Underwriting
1-866-ARF-MEOW

How Do Dogs Get Worms?

Written By
10 min read

Updated - Feb 28th, 2022

As a practicing small animal veterinarian for over 15 years, I have diagnosed and treated thousands of different conditions in dogs. I have seen everything from simple upper respiratory disease and intestinal blockages to skin disease and more.

But with all these illnesses I have diagnosed and treated over the years, there’s one that  always stands out and gives my pet owners the creeps.

Gastrointestinal parasites, AKA “worms.” The HORROR!

There is just something about the thought of worms living in a dog’s GI tract that really elicits an emotional response from dog owners.

But intestinal worms is such a common diagnosis and one that veterinarians treat and prevent routinely, daily in fact. And practicing in South Florida, I see so many types of worms and gastrointestinal parasites in dogs. They really are quite common!So today, let’s discuss four of the most common internal parasites I treat in dogs, symptoms of worms in dogs, how to diagnose and treat these pests, and most importantly, how to prevent your dog from getting worms in the first place. Let’s get started!

1. Hookworms

What are hookworms, and how does my dog become infected?

Hookworms are intestinal parasites that infect your dog’s intestinal tract by contact or digestion of larvae (baby hookworms) in a contaminated environment. The parasite attaches to the lining of your dog’s intestinal tract and feeds on the blood of your dog.

These parasites then reproduce inside your pet’s intestinal tract and form eggs that are excreted through dog feces. The eggs hatch into larvae (young hookworms) and live in the soil. Hookworm larvae can infect your dog through skin contact, by ingesting contaminated dirt or soil, or by licking fur (cleaning). 

Will hookworms affect my dog?

Hookworms are parasites that feed on the blood of your dog, which can result in blood loss and anemia. These parasites can be a serious threat to malnourished young puppies who may not be able to survive the blood loss without a transfusion and extensive hospitalization and care.

In addition to blood loss, hookworms can cause diarrhea. In severe cases, infected dogs may also experience weight loss.

How does my dog get diagnosed with hookworms?

Hookworms in dogs are diagnosed with a routine fecal test. A sample of dog feces (AKA poop) will be examined under a microscope for hookworm eggs as well as hookworm antigen (a protein on the surface of a hookworm parasite) to identify the parasite.

How do I treat hookworm parasites in my dog?

Fortunately, hookworms in dogs are easily treated. Hookworms are treated with a broad spectrum antiparasitic called Pyrantel Pamoate.

Speak with your veterinarian regarding the proper dosing protocol to treat hookworms.

Your veterinarian will run a follow-up examination of your dog’s stool after deworming to ensure the parasites are gone. 

How do I prevent my dog from becoming infected with hookworms?

Ensuring your pet’s surroundings are clean and free of contamination is one step in preventing hookworm infection. 

I always suggest puppies receive deworming medications for hookworms at 6-to-8 and 10-to-12 weeks of age. Puppies are at high risk for hookworm infection, and it is always best to routinely use a dewormer on them.

Many monthly heartworm preventives will also help prevent hookworm infection. Ask your veterinarian if your dog’s monthly heartworm prevention also protects against hookworm infestation.  

Preventative treatment is always the best option. Another critical way of detecting and preventing hookworm disease is with routine fecal tests from your veterinarian.

Whether your dog is showing clinical signs and side effects of dog worms or not, it is important to have their stool sample tested twice a year for parasites. Routine tests are the easiest and most effective way to detect intestinal parasites early and treat or prevent infection.

Can humans become infected with hookworms?

These intestinal parasites are routinely found in adult dogs and cats and in kittens and puppies. They are passed into the environment through poop.

People can pick up these hookworms through their skin, most often from walking barefoot or playing outside. A young child may also accidentally eat worm eggs from a contaminated environment.

Hookworm infections can cause painful and itchy skin infections or abdominal symptoms in humans, too.

2. Roundworms

What are roundworms, and how does my dog become infected?

Roundworms are intestinal parasites that infect your dog’s intestinal tract by infection from their mother’s milk, contact with or digestion of larvae (baby roundworms) in a contaminated environment, or by eating an infected animal, like a bug or rodent.

Roundworm parasites in dogs are the most common parasite we diagnose and treat. 

The parasite attaches to the lining of your dog’s intestinal tract and feeds on the blood of your dog. These parasites reproduce inside your pet’s intestinal tract and form eggs that are passed through dog feces. The eggs hatch into roundworm larvae (young roundworms) and live in the soil. These larvae can then reinfect your dog by digestion of contaminated dirt or soil.

Will roundworms affect my dog?

Many pets do not show signs of parasite infection. Some dogs, especially young puppies, may experience diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, a dull hair coat, and a pot bellied appearance.

Roundworms can migrate into your dog’s lungs and may cause them to cough. You may be able to see this parasite in your dog’s stool sample or vomit! Adult roundworms look like white or light brown worms that can be several inches long.

How does my dog get diagnosed with roundworms?

Roundworms in dogs are diagnosed with routine fecal tests. A stool sample will be examined under a microscope for roundworm eggs as well as roundworm antigen (a protein on the surface of a roundworm parasite) to assess for infection. The presence of either is indicative of a positive infection.

How do I treat roundworms in my dog?

Fortunately, roundworms in dogs are easily treated. Roundworms are treated with a broad spectrum antiparasitic called Pyrantel Pamoate. Speak with your veterinarian regarding the proper dosing protocol of treating different types of worms. Your veterinarian will run a follow-up fecal test after administering deworming medication to ensure the parasites are gone. 

How do I prevent my dog from becoming infected with roundworms?

Ensuring your pet’s surroundings are clean and free of contamination by removing poop regularly from puppy crates, the yard, etc. is one step in preventing roundworm infection. And if you can, don’t let your pup eat any furry friends they find outside!

I always ask to routinely deworm puppies at 6-to-8 and 10-to-12 weeks of age. Young puppies are at high risk of roundworm infection, and it is always best to routinely deworm them.

Many monthly heartworm preventives will also help prevent roundworm infection. Ask your veterinarian if your dog’s monthly heartworm prevention also protects against roundworm infestation.

The most effective way of detecting and preventing roundworm infections is with routine fecal testing. Whether your dog is showing clinical signs or not, it is important to have a fecal sample tested to detect intestinal parasites early and treat or prevent infection.

Can humans become infected with roundworms?

These intestinal parasites are routinely found in adult dogs and cats as well as young puppies and kittens. They are passed into the environment through your pet’s poop.

People can become infected by contaminated soil or feces from accidental ingestion. For example, a young child, playing in a sandbox,  may also accidentally ingest sand that is contaminated with the worm eggs.Roundworm infections may cause no symptoms in some people, but cause nerve or eye damage in others.

3. Whipworms

What are whipworms, and how does my dog become infected?

Whipworms are intestinal parasites that infect your dog’s intestinal tract (the cecum) by contact or digestion of whipworm larvae (baby whipworms) in a contaminated environment. These parasites reproduce inside your pet’s intestinal tract and form eggs that are passed through dog feces. Your dog can become infected by eating dirt or soil contaminated with whipworm eggs.

Will whipworms affect my dog?

Some dogs infected with whipworms show no signs at all. If infected, the most common clinical sign is bloody diarrhea. Severe whipworm infestation can result in serious disease or even death.

How does my dog get diagnosed with whipworms?

Whipworms in dogs are diagnosed with routine fecal tests. A stool sample will be examined under a microscope for whipworm eggs as well as whipworm antigen (a protein on the surface of a whipworm parasite) to identify a positive infection.

How do I treat whipworms in my dog?

Fortunately, whipworms in dogs are easily treated. Whipworms in dogs are treated with a broad spectrum antiparasitic called panacur (fenbendazole). Speak with your veterinarian regarding the proper dosing protocol to treat whipworms. Your veterinarian will run a follow-up fecal test after deworming to ensure the parasites are gone. 

How do I prevent my dog from becoming infected with whipworms?

Ensuring your pet’s surroundings are clean and free of contamination is one step in preventing a whipworm infection. 

I always encourage dog owners to have puppies routinely examined at the 6-to-8 and 10-to-12 week age ranges. 

The most effective way of detecting and preventing whipworm infections is by routine fecal testing. Whether your dog is showing clinical signs or not, it is important to have their stool sample tested to detect intestinal parasites early and treat or prevent infection.

4. Tapeworms

What are tapeworms, and how does my dog become infected?

Tapeworms are long, flat intestinal parasites that attach themselves to your dog’s intestines. Tapeworms consist of multiple segments (proglottids), each with their own reproductive organs.

Dogs become infected by ingesting an intermediate host (another animal infected with the tapeworm parasite).

Dipylidium caninum is a tapeworm that uses fleas as its intermediate host, whereas Taenia and Echinococcus species use small rodents (mice, rats, squirrels), rabbits, or large animals (such as deer or sheep) as their intermediate hosts.

Will tapeworms affect my dog?

Dogs infected with tapeworms usually do not show signs of illness.

How does my dog get diagnosed with tapeworms?

Most of the time, pet parents diagnose tapeworms themselves by finding segments (which appear as small white worms that may look like grains of rice or seeds) on the rear end of your dog, in dog feces, or where your dog lives and sleeps. You may also notice your dog exhibiting a scooting behavior.

Tapeworms in dogs can be diagnosed with a routine fecal test. A sample of your pet’s feces will be examined under a microscope for tapeworm eggs as well as tapeworm antigen (a protein on the surface of a tapeworm parasite) to assess for infection. Identification of either is indicative of a positive infection. 

How do I treat tapeworms in my dog?

Fortunately, tapeworms in dogs are easily treated. A one time injection of praziquantel (an anti-parasitic) will resolve tapeworm infections. Your veterinarian will run a follow-up fecal test after the deworming medication has time to work to ensure the parasites are gone. 

How do I prevent my dog from becoming infected with tapeworms?

Ensuring your pet is on an effective monthly flea prevention is essential in preventing tapeworm disease in dogs. Fleas are a common carrier of tapeworm larvae, so keeping your dog away from these intermediate hosts is imperative.

Many monthly heartworm preventives will also prevent tapeworm infection. Ask your veterinarian if your dog’s monthly heartworm prevention also protects against tapeworm infestation.  

The most effective way of detecting and preventing tapeworm infections is with routine fecal testing by your veterinarian. Whether your dog is showing clinical signs or not, it is important to have their fecal sample tested twice a year to detect intestinal parasites early and treat or prevent infection.

Can humans become infected with tapeworms?

Most human tapeworm infections come from eating contaminated meats, but also by accidentally swallowing a flea infected with tapeworm larvae!The most common signs of human tapeworm infestation are noticing eggs, larvae, or segments from the tapeworm in poop; abdominal pain; vomiting; nausea; general weakness; inflammation of the intestine; diarrhea; and weight loss.

Final thoughts

Nothing is more terrifying to dog owners than learning that their beloved pup has any type of worms. The thought of these pesky parasites wreaking havoc and feeding on our dogs is a scary one! However, gastrointestinal parasites are easily treated, and most importantly, easily detected or prevented with routine fecal tests.

Speak with your veterinarian, and make sure your pet is on a preventive health care regimen with fecal tests once or twice a year.

Pumpkin Pet Insurance offers an optional preventive care pack for dogs and puppies that fully covers a yearly fecal test to screen for intestinal worms and other parasites in your pet. This can be a great way to get money back every year on these routine expenses.

As a small animal vet, my number one goal is to make sure your pets are happy and healthy. If you ever have any questions or concerns about your pet, you should visit or call your veterinarian without hesitation. They are always your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets!

Get 90% cash back on eligible vet bills!

Small Animal Veterinarian, Writer
Dr. Alison Birken, DVM & Co-founder of foreverfreckled.com, is the founder & lead veterinarian at Victoria Park Animal Hospital.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy

Scroll to Top
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]