Finding worms in your dog’s poop is an unpleasant experience. Although it is a situation that should be taken seriously, it is not a reason to panic. Most intestinal worm infestations can be easily treated and, if caught early enough and treated with dewormer for dogs, leave little to no long-lasting side effects.
Intestinal worms are parasites which means that they take their nourishment directly from your dog. If not treated promptly the infestation can grow large enough that too much nourishment is being taken from your dog. Over time this will weaken your dog and make him more susceptible to other illnesses and diseases. Some types of worms, if left unchecked, can also migrate out of the intestines causing damage to whatever organs they latch onto.
There are four major types of worms that may be residing in your dog’s gut and therefore be seen in their poop (1).
Tapeworms are white, flat segmented worms that can grow up to 2 feet in your dog’s intestines. Don’t worry, you are unlikely to see an entire tapeworm in your dog’s poop. Most often what is seen in dog feces is just the segments that have broken off. These look a lot like grains of rice scattered throughout your dog’s poop.
Although unpleasant to see, these segments are not how the worms infect other dogs. Dog’s get tapeworms from fleas. Flea larvae eat the tapeworm segments, usually when they have become stuck to your dog’s fur or the skin around the anus. The worms infect your dog when he or she ingests all or part of an infected flea.
Tapeworms do not usually pose much of a health threat to an otherwise healthy animal but they are transmissible to humans. If you see evidence of tapeworm segments in your dog’s poop or stuck to their fur, wash your hands thoroughly and contact your vet.
Roundworms in dogs are the most common of the intestinal worms in dogs. Many puppies are born infected because the eggs of the roundworms can pass right through the placenta. The eggs of the roundworm can survive in the soil for years so dogs can also be infected by licking or eating anything that has come in contact with the soil.
Roundworms look like short pieces of spaghetti, usually about 5 inches in length. They tend to stay in the intestines and are rarely seen in dog poop unless the dog has been recently wormed. Then you may find masses of them either in the poop or sometimes their vomit.
A large infestation of roundworms can be devastating to a young puppy, causing a bloated belly, inhibited growth and, if left untreated, sometimes death. In adult dogs, a roundworm infection may be asymptomatic.
Because there may be no symptoms of roundworms in dogs and they are so prevalent in your dog’s environment, the best course of action against them may be regular monthly worming whether you see symptoms or not.
Hookworms are small bloodsucking parasites that live in a dog’s stomach or intestines. While they rarely pose much of a threat to adult dogs, a severe infestation can be lethal to puppies.
You may never see any evidence of a hookworm infestation in your dog’s stool but there are common symptoms to watch out for. When a hookworm moves from one feeding site to another, they leave behind bleeding ulcers. If there are enough of these bleeding sores in your dog you may see bloody diarrhea or black dog poop with a sticky, tarry consistency.
Also, keep an eye out for unexplained weight loss, weakness, or low stamina as these can all be signs of anemia. Anemia is caused when the hookworms, or the spores they leave behind, take more blood than a puppy or dog can replace.
Whipworms are tiny, thread-like worms that live in a dog’s large intestine. They are rarely noticed in dog poop because they are hard to spot. They are also hard to diagnose because eggs are only shed sporadically which means your vet may look at several stool samples and still not find eggs.
Once shed through a dog’s feces, these microscopic eggs can survive for years in the soil, just waiting for an unsuspecting animal to come along and pick them up.
Whipworm infections may cause no symptoms at all in adult dogs. In extreme infestations, you may see lethargy, weight loss, dehydration, and diarrhea with mucus and/or blood.
Symptoms of Worms
While the types of intestinal worms that may infect your dog vary quite a bit in how they affect your dog’s health, there are some symptoms that all types share. These include:
- Diarrhea with blood and/or mucus
- Worms or worm segments in the poop, stuck to their hind end or even protruding out the anus
- Vomiting, sometimes with worms in the vomit
- Bloated stomach, a pot-bellied appearance
- Dry, dull looking fur that may break when combed or brushed
- Weight loss
- Lack of energy or stamina
- A generally unhealthy appearance
- Dog licking butt excessively and/or dragging their butt on grass or carpeting
If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, he or she may have a worm infestation. Do not wait to see if you find worms in your dog’s stool, just because you don’t see them there does not necessarily mean that your dog does not have worms. Contact your vet to find out for sure.
Can People Get Worms From Dogs?
Except for whipworms, all of the worms that can live in dogs can live in a person’s body. Some, like tapeworms, are more difficult to catch since you would have to eat an infected flea from your dog to get it. Seems unlikely, but it does happen.
Roundworms and hookworms are transmitted much more easily but the chances of catching them from your dog can be greatly reduced by taking a few precautions.
Avoid contact with dog feces unless you are wearing gloves or use a plastic bag. Be particularly careful if you can see worms in dog poop. Wash your hands thoroughly after petting or grooming your dog nears its hind end. This is especially important for children who are more likely to put their hands in their mouths.
Don’t let your children play in or around areas that your dog poops. It is also wise for both you and your children to avoid walking barefoot in these areas as hookworms can travel right through your skin.
Thankfully the incidence of worms being transferred from dogs to their two-legged friends is relatively rare and they can be treated almost as easily in people as they can in animals.
Getting Rid Of Worms
The hardest part about treating dog worm infestations is knowing exactly which type of worm you are dealing with. Once you have taken a stool sample to your vet to be tested, they may be able to tell you exactly which type of worm you are dealing with and suggest either an over-the-counter or prescription medication to get rid of them.
Roundworms and hookworms can be treated with the same medication. Over the counter, dewormers are effective against these parasites but should not be used until you know for sure these are the types of worms you are dealing with. Neither prescription nor over-the-counter medications can kill the eggs or larvae of these worms so the treatment must be repeated monthly until there are no longer any signs of an infestation.
Whipworms are harder to diagnose and a bit harder to kill. Because whipworms do not shed eggs continuously, they may not be found in stool samples. In these cases, your vet may rely on the presence of other symptoms and lack of evidence of other types of worms to make a diagnosis. Over-the-counter medication will not work on whipworms and so you will need a prescription to get the medication that will. Like roundworms and hookworms, the treatment will need to be repeated but the longer life cycle of the whipworms means that the medication should only be given every three months.
Getting rid of tapeworms is a two-step process. You not only need to kill the worms that are currently in your dog’s gut but you also need to get rid of the fleas that are the source of the infestation. Over-the-counter medication is not very effective against tapeworms so a prescription will be needed. Like the other types of worms, the medication is only effective against adult worms and so must be repeated as the eggs hatch and the larvae mature. In conjunction with the worming treatment, you must do everything you can to eradicate fleas from your dog and your home or your dog will simply become infected again. Your vet will be able to recommend the best way to accomplish that task – usually with some form of flea treatment for dogs.
Most, if not all, dogs will suffer a worm infestation at some point in their lives. These infections are so common that most puppies are wormed along with their regular vaccinations. Just because they are a regular occurrence does not mean that the presence of worms in your dog’s poop is not something you should take seriously. If you see worms in your dog’s feces or any of the other signs of a worm infestation, contact your vet and set up an appointment as soon as possible.
The faster you get rid of the worms in your dog’s gut, the healthier you, the rest of your pets, and your family will be.
What do you do if your dog has worms in its poop?
If you see worms in dog poop you should contact your vet. They are going to want to see a stool sample to identify the exact types of worms your dog is suffering from. Using a resealable plastic bag, collect a sample of dog poop as close as possible to the time of your appointment so the sample is fresh.
What are white worms in dog poop?
Most often, white worms in dog poop are tapeworms or roundworms. Tapeworms are usually observed as small pieces, similar in size and color to a grain of rice. Roundworms look completely different. They are long, sometimes 5 to 6 inches long, and frequently wiggle around making them easy to spot.
Is it normal for dogs to have worms in their poop?
While it is common to find worms in dog poop, it is not normal. Worms in your dog’s poop mean there are worms in your dog’s gut. These can lead to a whole host of problems and steps should be taken to treat the problem as soon as possible.
Can worms be passed from dog to human?
Yes. Most parasitic worms are zoonotic. That means that they can infect both people and animals. Always be careful when handling dog poop as it may contain worm eggs too small for you to see. The dirt surrounding your dog’s poop may also contain eggs so it is a good idea to have your dog do his or her business somewhere other than where your children play. It may also be possible to get worms from licking but this can only happen if your dog licks in or around the mouth.
How to Get Rid of Worms in Dogs
Getting rid of worms in dogs is usually as simple as giving them the right medication. These medications, either over the counter or prescribed by your vet, poison the worms in the intestinal tract. It is normal, after treatment to see many dead worms in your dog’s poop for several days.