dog

Puppy Care 101: What Every Dog Owner Needs To Know About Puppy Worms

by Desirée O

When you get a new puppy, you can be swept away by how cute and lovable she is. But soon the reality sets in that you have a baby animal to take care of, and that means teething, potty training, and — even more daunting and potentially disgusting — dealing with critters like fleas and ticks.

And one of the worst things of all? Puppy worms.

And while it’s sad (and yes, nasty) to think about your little puppy dealing with worms, it’s a potential situation that you should be aware of so you can prevent infestations in the first place and handle any problems if they do come up.

Here is all the info you need to know about the different kinds of worms that can infect puppies — such as roundworm, ringworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, coccidia, and heartworm — and what to do if your pup gets infected, including types of treatments you can use, the kinds of remedies available, and all the other details necessary to keep your beloved puppy safe and healthy.

What Are Worms?

What Are Worms?
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The worms that most commonly affect puppies are parasites, just like fleas and ticks. However, worms such as ringworm, hookworm, and tapeworm are intestinal parasites, unlike their itchy, annoying, external parasitic cohorts.

Intestinal parasites like heartworm can cause a number of health problems with your puppy and should be treated immediately. Intestinal worms are common among canines, and puppy parents should always be on the lookout for signs that their dogs might be infected.

How Do Puppies Get Worms?

How Do Puppies Get Worms?
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Your puppy is a perfect host for many parasites on the prowl, and because dogs like to sniff, lick, and eat anything they see, this, unfortunately, makes them more likely to ingest parasitic larvae.

For example, those birds, rodents, dead animals, and other fun things puppies get into (and gobble up) can be contaminated. Other intestinal parasites are spread through mosquito bites, fleas, grass, and soil and even passed on from the mother when the puppy is born.

Types of Worms
1. Roundworm

<b>Types of Worms</b><br>1. Roundworm
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Roundworm is by far the most common parasitic worm your puppy can get. The noodle-like parasite can be as small as under 2  inches and as large as 6 inches long.

The parasite can pass through the mother to the placenta and affect puppies before birth. It can also pass through the mother’s milk. Your puppy can also get roundworm from sniffing or licking grass, feces, or soil that has been contaminated with larvae.

Roundworm can cause damage to your puppy’s liver and lungs, leading to breathing problems as well as diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. A puppy who appears weak or has a bloated belly could be showing signs of roundworm.

2. Ringworm

2. Ringworm
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Ringworm is a fungus that lives on the outer layer of a dog’s skin and is often contracted via an infected couch or carpet or another animal that has the fungus. Luckily, it’s not a life-threatening illness, but it should be taken care of immediately.

If your puppy is infected with ringworm, you’ll notice small circular hairless spots that are where the hair follicles have broken. Not only are these spots unpleasant for your pup, they are also vulnerable areas that can cause the disease to spread.

If you suspect your puppy might have ringworm, contact your vet right away, and try to avoid excessive contact with your puppy, because the fungus can pass to humans.

3. Hookworm

3. Hookworm
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Hookworms get their icky-yet-apt name from their hook-shaped mouths, which they use to attach themselves to a dog’s intestines. They then feed off the blood vessels, causing anemia, weakness, weight loss, and poor growth. This can be fatal for puppies.

Hookworm eggs can be passed through an infected animal’s stool as well as from mother to baby, either before birth or during feeding afterward.

A puppy who is acting lethargic or has a poor appetite might be showing signs of hookworm.

4. Whipworm

4. Whipworm
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Whipworms work a lot like hookworms, in that they use their whip-like shape to latch onto a dog’s intestinal lining and feed on the blood cells. These parasites can be about 1/4 inch long and can be passed through the stool of an infected animal.

There are no real symptoms of whipworm, but in severe infections, you might notice blood in your puppy’s stool or bad diarrhea.

Whipworm can be easily prevented and treated with most deworming medications.

5. Tapeworm

5. Tapeworm
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Tapeworms are flat, segmented parasites that puppies can pick up when they eat infected critters such as fleas or mice. Tapeworms live and thrive by eating food in the intestine, which can lead to weight loss (despite the fact that your puppy’s still eating). The worms can also cause irritated skin, which may have your puppy biting or excessively licking sensitive spots.

Because tapeworms have segmented bodies, they can pull apart, which is why you might see rice-shaped bits in your puppy’s poop or vomit.

6. Coccidia

6. Coccidia
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Coccidia is a nasty single-celled parasite that can infect puppies well before they show any signs of being ill. It’s typically passed to dogs if they ingest the poop of an infected animal or any dirt in the area.

The organism lives off the lining of a dog’s intestines and can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and possibly Lyme disease. Young puppies are more likely to be affected by coccidia, with the most common symptom being diarrhea and loss of appetite.

7. Heartworm

7. Heartworm
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Heartworm is a parasite contracted through mosquito bites. It breeds and infects the heart and lungs of its host and can live in a dog for up to seven years.

Though treatment can be expensive, if nothing is done, your puppy could develop serious heart and lung problems. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, weight loss, coughing, trouble breathing, and even heart failure.

Preventive Medication

Preventive Medication
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Because parasitic worms are so common in dogs, preventative medication is readily available and is an effective way to prevent the potential problem. Over-the-counter medications are generally inexpensive, and it’s recommended that you start giving your pup the treatments fairly early on.

Most heartworm medication, which needs to be prescribed by your veterinarian, includes a general “dewormer,” so it can help to fight against the most common internal parasites. This medication can help save your puppy’s health and could help you avoid the expensive costs that come with treatment once an infection sets in.

Medication for Infected Pups

Medication for Infected Pups
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If your puppy has been diagnosed with worms, then your vet will talk to you about treatment options. Most worms are treated with oral, topical, or injected medication.

Puppies typically must take oral medications biweekly until around 12 weeks old, then switch to monthly/yearly treatments as they age.

You can also get topical medication, which can be applied monthly to the back of your pup’s neck and can help ward off worms as well as ticks and fleas.

Injected medications can be used for more serious infections. To find out which method will work best for your puppy, make sure to talk with your vet.

Heartworm Treatment

Heartworm Treatment
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There are a few steps to take when going through heartworm treatment. First, start with an accurate diagnosis and make sure that your dog is infected. Deworming your pup can be a lengthy and costly process, so a thorough test will help your vet know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Next, restrict your dog’s exercise. This can be a challenge, especially if you have a small, active pup. Heartworms can spread quickly through the heart and lungs when an infected dog is exerting energy, so try to keep your puppy relaxed. You need to make sure your pup’s infection is stabilized before starting more in-depth deworming, which might come in the form of oral or topical treatments.

When your vet has determined that your puppy is stable and ready for the next step, you will decide on further treatment, which might be deworming injections or possibly surgery if the case is severe. Six months after heartworm treatment, your vet will test to see if your puppy is free of parasites or needs to go through another round of treatment.

Home Remedies

Home Remedies
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If you’re looking for a more natural way to fend off pesky parasites, one way is to switch up your puppy’s diet. A healthy gut will help give your dog’s immunity system a boost and make her body less hospitable for any would-be worms.

Fermented and grated veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, and watercress as well as pumpkin seeds can help keep your puppy healthy. Small amounts of garlic or apple cider vinegar can make your dog’s digestive tract less attractive to parasites as well.

Just remember, before you start your puppy on any new diet, be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian. You’ll want to avoid any home remedies that might negatively affect your dog.

Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Puppy Worms

Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Puppy Worms
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Another way to prevent worms is to keep your puppy’s outdoor and indoor areas as clean as possible and free of any infection hot spots.

Properly cleaning feces from your backyard and sealing it in a bag for disposal can help lower the risks of infestation in your soil or grass. When outside, also try to keep your dog from eating any dead animals, wild creatures, or poop, because those can contain worm parasites.

If your puppy has an accident inside or if there are litter boxes in the house, make sure to disinfect them regularly and keep the areas clean.