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Worms in Dogs: Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment


Every owner wants their sweet and friendly four-legged companion to remain healthy and happy as long as possible. And if given enough care, attention, and love, most canines do remain physically and mentally fit for most of their life. But there are some things that can affect our pooches' health and make them immensely ill and unwell and these things can be easily avoided by taking some simple measures like maintaining proper hygiene in and around your canine.

The "things" we are talking about in the above section are nothing but basically the diseases/health problems that are caused by various worms that are found in our environment which can make their way into the body of a canine through various means and affect it tremendously. There are a lot of different kinds of worms such as intestinal worms, heartworms et cetera that can be harmful to our canine's health but some of the most of the common dog worms are given as follows:

Intestinal Worms in Dogs

  1. ROUNDWORMS (Toxocara Canis, Toxascaris leonine)

These spaghetti-like worms are one of the most common intestinal parasites that are found in both adult and developing canines. These worms are highly detrimental to a canine's health and if not taken proper preventive measures, these worms can spread at an exponential rate as a female Roundworm can lay about 2-3 lakh eggs per day which can stay alive for up to 5 years.

What do these worms look like?

Roundworms have a noodle-like appearance and are white to light brown in color. They can grow up to several inches long inside a canine's body but the average length of roundworms is about 3-5 inches. And due to their large size, these worms can be easily seen in a dog's poop or stool.

How do dogs get Roundworms?

Adult canines mainly come in contact with the Roundworm larvae when sniff, lick or eat contaminated soil, dirt, and fecal matter. But there are other ways by which the eggs of these worms can enter inside the canine's body like through a small rodent such as a mouse or a rat which is carrying the Roundworm eggs. Puppies can also get these worms through their mother's milk or during the gestation period/pregnancy.

What happens when a dog ingests these Roundworm eggs/larvae?

When a canine unknowingly ingests some roundworm eggs, these eggs start to develop and gradually the larvae move to the dog's lungs where they are coughed up and then swallowed again. Finally, in the small intestine, these roundworms fully mature and they release their eggs in the canine's stool which can further affect other dogs.

Where do these worms live inside the canine's body?

Roundworms are mostly found in the intestinal tracts of adult canines. These worms are known to consume the food particles that are present inside their host's body for sustenance.

Signs of Roundworm Infection in Dogs

There are various symptoms that can be seen in the canines due to the infection caused by roundworms. Some can be very subtle while others are really easy to notice. They are as follows:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Lethargy and Weakness
  • Pot-bellied appearance, mainly in puppies (as these worms can multiply at a really fast rate and due to the presence of numerous roundworms, a puppy's belly becomes swollen)
  • Worms visible in stool and vomit.
  • Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss (As roundworms feed on their host's food, a severe infection caused by these worms may result in loss of appetite)

Diagnosis of the Roundworm Infection in Dogs

Identification of this disease mainly involves the collection of stool sample by the vet and then running specific tests like fecal flotation. These tests can cost somewhere between ₹200 to ₹300 in India and in this test, roundworm eggs will be seen under the microscope if a canine has adult roundworms present inside the intestinal tracts.

  1. TAPEWORMS (Dipylidium caninum)

Another common intestinal worms are tapeworms which are flat and have a tape-like appearance, hence the name. But Tapeworms, unlike most other intestinal worms, are not immensely harmful to our canine's health and they are only considered a hygienic concern.

What do these worms look like?

Although tapeworms have a very long, white and flat body, it is divided into multiple segments. The average length of an adult tapeworm is around 4-10 inches, but some worms can even be 20+ inches long. The different segments of a tapeworm appear to be sesame seeds or grains of rice arranged in an orderly manner.

How do dogs get Tapeworms?

Canines mostly get these worms through lice, hunting or eating tapeworm eggs carrying rodents and mainly, through fleas. Fleas are known to consume tapeworm eggs through contaminated dirt and once these eggs are inside a host's body, they start to develop. And when these fleas are ingested by the canines, they are also consuming the developing tapeworms that were present inside the fleas.

What happens when a dog ingests these Tapeworm eggs/larvae?

After entering a canine's body, these worms stick to the walls of the small intestine and they start to grow into numerous small segments which are known as proglottids. An adult tapeworm can have around 100 segments but it is the end segments that detach from the tapeworm's body and are released through the rectum with the stool. These end segments which carry new tapeworm eggs are easily visible in the canine's poop or they can also be seen in the fur of the dog under the tail and around the anus.

Where do these worms live inside the canine's body?

When tapeworms enter the body of their hosts, they are known to stick their heads into the walls of the small intestine and they absorb some nutritional components that are present in the host's body.

Signs of Tapeworm Infection in Dogs

Apart from numerous end segments appearing in the canine's stool or present around the anus region, symptoms of tapeworm infection are not very easily visible. But still, if you have a keen eye, you will start to notice the below-mentioned signs if your pooch is suffering from tapeworm infection.

  • Canines regularly lick or bite their rear end and they also rub it against the ground or the carpet because of irritation caused by tapeworms.
  • Weightloss, only if the infection is severe.
  • Tapeworms can also be seen sometimes when the canine vomits.

Diagnosis of the Tapeworm Infection in Dogs

Presence of Tapeworm segments in the stool or near the rear end of your canine's body is a good sign that your dog has been infected by tapeworms. Doctors may also run a fecal flotation test but it is fairly rare for the tapeworm eggs to appear under the microscope.

  1. HOOKWORMS (Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma braziliense, Uncinaria Stenocephala)

These tiny parasites are highly common in both adult dogs and puppies. They are so small in size that they are not even visible through the naked eye and thus are not seen in a canine's poop or vomit.

What do these worms look like?

Although these worms can only be seen once they are put under a microscope, they have quite a unique look. They are only about 3mm in length and they have a hook-like mouth which they use to grab on to their host's intestinal walls.

How do dogs get Hookworms?

Canines mostly get these worms by coming in contact with the contaminated soil or dirt. They may ingest the eggs of these worms directly from the soil or the larvae may enter the canine's body by piercing through its skin (or feet). Puppies can get these worms before birth when they are present inside the uterus or after the birth through their mother's milk.

What happens when a dog ingests these Hookworm eggs/larvae?

After getting into their host's body, these worms tightly attach themselves to the intestinal walls with the help of their hook-like mouth and sharp teeth. Then, they begin to suck their host's blood and also feed on intestinal tissue for sustenance. A hookworm's life cycle is quite similar to that of a roundworm. The larvae of these worms are also known to develop mostly in the small intestine and just like the roundworms, some of the larvae travel to the lungs where they are coughed up and then again swallowed by the canine. The new hookworms eggs produced are released in the canine's digestive tract which are then passed out in the environment through the dog's poop. After about 10 odd days, the larvae from these eggs hatch out and they once again contaminate the surrounding soil, thus completing their life cycle.

Where do these worms live inside the canine's body?

Just like most other intestinal worms, Hookworms are also found in the intestinal tract of the canines. They mostly develop inside the small intestine and they use the host canine's blood and tissue for nourishment.

Signs of Hookworm Infection in Dogs

There are quite a few signs that can be seen when a canine is infected by hookworms. Symptoms of Hookworm infection are fairly severe in young canines and puppies as they are at a greater risk to get a hookworm infection. Some common signs which are generally found in canines are:

  • Anemia (as these worms suck their host's blood, lack of healthy red blood cells can occur in the host's body)
  • Weight Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Itchy Paws
  • Poor Stamina, mainly in older dogs

If this condition is not treated properly, death is also a possibility especially in puppies due to heavy blood loss.

Diagnosis of the Hookworm Infection in Dogs

This disease is mostly diagnosed by running a fecal flotation test and if Hookworms are present inside the intestinal tracts of the canine, then their eggs will be seen in the stool sample under the microscope. As mentioned above, these tests cost around ₹200 to ₹300 in India.

  1. WHIPWORMS (Trichuris vulpis)

Named after its Whip-shaped body, Whipworm is another intestinal parasite that is found in the dogs but it is not as common as some other intestinal worms like roundworms, hookworms et cetera. These worms are also not very easily seen in the infected canine's stool because of their miniscule size.

What do these worms look like?

These worms have a very distinctive appearance. One end of their body is wide (the handle of the whip) and the rest of their body is immensely thin and narrow (the lash of the whip) giving them a whip-like appearance. These worms are around 6mm (approx.) in length and that's why they are not very easily visible through the naked eye.

How do dogs get Whipworms?

The main source of Whipworm eggs is spoiled or contaminated soil. Dogs mostly ingest these eggs when they are grooming themselves after a walk. Canines can also contract these worms by means of sniffing, licking or digging into the ground that has been polluted whipworm-larvae containing feces.

What happens when a dog ingests these Whipworm eggs/larvae?

After entering into the canine's body, the Whipworm eggs hatch into larvae in the small intestine. These larvae gradually move towards the Large intestine and they start to develop into mature Whipworms. The eggs from these whipworms are released in the outside world through the canine's poop and the life-cycle of Whipworms are completed/repeated once another pooch ingests these eggs by means of contaminated soil.

Where do these worms live inside the canine's body?

Adult Whipworms mostly reside in the large intestine of the canines. They latch on to the walls of the large intestine and they utilize their host's blood for nourishing themselves, just like the hookworms.

Signs of Whipworm Infection in Dogs

Symptoms of Whipworm infection are not seen if very few whipworms are present in the canine's body. But, if the infestation is fairly severe, then there are a lot of signs that one must look out for in case of whipworm infection.

  • Bloody Diarrhea
  • Anemia, only in severe cases (as these worms feed on their host's blood)
  • Weakness
  • Weight Loss

Severe Whipworm infection can be highly dangerous for puppies, old dogs and canines that have weak immune systems and low immunity.

Diagnosis of the Whipworm Infection in Dogs

The Diagnosis of Hookworm Infection is a bit tricky as these worms are not known to continuously lay eggs. The doctor may recommend a similar test (fecal flotation) that is used for identifying roundworm or hookworm infection, but due to lack of eggs, he may not see any in the stool sample after putting it under a microscope. But if the doctor suspects the possibility of whipworm infection, he may again repeat the fecal flotation test. 


Treatment of these infections caused by various intestinal parasites is generally done by orally feeding the deworming medication to the canine. Repeated or multiple doses of medication are required as deworming a pooch only once will only eliminate the adult worms that are present in the intestinal tract and it will not remove the developing worms or larvae from the canine's body.

As Puppies are at a greater risk of being affected by these worms, they are required to be regularly dewormed and it doesn't matter whether the eggs of these intestinal parasites are present inside them or not.

But it is extremely important to consult a veterinarian whenever you feel that your canine might be infected by these worms. There are different deworming medication present for different intestinal worms (Roundworm infection may have a different medication than the Tapeworm infection). Also, it is very important to know not all over the counter deworming medications are not beneficial for our canines. Hence, the advice of a skilled vet is immensely crucial if you want to keep your canine fit and healthy for a long period of time.

Can Human Beings also get these infections from their canines?

Yes! There are a lot of diseases/infections that canine owners (or Humans, in general) can get from their faithful friends. And out of all these above-mentioned infections that are caused by the intestinal parasites, Roundworm and Hookworm infection can be very easily contracted by Humans from their pets. Contaminated soil (soil polluted by infected fecal matter) is the main source for the larvae of these worms to get inside any canines' or humans' body, hence proper preventative measures like using gloves when handling any soil or a canine's poop and maintaining a clean house and yard are highly important (not only for the dogs but for their owners as well). Thankfully, Whipworm infection is not very common in human beings and it is rarely transmitted from the canines but Humans can be affected by Tapeworm infection if they accidentally consume a carrier flea.

Other types of Worms and Parasites found in Dogs

  1. Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis)

Apart from the intestinal worms that are found in the intestinal tract of the canines, there are various other kinds of worms that can also harm and affect the health of a pooch. Heartworm is one such worm that is highly dangerous for a canine and is found in the Heart (as the name suggests) and surrounding blood vessels.

What do these worms look like?

A Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that causes a very serious disease in the canines known as dirofilariasis or Heartworm Disease. The parasite goes by the name "Dirofilaria immitis" and it has a very thin thread-like body. Female Heartworms can have an average length of about 6-14 inches and males are generally fairly smaller than their female counterparts.

How do dogs get Heartworms?

Dogs get this dangerous and potentially fatal disease by infected mosquitoes, mainly by female mosquitoes. The Heartworm larvae are ingested by the mosquitoes when they feed on an infected canine. These larvae start to develop inside the stomach of the host mosquito and after 10-30 days, these larvae are transmitted to a healthy pooch once the carrier mosquito bites it for nourishment. Hence, a mosquito is an intermediate host for the Heartworm larvae and there are about 30 different species of mosquitoes that are known to transmit this disease to a dog.

What happens when a dog ingests these Heartworm eggs/larvae?

When the Heartworm larvae or microfilariae are injected by the mosquito in a healthy pooch, they begin to travel through the canine's bloodstream and gradually (in about 60 days) they settle and start to further develop in the right side of the heart and the surrounding blood vessels. In about 6-7 months, these microfilariae fully mature and develops into adult Heartworms and then, they start reproducing more and more heartworm larvae inside the canine's heart, lungs, and blood vessels. These larvae can reach other parts of the body through the bloodstream and this life-cycle is again repeated once another mosquito bites this infected pooch and ingests these microfilariae in the process.

Where do these worms live inside the canine's body?

Heartworms are mostly found in the Heart, adjacent blood vessels and the Lungs of a canine. These worms can live up to seven years inside a pooch's body and their numbers can even reach three digits if this disease is not treated properly or no preventative measures are taken.

Signs of Heartworm Infection in Dogs

The Symptoms of Heartworm infection are not very easily seen at first and it is only after several months (from the mosquito bite) that the owner will be able to notice some concrete signs of this disease. There are few key symptoms that are quite common with the Heartworm infection in dogs and they are as follows:

  • Cough
  • Exercise Intolerance (as a lot of pressure is put on the heart when a canine in exercising or doing any physical work)
  • Decreased Appetite and Weight Loss
  • Syncope (Lack of blood flow to the brain can cause a canine to faint)
  • Heavy Panting
  • Pale gums and Dark Urine (in extreme cases)

In some severe cases, complete cardiovascular collapse can also occur which can even lead to death.

Diagnosis of the Heartworm Infection in Dogs

This disease is usually diagnosed by the vets by taking a blood sample and running various tests on it. These tests can be anywhere around ₹400 to ₹700 in India and the presence of Heartworm larvae or microfilariae is detected in these tests if the canine is suffering from Dirofilariasis a.k.a the Heartworm Disease. Various confirmational tests like Ultrasound, ECG et cetera can also be recommended by the doctors so as to be certain about this disease.

Treatment of Heartworm Infection in Dogs

If the symptoms are not very severe, then the Heartworm infection is mostly treated by the application of injectable drugs that are given to the canine to eliminate or kill the adult heartworms. After this, some preventative drugs are given to the pooch to eliminate the heartworms that are still developing inside its body. And finally, some other medications may also be given to the infected dog so as to avoid any potential side effects of the drugs given during the treatment.

But extreme cases may require a surgery in which the doctor has to himself remove the adult heartworms from the canine's heart and blood vessels.

After the successful treatment, canine owners are advised not to put any pressure on their pooch's heart as it can be very harmful to their health. And, because of this, intense exercise and exertion must always be avoided.