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Puppy Care 101: What Every Dog Owner Needs To Know About Puppy Worms

When you get a new puppy, you can be swept away by how cute and lovable they are.

© Pixabay / isakarakus // Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings puppy-worms

By Desirée O, littlethings.com

When you get a new puppy, you can be swept away by how cute and lovable they are. But soon the reality will set in that you have a baby animal to take care of and that means teething, potty training, and — even more daunting and potentially disgusting — issues with critters like fleas and ticks. And one of the worst things of all? Puppy worms.

And while it’s sad (and, yes, nasty) to think about your little puppy possibly dealing with worms, it’s a potential situation that you should be aware of so that you can hopefully prevent any infestations and handle any problems.

Along with the different kinds of worms that you need to be aware of — including roundworm, ringworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, coccidia, and heartworm — here is all the info you need when it comes to how dogs get worms, what types of treatments you can use, what kinds of remedies are available, and all the other details you’ll need to have handy in order to keep your beloved puppy safe and healthy.


What Are Worms?

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings What Are Worms?

The worms that most commonly affect puppies are parasites, just like fleas and ticks. However, worms such as ringworm, hookworm, and tapeworm are intestinal parasites, unlike their itchy, annoying, external parasitic cohorts.

Intestinal parasites like heartworm can cause a number of health problems with your puppy and should be treated immediately. Intestinal worms are common amongst canines, and puppy parents should always be on the lookout for any signs that your dog might be affected.


How Do Puppies Get Worms?

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings How Do Puppies Get Worms?

Your puppy is a perfect host for any parasites on the prowl; and because dogs like to sniff, lick, and eat anything they see, this, unfortunately, makes them more likely to ingest parasitic larvae.

The birds, rodents, dead animals or other fun things puppies can get into (and gobble up) may be contaminated. Other intestinal parasites can be spread through mosquito bites, fleas, grass, soil, and even be passed on from the mother when the puppy is born.

Types Of Worms

1. Roundworm

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThingsTypes Of Worms 1. Roundworm

Roundworm is by far the most common parasitic worm your puppy can get. The noodle-like parasite can be as small as under two inches and as large as six inches long.

The parasite can be passed through the mother to the placenta and affect puppies before birth, and can also be passed through the mother’s milk. Your puppy can also get roundworm by sniffing or licking grass, feces, or soil that has been contaminated with larvae.

Roundworm can cause damage to your puppy’s liver and lungs and can cause breathing problems as well as diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. If your puppy appears to be weak or has a bloated belly, those can also be signs of roundworm.


2. Ringworm

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings 2. Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungus that lives on the outer layer of a dog’s skin and is often contracted via an infected couch, carpet, or another animal that has the fungus. Luckily, it’s not a life-threatening illness, but it should be taken care of immediately.

If your puppy is infected with ringworm, you’ll notice small circular hairless spots that are where the hair follicles have broken. These spots are not only unpleasant for your pup, they are vulnerable areas which can cause the disease to spread.

If you suspect your puppy might have ringworm, contact your vet right away and try to avoid excessive contact with your puppy because the fungus can pass to humans.


3. Hookworm

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings 3. Hookworm

Hookworms get their icky-yet-apt name from their hook-shaped mouths that they use to attach themselves to dogs’ intestines. They then feed off of the blood vessels, which can cause anemia, weakness, weight loss, and poor growth. This can be fatal for puppies.

Hookworm eggs can be passed through an infected animal’s stool as well as from a mother to baby, either before birth or during feeding afterward.

If your puppy is acting lethargic or has a poor appetite, those might be signs of hookworm.


4. Whipworm

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings 4. Whipworm

Whipworms work a lot like hookworms, in that they use their whip-like shape to latch onto dogs’ intestinal lining and feed on the blood cells. These parasites can be about a quarter inch long and can be passed through the stool of an infected animal.

There are no real symptoms of whipworms but in severe infections, you might notice blood in the stool or bad diarrhea.

Whipworm can be easily prevented and treated with most de-worming medications.


5. Tapeworm

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings 5. Tapeworm

Tapeworms are flat, segmented parasites that puppies can pick up when they eat infected critters like fleas or mice. Tapeworms live and thrive by eating food in the intestine, which can lead to weight loss for your dog (despite the fact that they’ll still be eating). The worms can also cause irritated skin, which may have your puppy biting or excessively licking sensitive spots.

Because tapeworms have segmented bodies, the can pull apart, which is why you might see rice-shaped bits in your puppy’s poop or vomit.


6. Coccidia

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings 6. Coccidia

Coccidia is a nasty single-celled parasite that can infect puppies well before they show any signs of being ill. It’s typically passed to dogs if they ingest the poop of an infected animal or any dirt in the area.

The organism lives off of the lining of dogs’ intestines and can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and possibly Lyme disease. Young puppies are more likely to be affected by Coccidia, with the most common symptom being diarrhea and loss of appetite.


7. Heartworm

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings 7. Heartworm

Heartworms are parasites that are contracted through mosquito bites. They breed and infect the heart and lungs of its host and can live in a dog for up to seven years.

Though treatment can be expensive, if nothing is done, your puppy could develop serious heart and lung problems. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, weight loss, coughing, trouble breathing, and even heart failure.


Preventive Medication

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings Preventive Medication

Because parasitic worms are so common with dogs, preventative medication is readily available and is an effective way to stay on top of the potential problem. Over the counter medications are generally inexpensive and it’s recommended that you start giving your pup the treatments fairly early on.

Most heartworm medication, which needs to be prescribed by your veterinarian, includes a general “de-wormer,” so it can help to fight against the most common internal parasites. This medication can help save your puppy’s health and could help you avoid the expensive costs that come with post-infection treatment.


Post-Infection Medication

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings Post-Infection Medication

If your puppy has been diagnosed with worms, then your vet will talk to you about potential treatments. Most worms are treated with oral, topical, or injected medication.

Oral medications typically have to be taken bi-weekly until your pup is around twelve weeks old, then move to monthly/yearly treatments as they age.

You can also get topical medication, which can be applied monthly to the back of your pup’s neck and can help ward off worms as well as ticks and fleas.

There are also injected medications, that can be used for more serious infections. To find out what method best works for your puppy, make sure to talk with your vet.


Heartworm Treatment

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings Heartworm Treatment

There are a few steps to take when going through heartworm treatment. First, start with an accurate diagnosis and make sure that your dog is infected. De-worming your pup can be a lengthy and costly process, so a thorough test will help your vet know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Next, restrict your dog’s exercise. This can be a challenge especially if you have a small, active pup. Heartworms can spread quickly through the heart and lungs when your puppy is exerting energy, so try to keep them relaxed. You need to make sure your pup’s infection is stabilized before starting more in-depth de-worming — this might come in the form of oral or topical treatments.

If your vet has determined that your puppy is stable and ready for the next step, then you will decide on further treatment, which might be de-worming injections or possibly surgery if the case is severe. Six months after heartworm treatment, your vet will test to see if your puppy is free of parasites, or whether you need to go through another round of treatment.


Home Remedies

© Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings Home Remedies

If you’re looking for a more natural way to fend off pesky parasites, one way is to switch up your puppy’s diet. A healthy gut will help give your dog’s immunity system a boost and make their body less hospitable for any would-be worms.

Fermented and grated veggies such as carrots, cucumbers, and watercress as well as pumpkin seeds can help keep your puppy healthy. Small amounts of garlic or apple cider vinegar can make your dog’s digestive tract less attractive to parasites as well.

Just remember, before you start your puppy on any new diet, be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian. You’ll want to avoid any home remedies that might negatively affect your dog.


Other Things You Can Do To Prevent Puppy Worms

© Courtesy of Kung - Korbkarn Limsombatanan for LittleThings Other Things You Can Do To Prevent Puppy Worms

Another way to prevent worms is to keep your puppy’s outdoor and indoor areas as clean as possible and free of any infection hot-spots.

Properly cleaning feces from your backyard and sealing it in a bag for disposal can help lower the risks of infestation in your soil or grass. When outside, also try to keep your dog from eating any dead animals, wild creatures, or poop, because they may contain worm parasites.

If your puppy has an accident inside or if there are litter boxes in the house, make sure to disinfect them regularly and keep the areas clean.

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