Home Dog Care How to Deworm a Dog: A Guide for Pet Owners

How to Deworm a Dog: A Guide for Pet Owners

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There are more than a handful of worm species that can infest a dog. Each of these parasites stays alive by leaching nutrients off your pet and causing unpleasant symptoms in the process. In this guide we’ll go over everything you need to know about preventing worms in dogs, recognizing them and how to deworm a dog effectively.

How to Deworm a DogWhen talking about worms in dogs, we usually refer to intestinal parasites from specific species. These parasites live within your dog’s body and feed off blood and nutrients to survive. Eventually, these well-fed parasites will reproduce and worsen the infestation and spread via feces.

There are many detriments to worm infestations in dogs, but perhaps the most significant is death due to malnutrition, infection or anemia. Symptoms of worm infestation vary depending on the type of worm. These symptoms are noted below, however, almost all worms in dogs result in weight loss, diarrhea and irritation of the digestive tract and rectum.

It’s important for you to know how to deworm a dog safely and quickly. It can save you money on costly vet visits, and most importantly will keep your dog safe and healthy. Many pet owners believe that deworming a dog is only for young puppies, but in fact you should follow these procedures throughout your pet’s entire life.

ALSO READ: 13 Science-based Ways to Deal with Worms in Dogs

How to Deworm a Dog

The Most Common Types of Worms in Dogs

There are quite a few varieties of worms, but the most common are hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms. The first three types can be treated and prevented by using a canine dewormer. The last one will require the use of heartworm medication. Every pet owner looking to learn how to deworm a dog must know which type of worm they’re dealing with, because the procedures will differ.

1. Hookworms in dogs

How to Deworm a Dog from Hookworms
3D rendering of a dog hookworm.

Hookworms are so named because once they infest your dog’s intestinal tract, they literally hook themselves into the intestinal lining. They do this via a hook-shaped mouthpiece which they use to feed off your dog’s blood vessels.

Hookworms cannot be seen with the naked eye. Dogs can contract them through oral ingestion, in utero, through skin contact, or through mother’s milk. Hookworms are extremely contagious and even once eliminated can re-infect a dog if they come into contact with excreted eggs.

Symptoms of hookworm infestation in dogs include anemia, weakness, bloody diarrhea, pale gums, weight loss, itchy paws, poor growth, and even death. Hookworms are diagnosed through a fecal test at your veterinarian’s office. The most effective treatment for hookworms in dogs is administering a dewormer.

hookworm in dogs
Photo of a real life hookworm in a dog. Credit: vet.osu.edu

Your fact sheet on hookworms in dogs:

How can a dog get hookworms? Through ingestion of poop, or living in a highly feces contaminated area. Through mother’s milk in puppies; very common in dog breeders. Eating a hookworm infected animal (like rodents, or hunting prey) can also result in infestation.

Can people contract hookworms? Yes, but only through the environment.

What signs of hookworms to look for? Adult dogs do not show any signs of infestation. Puppies with heavy hookworm infection may have diarrhea, weight loss, look very ill and be anemic (charcoal feces, pale skin).

How to diagnose hookworms? Through feces exam only.

How to deworm a dog for hookworms? Using a canine dewormer (anti-parasitic) medication. Cleaning up the environment is an essential step to preventing further infestation. Severe cases of hookworms, especially in puppies, may require hospitalization and fluid therapy.

What are the dog’s recovery chances? Chances are good in majority of cases: a dog dewormer medication treatment works quickly and most dogs respond well to it.

How to prevent hookworm infestation? Using a regular schedule for deworming your dog and following strict protocols for removing dog poop from the environment.

 

2. Roundworms in dogs

How to Deworm a Dog from Roundworms
A real life dog roundworm.

Roundworms are one of the most commonly seen parasites in dogs, particularly young puppies. There are two varieties of roundworm that can infect dogs – Toxocara canis and Toxacaris leonina. The roundworm Toxocara canis is the more dangerous of the two, and it can also be transmitted to humans.

Upon infection, roundworms live in your dog’s intestinal tract where they consume partially digested food. This can lead to deprivation of nutrients and symptoms of malnourishment or anemia in your dog.

Dog roundworm lifecycle
Dog roundworm’s lifecycle.

Most often, dogs will become infected with roundworms via their mother at birth or through her milk. Roundworms can also be contracted through ingesting eggs or eating other animals infected with the worm.

Symptoms of a roundworm infestation include a potbelly, clear signs of dog’s malnutrition, worms in the stool or vomit, coughing, and diarrhea. When worms are vomited or excreted out they may or may not still be moving. Roundworms are diagnosed through a fecal test at your veterinarian’s office. Treatment includes administering a dog dewormer.

Dog with a roundworm photo
Photo of a dog with a roundworm.

Your fact sheet on roundworms in dogs:

How can a dog get roundworms? Through licking, eating or sniffing poop, or living in a highly feces contaminated area. Through mother’s milk in puppies; very common in dog breeders. Eating a roundworm infected animal (like rodents, or hunting prey) can also result in infestation.

Can people contract roundworms? Toxacaris leonina roundworm cannot be transmitted to humans.  Toxacaris canis can be transmitted to humans through the ingestion of larvae (most common in kids).

What signs of roundworms to look for? Stunted growth, potbelly, and recurrent diarrhea.

How to diagnose roundworms? Through feces exam only.

How to deworm a dog for roundworms? Using a canine dewormer (anti-parasitic) medication. Cleaning up the environment is an essential step to preventing further roundworm infestation.

What are the dog’s recovery chances? Chances are good in majority of cases: a dog dewormer medication treatment works quickly and most dogs respond well to it.

How to prevent roundworm infestation? Using a regular schedule for deworming your dog and following strict protocols for removing dog poop from the environment.

 

3. Tapeworms in dogs

How to Deworm a Dog from TapewormsTapeworms are another parasite that takes up residence in your dog’s intestinal tract. These flat and segmented worms can live in a wide variety of species, including humans.

Tapeworms are usually contracted when a flea that is infested with tapeworm eggs is eaten. These eggs then wind up in your dog’s digestive tract where they develop into adults. As the worm grows larger, small rice-like segments of the worm break off and are excreted in your dog’s feces. These excreted pieces of tapeworm contain eggs which may then be ingested by other animals.

Dog tapeworm under microscope
A dog tapeworm under microscope.

Tapeworm infestation usually does not result in symptoms. If the dog tapeworm infestation is heavy, though, your pet may be very thin and fail to gain weight. Most pet owners only notice tapeworm infestations in their dogs when they see small rice-like pieces in the dog’s feces.

Tapeworms are diagnosed through a fecal test at your veterinarian’s office. Treatment includes a de-wormer – usually praziquantel. Dogs can pass tapeworm to their owner; however, the chances are low since the human would have to ingest an infected flea or eggs in feces.

Dog tapeworm lifecycle
Life cycle of dog tapeworm, involving dog as definitive host, sheep intermediate host, eggs and cysts.

Your fact sheet on tapeworms in dogs:

How can a dog get tapeworms? Through self-grooming by ingesting tapeworm eggs (for example, from a flea). Through licking, eating or sniffing poop, or living in a highly feces contaminated area. Eating a tapeworm infected animal (like rodents, or hunting prey) can also result in infestation.

Can people contract tapeworms? Yes, but the risk is very low because a human would need to ingest feces with tapeworm eggs.

What signs of tapeworms to look for? Weight loss may occur, but tapeworms aren’t as dangerous as some other worm parasites in dogs. Tapeworms can be sometimes seen around the dog’s anus or in his feces. Dogs also often scratch their anus on the carpet when tapeworms irritate that area.

How to diagnose tapeworms? Through feces exam.

How to deworm a dog for tapeworms? Using a canine dewormer (anti-parasitic) medication. Cleaning up the environment is an essential step to preventing further tapeworm infestation.

What are the dog’s recovery chances? Chances are good in majority of cases: a dog dewormer medication treatment works quickly and most dogs respond well to it.

How to prevent tapeworm infestation? Using a regular schedule for deworming your dog and following strict protocols for removing dog poop from the environment.

 

4. Whipworms in dogs

How to Deworm a Dog from Whipworms
Dog whipworm.

Whipworms (or Trichuris vulpis) are shaped like a whip and live inside your dog’s intestinal tract once an infection sets in. The thicker end of this tapered worm attaches to the intestinal lining in the large intestine. These attached worms feed on blood vessels in the intestinal tissue.

Whipworms are more rare, but are one of the most pathogenic worms in dogs, and are the most dangerous that may cause serious health consequences in your pet.

Symptoms of a whipworm infection include diarrhea, irritation, bloody stool, anemia, and weight loss. In severe infestation, whipworms can cause death.

Whipworms are contracted from the environment when an infected dog passes eggs in their stool. The eggs are resistant to the environment and can remain alive for up to 5 years. These eggs become infective in the environment after 10 to 60 days when they can re-infect a dog. Once ingested, these eggs mature in the dog’s intestinal tract and the cycle begins again.

Whipworms are particularly nasty and can quickly cause serious problems. Diagnosis requires a fecal test at your veterinarian’s office. Treatment requires a de-wormer. Of all parasites, whipworms are one of the hardest to get rid of. Their eggs can live for as long as FIVE years in the environment which makes re-infection highly likely.

Your fact sheet on whipworms in dogs:

How do whipworms spread? Through ingestion of whipworm eggs, which can be found in poop, water, food, etc.

Can people contract whipworms? No.

What signs of whipworms to look for? Signs of whipworms in dogs aren’t always apparent. During a heavy whipworm infestation, the dog may experience weight loss, diarrhea, bloody stool and show signs of anemia.

How to diagnose whipworms? Through a much more thorough, several step feces exam.

How to deworm a dog for whipworms? Using two separate treatments as advise by a veterinarian, spaced out in several week intervals. Alternatively, using a heartworm preventative that contains a whipworm medication in it.

What are the dog’s recovery chances? Chances are good with the right treatment. A vet’s approach, or using a heartworm medication works quickly and most dogs respond well to it.

How to prevent whipworm infestation? Whipworms are rare, but switching to a heartworm medication can help to prevent re-infestation.

READ THIS: Worms In Dog Poop – What It Means and What You Should Do

 

Can Humans Get Worms from Dogs?

Most parasites are species specific. This means that while humans and dogs may contract the parasite, the particular species of parasite is unique. In some instances, though, a particular species of parasite can infect both humans and dogs.

This type of parasite is referred to as being “zoonotic”.

Hookworms and roundworms are zoonotic. Tapeworm and whipworm may be zoonotic on occasion, but the instances of this happening are very low or almost non-existent.

 

When Should a Dog Be Dewormed?

All species of worms require veterinary intervention. Learning how to deworm a dog requires administering a de-wormer as well as treatment of symptoms. This may include flea baths, IV fluids and overnight monitoring. For some worms, like whipworms, a dog will need to take a heartworm medication instead.

All treatment for worms should be overseen by a veterinarian, since complications can occur.

A case of worms in dogsYour veterinarian will manage your dog’s initial deworming. Most commonly the first deworming series is given by a breeder or shelter with puppy vaccinations. This series includes deworming at 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks. This means your puppy should already have had three sets of deworming treatments before coming home to you.

The next deworming treatment is usually given at 6 months and 12 months. At this point, your dog should be protected against parasite infestation through monthly heartworm preventatives. If a dog manages to contract worms at any other time during their adult life, they should be treated accordingly AFTER a confirmed veterinary diagnosis.

 

Common Types of Dewormers for Dogs

When you’re learning how to deworm a dog, it’s important to check with your veterinarian before using any over-the-counter dewormer medication. The most frequently used canine dewormers to treat the main worm parasites in dogs are Drontal Plus and Panacur C.

Drontal Plus

Drontal PlusDrontal Plus (not to be confused with Drontal for cats and kittens) contains the active ingredients praziquantel, pyrantel pamoate, and febantel. Praziquantel causes the parasite to disintegrate by damaging the skin. Pyrantel pamoate paralyzes other types of worms so they lose their grip on the intestinal wall. Febantel interferes with the formation of the parasite, particularly in whipworms.

Drontal Plus is used to treat tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms. It can be used in puppies 3+ weeks old that weight 2lbs or more, but is often used for 2 week old deworming as well.

Panacur C

Panacur CPanacur C contains the active ingredient fenbendazole – an anti-parasitic which damages the cells of the parasite. Panacur C is effective against roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. It can be used in puppies 6+ weeks old although many people use it for puppies beginning at 2 weeks. If you’re looking for ways on how to deworm a dog yourself, Panacur C is the best place to start.

Currently, it’s one of the most popular OTC dog dewormers out there, alongside the Safe Guard Canine Deowrmer. With Panacur C, you need to give the medication once a day for three days straight, and the dose depends on your dog’s body weight. While some pet owners have expressed negative views towards many other dewormers for dogs, majority agree that Panacur C has been the most effective dog dewormer treatments for their pets.

RECOMMENDED: Taking A Very Close Look At the Causes of Heartworm In Dogs

 

How Does a Dog Dewormer Work?

Different dewormers for dogs work in different ways depending on their active ingredients and the type of worm they are designed to target. Most broad-spectrum de-wormers target the cellular structure of the parasite to destroy them from the inside out.

Dewormers are usually given to very young puppies as a liquid formula via an oral syringe. In older dogs, chewable tablets are preferable, since they require less fuss and ensure the dog gets the full dose of dewormer.

Can Dogs Get Sick from Deworming?

It is rare for dogs to have a reaction to dewormers. In few instances, dogs may have symptoms from de-wormers including diarrhea, vomiting or loss of appetite.

Dogs that are more susceptible to side effects of medications include the very young, the elderly, those with other health conditions, and those that are immune-compromised. These dogs are also those that are most likely to suffer complications from parasite infection. The possibility of side effects from de-worming is much lower than the potential for complications resulting from parasite infestation.

 

Table of Heartworm Medications

When you’re learning how to deworm a dog, it’s important to find the deworming medication that will meet all of your needs. Most heartworm preventatives on the market today include a dewormer intended to target the most common worms in dogs. Pay attention to the type of heartworm medication you purchase, however, since not all of them protect against every parasite.

The table below shows some of the more common heartworm preventatives and what they protect against. You cannot buy these over-the-counter on Amazon, and you’ll need to consult with a vet beforehand.

BRAND       Fleas Heartworm Roundworm Hookworm Whipworm Tapeworm
Trifexis x x x x x
Heartguard Plus x x x
Sentinel Spectrum x x x x x
Interceptor Plus x x x x x
Sentinel x x x x x
Iverhart Max x x x x
Interceptor x x x x

The Bottom Line

As parasites, worms have far more potential to harm your dog than most people realize. This is why it’s so important for every dog owner to learn how to deworm a dog.  In fact, if left without treatment, many dogs can succumb to worm infestations – some in just a matter of days.

If you notice any signs of worms in your dog, pay a visit to your vet immediately to stop the progression of the infestation and to protect others. Your veterinarian can teach you how to deworm a dog and guide you in choosing the right dewormer for your pet.

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