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Dogs are loyal animals that offer loads of unconditional love and plenty of companionship, but it is unfortunate that often worms may get in the way, with the end result of leaving owners disgusted and repulsed while dogs suffer from digestive problems and more.

As much as worms in dogs may sounds like bad news, the good news is that educated owners will considerably lower the chances of their dogs being affected by parasites by simply learning how dogs get worms and how they can be prevented. 

There are a variety of worms affecting dogs, the most common being intestinal worms that thrive in the dog's intestinal tract creating a variety of signs and symptoms. It is important however to recognize that dogs may still have worms even though they are not visibly seen in the dog's stool. Indeed, some intestinal parasites can only be recognized through a fecal flotation test.

How a Dog Gets Worms

Because there are a variety of worms affecting dogs, it is important to realize that each type of worm is transmitted in different ways. Following are types of worms affecting dogs and how dogs get infested by them.

1) Tapeworms

Tapeworm segments are often found crawling out of the dog's rectum or in areas where the dog sleeps. They resemble grains of rice once they dry out. The actual tapeworm is attached to the dog's intestinal wall and only its segments are visible as they exit the intestinal tract.

These segments capable of moving for a little while, may look like little worms when in reality they are simply sacs full of eggs. Dogs get tapeworms from ingesting an infested flea such as when they lick their fur to groom themselves. These fleas are infested because they have fed on the tapeworm eggs.

Once the flea is digested, the tapeworm eggs are released and the tapeworm's life cycle begins once again. In some cases, tapeworm eggs are contracted when a dog ingests wildlife animals that were infected. Tapeworms segments are easily visible by the naked eye. Owners suspecting tapeworms should collect some specimens and bring them to a veterinarian. Once the vet confirms their presence, a special de-wormer will be prescribed.

However, in order to completely eradicate the tapeworm population, owners should also focus on preventing the dog from getting into contact with fleas. This can be accomplished with effective top on flea products such as Frontline and with special flea sprays that will kill the eggs, pupae and fleas in the dog's environment.

2) Roundworms

Roundworms are worms that resemble strands of spaghetti. They may be found in the dog's stool or at times they may be vomited, however they may not always be visible. Most puppies are already born with these worms or they may get infested by ingesting the eggs found in the mother's milk.

Adult dogs on the other hand, most likely get them from gets ingesting soil infested with hardy roundworm eggs or by ingesting feces contaminated with roundworm eggs. By simply licking his paws after walking on soil, dogs can ingest eggs. In some cases, roundworms may be transmitted when the dog eats a small infested mammal such as a mouse.

Roundworms cause a variety of symptoms in dogs such as a pot bellied appearance, weight loss, episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, and a dull coat. 

In some cases, if the larvae migrate to the lungs the dog may have coughing spells.

Roudworms, are zoonotic parasites, meaning that they can be passed to humans. The term toxocariasis is used to depict the infection caused by parasitic roundworms.

How do people get this infection? Roundworms are found in the digestive tract of puppies and dogs. 

A puppy or dog infected with roundworms will shed the eggs in their feces. When the dog's poop isn't picked up in a timely manner, the eggs are released into the soil.

Children or adults who handle the soil and do not wash their hands, may ingest the eggs if the dirt is accidentally swallowed.

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While in dogs roundworms tend to stick to living in the dog's intestinal tract, when they infect humans they behave in different ways.

Young children are more at risk for a complication known as ocular toxocariasis, where roundworm larvae migrate to the eye which can cause inflammation and even vision loss.

 The presence of roundworms in dogs is confirmed through a fecal flotation test. Treatment consists of administering a dewormer followed by a stool recheck 3-4 weeks thereafter.

3) Whip Worms

These worms are not generally visible in the dog's stool. However they do tend to cause a variety of symptoms in dogs such as stools covered with blood or mucous, weight loss and diarrhea. 

Transmission occurs when a dog drinks or eats from a whip worm egg -infested bowl or floor. It is important therefore to keep dogs away from contaminated areas.

 Treatment upon obtaining a positive fecal test consists of the administration of an effective dewormer.

4) Hookworms

These worms thrive in the dog's small intestine. They are commonly found in puppies and are transmitted from mother to pup or through the mother's milk. Hookworms also infest adult dogs by ingestion of larvae or by penetrating in the dog's skin.

Symptoms suggesting hook worms are the following: anemia, pale gums, weakness, dull coat, vomiting, diarrhea and black tarry stools. The larvae may eventually migrate in the lungs causing coughing spells. 

Hookworms are zoonotic parasites, which means that they can passed along to humans.

The larvae of these pesky parasites are known for causing a skin infection that it referred to as "cutaneous larva migrans."

How do people get this infection? A dog infected by hookworms will pass several hookworm eggs in their stools. If the poop is not disposed of in a timely matter, the eggs will hatch into larvae that contaminate the soil.

Fecal tests are required to confirm or rule out the possibility of hook worms in dogs. Treatment consists of administering effective deworming medication. 

5) Heartworms

Dog owners may have heard of heartworms, but these are not worms that thrive in the intestinal tract. Rather, these worms grow in the heart's ventricle causing serious problems and even death. Affected dogs will initially likely have coughing spells, and an unexplained tiredness.

Dogs get heart worms when a mosquito deposits heartworm eggs which will migrate into the heart clogging the main blood vessels. This debilitating condition is prevented by giving monthly heartworm medication after having the dog undergo blood work. 

As seen, there are plenty of intestinal worms out there just waiting to infest dogs and give them problems such as an upset tummy. By learning how dogs get infested by worms and by preventing them in first place, the chances of them infesting your dog will be considerable lower.

So be informed, get those recommended yearly fecal tests run and do not allow worms to interfere with the bond you and your dog share.

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