Yes, puppies can be born with parasites.
Canine parasites come in many shapes and sizes. External parasites that live outside the body include fleas, mites, lice, and ticks.
Internal parasites that live inside the body include heartworms, lungworms, and intestinal worms.
Intestinal worms are the most common of these, and multiple types can infect dogs. Read on to find out why younger dogs commonly have intestinal parasites and what to do if you notice that your dog has worms.
Types of Intestinal Worms in Puppies
Dogs can have multiple types of intestinal worms, including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.
These are different species of worms that live in specific parts of the dog’s small or large intestine.
How do dogs contract intestinal worms? Intestinal worms can be contracted in multiple ways, depending on the type of worm. Roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm eggs are shed in the feces of infected animals and get into the soil.
Puppies may then ingest this contaminated soil, or insects carrying eggs from the soil, as they lick, chew, and eat things while exploring their environment.
Once inside the dog’s body, the eggs hatch and mature, and adult worms inhabit the dog’s intestine where they lay more eggs that are deposited in the feces.
Hookworms can also infect a dog by entering through its skin. Hookworm eggs in the soil hatch into larvae (juvenile worms) that can burrow into a dog’s skin if it walks or lies down in a contaminated area.
Large numbers of worm eggs are often found in places with overcrowding and poor sanitation, such as disreputable dog breeding facilities.
Tapeworms are contracted when a dog ingests a flea carrying tapeworm larvae. Fleas are temporary hosts for the tapeworms.
Once ingested by the dog, the tapeworm larvae mature into adult worms within the intestine and release egg packets in the dog’s feces. The egg packets are ingested by fleas, and the cycle continues.
Are Puppies Born With Parasites?
Yes, puppies can be born with hookworms and roundworms that they contract from their infected mother.
These worms can move from the mother’s body across the placenta to infect her developing puppies.
In addition, hookworms and roundworms can migrate to the mother’s mammary glands and get into her milk, which puppies ingest during nursing.
Signs a Puppy Has Worms
What are signs that my dog might have intestinal worms? Signs of intestinal worms include frequent soft stool or diarrhea, possibly with blood, as well as vomiting.
Puppies with worms may have large, distended bellies and be underweight or slow to gain weight. With severe hookworm or whipworm infections, puppies can have pale gums and be lethargic or weak due to anemia.
Some owners may notice worms in their dog’s stool or vomit. Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms appear long, thin, and white to pink in color.
Tapeworms look similar to rice grains; they are small and short, cream colored, and can often be seen in the fur around the anus.
What should I do if I notice worms in my dog’s stool? If you think your dog has worms, you should schedule a veterinary appointment as soon as possible.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Worms in Puppies
On the day of your appointment, bring a fresh stool sample with you for testing. If no appointments are available within a week or so, you may also ask your vet if you can drop off a stool sample to be tested for parasites.
If the vet notices worms on examination or finds worm eggs in the stool sample, they will recommend treatment.
In most cases, worms are not considered an emergency but should be addressed in a timely manner to prevent harm to the dog.
How are worms treated? Intestinal worms are treated with anthelmintic medications, also called dewormers. Many types of dewormers exist; some are available over-the-counter and some require a prescription from your veterinarian.
You should always consult with a veterinarian prior to administering any deworming medication to ensure it is safe for your dog.
Can worms cause harm to my dog if they are not treated? Yes. All 4 types of worms can irritate the inner lining of a dog’s intestine, causing diarrhea.
Hookworms and whipworms feed on the dog’s blood, potentially causing anemia (low red blood cell count) due to blood loss.
Roundworms and tapeworms feed on the dog’s intestinal contents, taking nutrients from the dog and potentially causing weight loss or poor growth in puppies.
Preventing Future Worm Infestations
When should my puppy be treated for worms and how can I prevent him or her from contracting them again? Because intestinal worms are so common, puppies are often given prophylactic dewormer at their initial veterinary visits.
This kills any worms in the puppy’s body and will not harm the puppy if there are no worms. At least 2 doses of dewormer, given 2 to 3 weeks apart, are usually necessary to completely rid the puppy of any existing worms.
Additionally, all puppies over 8 weeks of age should be started on monthly heartworm prevention. This kills heartworms or intestinal worms that a dog may contract, and often comes in the form of a tablet or chewable that is taken every 30 days.
Different brands often protect against different types of worms; talk to your vet about which preventative would be most appropriate for your pup.
To prevent tapeworms, which are contracted by ingesting fleas, dogs should be kept on year-round flea prevention.
Can humans Contract Worms From Dogs?
Yes. Just like dogs, humans can contract tapeworms by ingesting fleas infected with tapeworm larvae. Since fleas do not live on humans, keeping your dog up to date on flea prevention will protect both them and you from contracting tapeworms.
Humans can also contract roundworms by swallowing the infective eggs, which hatch into larvae that invade and potentially damage body tissues.
Humans cannot contract adult hookworms, but hookworm larvae in the environment can bury into the skin and cause local irritation or (more rarely) migrate through the body causing internal organ damage.
For these reasons, it is very important to keep your dog on monthly preventatives and wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up your dog’s fecal material.