I think my dog has worms. What should I do?

Intestinal parasites can cause severe and life threatening disease. Much to the surprise of many pet owners, several canine and feline parasites are transmissible to humans as well. This is why understanding parasitic health hazards, symptoms, treatment and preventive measures is important for the whole household.

There are many more parasites other than the roundworms and tapeworms that commonly come to mind. Hookworms, whipworms and other worms can cause serious and even life threatening disease.

How can I tell if my dog has worms?

Animals with worms may show no obvious outward signs of infection. Normal bowel movements do not rule out the possibility of parasite infection. However, when signs are present they can include diarrhea, or blood tinged stool, mucous in the stool, variation in appetite, poor hair coat, weight loss and vague signs of abdominal or rectal discomfort, abdominal enlargement, scooting of the hindquarters and excess licking or irritation around the anus. Some parasites can cause severe blood loss and even death, especially in young, weak or malnourished pets.

Can I see worms in my dog’s stool?

Occasionally, worms may be seen in the stool of infected pets. In the stool, adult roundworms and hookworms will appear as small to large, off-white to tan, spaghetti shaped parasites. Human infection with roundworms and hookworms is possible.

Tapeworms will appear as small, off-white to tan segments in stool or clinging to hair around the genital area. Fresh segments will be white, about 1/4-1/2 inch long, and may expand and contract. Dry segments resemble sesame seeds or rice grains and will be darker in color.

How do pets get worms?

Most tapeworms are not directly passed from pet to pet, but require an intermediate host. Common intermediate hosts include fleas and small rodents. Pets will become reinfested with tapeworms if these hosts are not controlled.

Dogs and cats become infected with roundworms by eating worm eggs from contaminated soil or stool, or by eating infected rodents. Hookworms are contracted by ingestion of microscopic larval by mouth or from larval entry through skin, usually on the feet.

Although human infection occurs infrequently, it can cause significant health issues depending on where the worms migrate to. If you have been exposed to a pet with worms, we recommend talking to your veterinarian and your physician to discuss any potential problems.

Treatment for worms

Many intestinal parasites, including tapeworms, are not effectively treatable with over-the-counter dewormers. A veterinary examination, stool examination and appropriate treatment is the best way to keep your canine friend happy, healthy and parasite free while reducing concerns for your human family members.

Learn More

For detailed information on worms and other parasites, please visit the Pet Health Library.

Did you know?

Banfield’s Optimum Wellness Plans for dogs and cats twice-yearly fecal exams and deworming treatments to help you protect your pet from parasites like worms and other disease-causing intestinal organisms.

Learn more about how to protect your pet by visiting our Optimum Wellness Plan page.