There are five types of worm parasites which typically infect dogs. Because these infections can lead to a decline in health or even death, it is important that we know how dogs get worms. The best treatment is prevention and preventions starts by understanding where the worms come from. This article is a review of the common types of dog parasites and how dogs get worms.
Five Kinds of Worms
Heartworm – Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes carrying the parasite. Over a period of several months, the parasite grows and changes, eventually landing and living in the heart. Heartworm is easily prevented with medication, and can be deadly if not prevented or treated early. After the worms become adults, they reproduce and the young circulate in the blood. If an infected dog is bit by a mosquito, the mosquito will carry the infestation and might infect another dog. Heartworm infection is invisible until symptoms occur – which is why prevention is so important.
Hookworm – Hookworm come in several forms, three of which can affect dogs. They are not visible to the naked eye. Hookworms live in the digestive tract, attaching to the walls of the intestines and sucking blood from the host. As this parasite is one the most common worms in dogs and can also infect humans, it is vital to understand how dogs get these worms. An inventive parasite, the hookworm can be contracted through ingestion or by burrowing through the skin! Puppies can contract the worm in utero or through nursing from an infected mother. Hookworm eggs pass out of the gut in feces and hatch – where the larvae wait for contact. A dog or human can pick up these worms simply by contacting them or by swallowing them. When a dog licks its paw, it might ingest the larvae. They can also live in water, so a dog who drinks from a puddle could ingest the waiting larvae.
Roundworm – Round worm is the most common intestinal parasite in North American dogs. They are visible in feces or vomit. These worms are transmitted either in utero, when a dog eats contaminated food or soil, or when he eats and infected animal – a mouse, for instance. The adults lay eggs, which are passed out in feces and after being outside for a few days become ‘activated.’ If they are ingested after activation, the eggs will hatch and mature into adults – starting the cycle again. In puppies infected in utero, the worms infect the lungs, are coughed up and swallowed into the digestive system to complete their cycle. Wondering how dogs get worms? With so many methods of infection, it’s better to wonder how some dogs don’t get worms!
Tapeworm – Tapeworm occurs when an infected flea is swallowed. Segments of the tapeworm can break off and be seen moving near fresh feces or around the dog’s anus. When dead and dry, they look like grains of rice and might be found on the dog’s bedding. Preventing flea infections is key to avoiding tapeworm infection.
Whipworm – Whipworm is contracted when a dog ingests water of food contaminated with whipworm eggs. The eggs are not visible to the naked eye.
If you started reading this article because you wondered how dogs get worms, you probably can now see that the answer is usually by swallowing something. Regular veterinary care often involves prophylactic use of worm medicine which will eliminate all common intestinal parasites.