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Puppies and Worms: A Not So Uncommon Occurrence


If you have adopted your puppy from a shelter, or purchased one through a breeder, you will notice that one of the “selling points” is that he or she has been “dewormed”. Now, if you have a puppy that did not go through any medical care before you, then you may be shocked to learn that your puppy has worms. Even if you cannot see them or if your puppy seems healthy, he or she has worms. All puppies do because they are born with them. There are at least 2 common worms that are congenital and passed from mother to pup. Other types of worms come from fleas, soil, water and plants.

Facts about worms:
•    Your puppy having worms does not mean he or she is a “lemon”.
•    All worms are very hard to detect, and usually need to be seen microscopically before they can be diagnosed. Even then, it can be difficult to see them.
•    Worms have evolved into a very stable life form and are not easily destroyed. In fact, worms will remain in your dog in latent form after treatment.
•    Worms are not “dirty”. Dogs get worms from their mother.
•    Medicine from a vet is the safest and most effective treatment. Avoid OTC products.
•    Keeping your puppy on a monthly heartworm and flea prevention medication can help stop worms from developing.
•    Some worms, like Roundworm, Heartworm, and Hookworm can be fatal. In fact, only about 50% of dogs diagnosed with Heartworm live, even with treatment.

So, what are these common worms and what can you do about them?

dog wormsAscarid:  This worm is also known as Roundworm and is a dangerous worm because it can be fatal if not treated. Puppies get it from their mother in the womb or during nursing. The most common symptom is lack of growth. The real bugaboo about this critter is that it is very hard to diagnose exactly because the eggs encyst themselves in to the muscles of the dog’s stomach. Therefore, they tend not to mature and end up in the dog’s stool. However, owners can look for stunted growth, a distended stomach or “potbelly” and frequent and recurring diarrhea. The best thing is to deworm a puppy as soon as possible to prevent any of these symptoms from happening, but if this is not possible, take your puppy or dog to the vet. They can in all probability clear up the problem.

Tapeworms:  These worms live large in the intestines of your dog and they attach themselves to the walls of the small intestine. Dogs become infested with them via another host, namely, the flea. The good news is that Tapeworms are not usually too dangerous in mature dogs. But Tapeworms can be very bad for puppies. Puppies can become anemic and/or their intestines can be seriously blocked. The best practice is for owners to be consistent in flea medication. This will reduce the likelihood of infestation dramatically.

Hookworms: These creatures are like small vampires. They suck blood from the intestines of your dog. Hookworms are so well adapted they have special saliva that prevents the blood from your dog coagulating. So they can suck the life out of your puppy, literally. Hookworms are also congenital.
Worms exist. The responsible thing to do is to get your puppy dewormed at around 2 or 3 weeks of age, but a puppy or dog can be dewormed at any time. Take them to a vet where a good decision will be made about which of the excellent and safe treatment options are best. Veterinary science is an amazing discipline. It advances at a phenomenal rate. You will be astonished at what a vet can do for your puppy.


Image: By Tim Dawson (Flickr: Sad Lucy) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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