Did you find something suspicious in your dog's poop? There are many types of parasites that can affect dogs. Some types of worms can actually be seen in a dog's feces. This can be shocking even for experienced dog owners.
Why There Are Worms in Your Dog’s Poop
There are a few possible reasons for worms in a dog's poop. In most cases, it's a sign of intestinal parasites. Dogs pick up parasites after coming into contact with eggs in the soil or stool from an infected dog. They ingest the microscopic eggs of the parasites when grooming themselves or after eating contaminated soil or feces.
Roundworms are common in puppies but can also occur in adult dogs. These parasites live in the intestines and feed off nutrients ingested by the dog. Dogs with roundworm infections may shed whole worms in their stool that look a bit like spaghetti. Other signs of roundworms include vomiting, diarrhea, and bloated abdomen. Some dogs experience coughing as the larvae migrate through the lungs. Roundworms may cause weight loss or make it difficult for growing puppies to gain weight.
Tapeworms are segmented flatworms that live in the dog's intestines and absorb nutrients for survival. The worms shed segments of their bodies that may move like tiny worms while still alive. These segments eventually dry and release eggs in order to repeat their life cycle. When dried, the segments look like small grains of rice that may be seen around the dog's anus or on the bedding. Tapeworms rarely lead to health problems in dogs, but the segments may cause itching and irritation.
Hookworms are thin worms that measure less than an inch long. Hookworms attach to the intestinal wall and feed on the dog's blood and tissue. This can lead to anemia and blood in the stool.
Whipworms are up to three inches long with a whip-like tail on one end. These parasites attach to the intestinal wall and feed on the dog's blood. Like hookworms, whipworms can cause anemia and blood in the feces. Some dogs with whipworms can develop a severe complication called pseudohypoadrenocorticism, which can in severe vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and electrolyte abnormalities.
Hookworms and whipworms are rarely seen in the stool. However, most dogs with these parasites will exhibit some clinical signs.
It's possible to find harmless worms in your dog's stool. Some harmless worms will simply pass through the stool after being eaten by the dog. Your veterinarian can determine the type of worm present by analyzing a stool sample.
Signs of Worms in Dogs
If you find worms in your dog's stool, you may notice other abnormal signs. Dogs with intestinal parasites may or may not exhibit signs of illness.
- Diarrhea (may contain blood or mucus)
- Appetite changes
- Weight loss or failure to gain weight
- Enlarged abdomen (potbelly)
- Poor hair coat condition
- Pale mucous membranes
What to Do If You Find Worms in Your Dog's Poop
Contact your veterinarian if you notice worms in your dog's poop. Your vet's office will recommend bringing a sample of your dog's stool for fecal testing. They will analyze the stool sample microscopically to look for parasite eggs. Your dog may also need a physical examination.
If parasite eggs are found, your veterinarian will administer the appropriate dewormer to your dog. Additional treatments may be necessary if the parasites have caused other problems, like diarrhea or anemia. Other potential treatments include anti-diarrhea drugs and antibiotics for secondary infections. A blood transfusion may be needed in severe cases of anemia.
After deworming, the dog may pass worms in the stool that are dead and dying. This is normal at first, but contact your vet if it continues for several days.
How to Prevent Parasitic Infection in Dogs
It's fairly easy to prevent the most common intestinal parasites from affecting your dog. Most monthly heartworm preventives contain ingredients that also kill common intestinal parasites. By using monthly heartworm prevention, you can keep your dog safe from both heartworms and common intestinal parasites. Ask your vet about the best option for your dog.
You can also reduce the risk of parasites by stopping your dog from eating soil and other dogs' stool. However, the dogs may still ingest parasite eggs through self-grooming after walking in a contaminated area.