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Worming a Puppy for the First Time

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Worming a puppy for the first time gives puppies a good headstart in life considering the negative impact a belly full of worms can have on a puppy's delicate body. Typically, worming a puppy for the first time occurs when the puppy is still in the breeder's care. The first worming can take place after 2 weeks of age and is repeated every other week generally until the puppy has reached 12 to 16 weeks of age. Consult with your vet for specific deworming recommendations, not all dewormers are suitable for young puppies. Also, if you have acquired a new puppy, obtain his/her deworming history from the breederFollowing is information on worming a puppy for the first time by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic.

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See your vet before worming a puppy for the first time

The Importance of Worming a Puppy 

Worms are a natural occurrence in the canine population. Most adult dogs may have and probably do have a few parasites in their digestive tracts, or they get them occasionally, but the immune systems of mature, healthy dogs can keep these pesky invaders in check.

Not all newborn puppies have worms, but the majority do, either passed in from the mother in utero, or through milk, or through other ways of infection. Because worm infection is a common problem, we normally routinely deworm puppies just to be safe.

Symptoms of worm infections in puppies include failure to gain weight with normal or even increased appetite, weakness, lethargy, abnormally swollen stomach, diarrhea and/or vomiting, itchy skin, dull coat or coat problems, scratching rear end of the body.

The most obvious sign of infestation is the detection of adult worms in the puppy's feces. Adult alive worms or infective eggs can be disposed through feces, so good hygiene practices must be in place.

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There are five main groups of parasites that commonly infect puppies: ascarids (roundworms), nematodes (hookworms, heartworms, whipworms), cestodes (tapeworms), coccidia (Isospora, Cryptosporidium), and protozoa (Toxoplasma and Giardia). Following is a brief guide on some of the most common worms affecting puppies.

"Puppies can become infected with worm parasites while they're in their mother's uterus. They can also be infected by their mother's milk. This is why it is so important to begin deworming your puppies at 2 weeks of age and continue until they have completed nursing."~Drs. Foster and Smith

Picture of roundworms in dog feces.

Picture of roundworms in dog feces.

Roundworms in Puppies

Roundworms are the most common type of worms in adult dogs and in puppies as well. Puppies get these worms from their mothers, in utero or during the nursing period, but also from contaminated soil or stool.

General signs of roundworm infestations in puppies include weight loss despite good appetite, a pot bellied appearances, and dullness.

Roundworms resemble spaghetti in puppy`s poop. Due to possible migration to the lungs, they can cause respiratory problems.

Tapeworms in dog feces

Tapeworms in dog feces

Tapeworms in Puppies 

Tapeworms are segmented intestinal parasites, made up of small parts, each about 3 to 5 mm long. They live attached to the wall of the small intestine, unlike roundworms that live freely in the intestine.

Another difference from roundworms is that in tapeworms it is necessary to have an intermediate host, which is a flea, so puppies and adult dogs acquire these parasites from fleas. Flea control is necessary during a dog's life, but many flea control products are not approved for dogs aged less than 8 weeks, so special consideration must be taken in choosing the right product.

CDC's Public Health Image Library Image #5205

CDC's Public Health Image Library Image #5205

Hookworms in Puppies 

As the name suggests, these worms possess a hook-like apparatus around the mouth and the parasite attaches with it to the wall of the dog's intestine.

The most common way of infection is – in the womb or through mother's milk, but also from infected feces. Another common way of infection is penetration directly through the skin from soil or grass.

The most common symptoms include weight loss, pale gums, and diarrhea.

Heart worms in a dog's heart

Heartworms in a dog's heart

Heartworms in Puppies 

Infected mosquitoes are the sources of this infection. It takes at least 6 months for the larvae to mature into an adult inside a dog, so only after seven months, a dog can test positive for heartworm infection.

This infection is preventable, and most veterinarians will start dogs on a protective regiment at the age of 8 weeks. It is important to remember that even if the puppy seems fine, and the parasites are not physically visible, that doesn’t mean he is a worm-free.

Lungworms in Puppies 

The most common route of infection is by drinking contaminated water or through contaminated faces. The mother may pass it to the offspring as well, but rarely. Symptoms include a cough or other respiratory symptoms.

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Whipworms in Puppies 

Whipworms are the parasites of the large intestine. They are found everywhere in nature, but most usually in contaminated feces. The cycle from eggs to adult whipworm lasts 3 months, so first symptoms of this infestation will be seen in older puppies.

Worming a Puppy for the First Time 

dog's heart is beating fast

It is recommended to follow a standard puppy deworming schedule because worms are an inevitable part of a dog's life, and it is most likely that the puppy will have worms at some stage of growing up.

Recommended deworming should be done at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age and then at 12 and 16 weeks of age. The deworming medication will kill the adult worms living in the puppy's intestine and they are expelled from the body via the anus.

The most usual way of expelling dead parasites is during defecation, but, occasionally, parasites can be seen emerging from the puppy's anus even if he is not defecating at that moment. Usually, in this stage, they are in the process of dying. This can be very unsettling for owners who are not expecting this.

Are there any side effects when worming a puppy for the first time? Side effects generally include minor intestinal problems like diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and some puppies may also act differently during a few days period. Diarrhea or loose stool that lasts up till 3 days is expected.

One of the reactions to medication can be excessive drooling; which, combined with intestinal problems, it can make a puppy dehydrated, so it's important for the puppy to have access to clean water at all times. Unusual and rare side effects include lethargy, extreme pain and seizures, and in these cases, puppy must be checked by a veterinarian.

"Deworming for hookworms and roundworms with pyrantel pamoate (Nemex®) should be initiated at 2 weeks of age and repeated every 2 weeks until weaning."~ Dr. Dawn Bowles, DVM

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Photo Credits:

  • Wikipedia-Dirofilaria immitis heart worms in a dog's heart by Alan R Walker - Own work Infection of heart of a dog with heartworm nematodes, Dirofilaria immitis. CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Wikipedia-Ancylostoma caninum hookworms in a dog This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #5205Public Domain

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