In dogs, roundworms are a very frequent parasite. Almost every dog has roundworms at some point in their lives, most commonly when they are dogs.
-Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonine are the two main species of roundworms that infect dogs. Toxocara canis is a more dangerous parasite that can infect people.
-Toxocara canis, a canine roundworm, can grow to be several inches long. (Creative Commons/Joel Mills)
Adult roundworms reside in the intestines of dogs, feeding on partially digested food. Malnourishment can be caused by the worms, which is especially dangerous in a young puppy. Roundworms are particularly dangerous to puppies and young dogs because their immune systems have not fully matured and they are unable to fight off adult worms as effectively as an adult dog.
What causes roundworms in dogs?
1. From their mother.
Roundworms are quite prevalent in puppies, as the larvae are commonly transmitted from the mother right before birth or through nursing.
This is how it works: Unfortunately, the canine roundworm has developed a highly efficient method of reproduction. Even after a dog has been treated for roundworms and the adult worms have been removed, a number of dormant (“encysted”) larvae can remain in bodily tissues. These encysted roundworm larvae can lay dormant for the rest of a dog’s life, unless the dog is a female and becomes pregnant, in which case the larvae reactivate and are passed on to her puppies. Puppies can be infected while still inside their mother’s body or after birth through her milk. Even if the mother dog and puppies are exceptionally healthy and well-cared for, the puppies should be treated for roundworms (see below) from a young age. Pregnant dog owners should see their veterinarian about safe deworming therapy for the dam during pregnancy, which may limit transmission to the puppies.
During a dog’s pregnancy, reactivated larvae can linger in her body and make her unwell.
In adult male and female dogs with certain underlying health issues, encysted roundworms can develop to the adult form and cause illness.
2. From the environment. Puppies and dogs can get roundworms by inadvertently consuming eggs from the environment, which can be found in soil, on plants, or on other items.
As a result of consuming contaminated animals. Small creatures such as rats, earthworms, birds, and insects can also carry roundworm eggs. Because these animals aren’t the roundworm’s usual hosts, the egg never matures in these species—however, if a dog eats an infected animal, the egg can activate and grow into a roundworm once inside the dog.
Although a dog can have roundworms and not show any symptoms, there are various signs and symptoms that come with a roundworm infection. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to roundworms.
-Malnourishment. Roundworms live in the intestines, depriving the puppy or dog of nutrients from his diet. As a result, indicators of malnutrition such as weakness, weight loss, and stunted growth might be evidence of a heavy roundworm infection.
-The appearance of a potbellied pig. When a case of roundworms goes untreated, the parasites multiply swiftly in the intestines and expand to the point where the puppy has a potbellied appearance due to the presence of several adult worms.
-Coughing. Coughing and other respiratory symptoms, as well as catastrophic illnesses such as pneumonia, can be caused by roundworm larvae migrating to the lungs.
-Diarrhea or vomiting Roundworms can cause stomach problems like vomiting and diarrhea. Diarrhea can be mild, moderate, or severe.
-Worms evident in stools or vomited up.
When a dog has roundworms, one or more of the worms may be seen in the dog’s vomit or faeces. Needless to say, seeing these big, pale-colored, spaghetti-like worms—sometimes still moving—can be extremely unsettling (and filthy). If this occurs, contact your veterinarian right away, explain what you witnessed, and schedule an appointment to bring your dog or puppy in for treatment as soon as possible.
(Rather than roundworms, microscopic rice-sized worms in your dog’s stool could be tapeworms, a parasite carried by fleas.) If you notice or suspect your dog is infected with a parasite, contact your veterinarian.
A fecal sample from your puppy or dog can be examined under a microscope for the presence of roundworm eggs on a prepared slide by your veterinarian. A fecal inspection like this is usually included in a puppy’s first vet visit.
If the roundworm infection isn’t severe, the feces sample may be devoid of eggs. Because roundworms are so frequent in puppies, experts advise assuming the presence of roundworms in early puppies and treating them every few weeks.
Treatment and prevention of roundworms:
-Your veterinarian can prescribe a high-quality dewormer that will eliminate the worms safely and effectively.
-Your veterinarian can prescribe a monthly heartworm medicine for your dog that also contains components to prevent and control roundworms.
Consult your veterinarian for expert advice on roundworms and any other concerns you may have about your puppy or dog’s health and well-being.