Dog worms are nasty little parasites that every owner needs to be aware of. Fortunately, modern veterinary medicine and treatment options allow us to manage and prevent serious worm infestations in our canine friends.
The purpose of this website is to provide insightful on advice on what you can do to spot the symptoms of worms and learn about the most appropriate treatment plans should your dog encounter any of these unwanted visitors.
Worms, Parasites & Your Dog: An Overview
The word parasite literally means “one who eats from the table of another” and is an old Greek word that was applied to sycophants or ‘professional guests’ who befriended the rich and ate at the top table.
With that in mind, it is imperative that modern dog owners such as ourselves are armed with the knowledge to spot the presence of parasites before they outstay their welcome as our dog’s uninvited visitor.
Fleas, worms, mites and ticks are all words that strike an unpleasant chord with dog owners, and rightly so.
As much as we would like to pretend that these things only exist on television and in tropical countries, it is an unfortunate fact that the domestic dog encounters many parasites throughout his life, and is likely to suffer the effects of one or more type at least once in his life.
As with most canine health issues, education and understanding is key to making sure parasites don’t get the better of your dog.
Nematode (Whip worm, round worm and hook worm)
Life Cycle: Anything up to three years.
Symptoms: Weight loss, dull coat, scooting, diarrhoea, vomiting. .
Cause: Lack of prevention, infected food, contact with infected carcasses.
Treatment: Oral treatment or spot on treatment, although prevention is more effective.
Luckily in the UK we are not likely to come into contact with some of the more worrying species of parasitic worm and their primary carriers, the mosquito.
Parasitic organisms in general have quite complex life cycles, migrating between several different hosts or locations in the host’s body, including the intestine, the bowel and the heart.
Infection usually occurs orally, but parasites can enter a host via an open cut in unfortunate circumstances.
One of the main problems associated with a nematode infestation is the dramatic weight loss. Since the nematode will live inside the small intestine of its host for most of the duration of its stay, it can easily feed on anything your dog eats, meaning that the nutrition is being diverted and the worm subsequently grows and grows.
In addition, anaemia is also a symptom of roundworm infection.
Some species of roundworm are bloodfeeders, either they attach themselves to the wall of the gut and suck blood or are pool feeders whereby the worm bites into the gut wall, creating a pool of blood which they then digest.
Of particular significance to pet owners is the risk of zoonoses, or the transmission of worms from animals to humans. Toxocara canis or the Dog Roundworm eggs may be passed to humans in dog faeces or through touching a dogs coat.
The egg hatches into a larvae and migrates through the body of the human. As it is not inside a recognisable host, it can migrate to the eye causing blindness or to other organs and can cause cysts or skin lesions.
Treatment and prevention are fairly simple, in fact responsible pet owners should ensure that they pick up their pets’ faeces and that their dogs have a roundworm control routine.
Treatments do not prevent the parasites from entering the body, but they do kill the worms before they reach sexual maturity and before they can do any harm.
It is recommended that dogs are wormed at least 4 times a year, however if your dog is in regular contact with children, you may wish to use a monthly roundworm treatment, either in a tablet or spot on product, to ensure the risk of transmission is reduced.
There are many species of intestinal worms in Europe, but some of them are restricted to warm climates. One particularly nasty example is the heart worm.
This parasite uses a mosquito as its primary host. Once the mosquito bites a mammal, the larvae are injected into the blood stream. Once the larva reach the heart of the secondary host, they begin feeding on blood.
They then grow and this is where the health problems begin.
A serious infestation of heart worm can be fatal for a dog, as the symptoms are hard to spot and treatment can sometimes fail.
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