably, the authors do believe it themselves).
However: Note that it is a huge difference whether a remedy (here garlic) was shown to help mice(!) in a laboratory environment, or whether the remedy was shown to help dogs in general (for garlic: that wasn't shown).
In addition, be wary even of claims of "controlled studies": For example, in the one quoted above, the 'control group' received just 0.2mg Ivermectin per kg body weight, and then it was claimed that "garlic is more potent than Ivermectin". Of course it is not: The amount of garlic given was substantial, while the amount of Ivermectin given was infinitesimal - in real life no dog is given such a tiny amount of Ivermectin.
In short, many people ('bloggers') draw conclusions from ... well ... nonsense! I hope, you won't do that.
This is not to say that the above natural dewormer cannot help your dog - they probably do help a bit!
But can they kill an existing tapeworm, hookworm, whipworm, or heartworm infestation? Or can they reliably prevent such worm infection?
I fear that's unlikely, sorry. Nonetheless: A healthy natural and balanced dog food diet certainly will limit the risk of both to some degree! Hence again, try to avoid feeding commercial kibble (see the Periodical Dog Meals, Meal Times, and Feeding Routine and GSD Life Extender No 1).
==> Next edition:
Mosquitoes! Nope! It itches me everywhere! Thus a different topic: Dog Play <== 3