Everything you need to know about dog worms

Posted by Argos, 20 April 2022, last updated 16 August 2023.

Your pet dog relies on you to keep them safe and well, and that includes looking after their health. Worms are common in dogs, but can be fatal if unnoticed and left untreated, so whether you have a new puppy or an older dog, they should follow a worming schedule to help keep dog worms at bay. Here we have everything you need to know about dog worms and advice on how to spot the signs early on, so that you can keep your precious pooch happy and healthy.

What are dog worms?

Dog worms are small parasites that can cause dogs to suffer from illness and potentially even death if left untreated. Healthy-looking dogs can still carry worms, therefore it’s important to be aware of the key signs and symptoms of dog worms so that the issue can be tackled as early on as possible.

What causes dog worms?

Dogs can come into contact with worms in a variety of different ways, these include:

  • Eating raw meat that is infected
  • Contact with other infected animals
  • Contaminated soil and grass
  • Contact with fleas

Eating raw meat that is infected

If your dog likes to hunt or scavenge on its walks and eats an animal that is infected with worms, then there is a possibility they could be infected. They can catch worms from eating rodents or birds that could be infected themselves. Raw dog food can also cause this problem, which is why owners should deworm dogs regularly.

Contact from other infected animals

Roundworm is the most common worm affecting pets and one way a puppy can get this is via their mother. This can happen in different ways:

  • From an infected mother to the unborn puppies in the womb via the placenta
  • Through the mother’s milk during nursing
  • Through grooming

Who would have thought that your dog keeping themselves clean could lead to worms? Roundworms can attach themselves to your dog’s coat and if your dog swallows them whilst grooming, they may become infected.

Contaminated soil and grass

If your dog walks on contaminated soil, hookworms can penetrate the skin that touches the infected soil. Accidentally eating contaminated soil can also cause your dog to get worms. Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms can contaminate the soil through larvae and eggs in faeces from an infected animal. Dogs are often rooting in the garden or on their walks so they can easily come into contact with and ingest these worm eggs – this is why owners should always clean up after their pets.

Contact with fleas

Similarly, fleas can carry tapeworm larvae and if your dog swallows fleas during grooming, these can develop into adult tapeworm in the dog’s intestine. Explore our external dog parasites guide for more information on identifying other external parasites.

Having worms isn’t pleasant for dogs, and can cause a lot of discomfort, in some instances, worms can also be passed on to humans, so spotting the symptoms early is key.

How do I know if my dog has worms?

So, how do you know if your dog has worms and what should you look out for? You can’t always see the symptoms of worms and even healthy-looking pets could be carrying worms that are feeding and growing inside their intestines without you knowing. This is why prevention is better than cure.

If your pet has worms, you might see worms in their poo or vomit, or notice them around their bottom. This can cause itching and you might see your dog dragging its bum across the floor to help soothe the itch – this is called ‘scooting’. Dog worm symptoms to look out for include:

  • Weight loss
  • Cough
  • Dry, coarse coat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased appetite and constant hunger
  • Blood in their poo
  • Bloated stomach

If you suspect worms (or see them) you can take a poo sample to the vet so that they can advise the best treatment. You can also wrap any worms up in damp cotton wool to take them for analysis too.

Types of dog worms

There are six different types of worms that can affect your pet dog:

  • Roundworms – intestinal
  • Tapeworms – intestinal
  • Hookworms – intestinal
  • Whipworms – intestinal
  • Heartworms – bloodstream/heart
  • Lungworms – airways

Dogs are infected by the above parasites in different ways. The effects, symptoms and treatments all vary too so it’s important that you speak to your vet to get the right treatment.

How often should I worm my dog?

You should give both dogs and puppies regular de-worming treatment.

Dogs should be dewormed a least every three months. As mentioned above, deworming should be more frequent if your dog eats raw food or if they hunt, and also if they live with young children or anyone with a weakened immune system. You can chat with your vet if you think more frequent treatment may be necessary.

How often should I worm my puppy?

Puppies have a high risk of infection so you must follow a puppy worming schedule. Puppies should first be wormed at three weeks old, then every two weeks after until they are 12 weeks old, and then monthly until they are six months old. Your puppy can then be moved on to an adult dog worming schedule.

Can you worm your dog too often?

There is no need to over worm your dog or puppy. Rather than it having positive health benefits, your puppy could actually build up a tolerance which you don’t want. Speak to your vet and make sure the worming treatment is suited to their age and weight.

How to treat a dog with worms

It is important that you follow a dog worming treatment routine to keep your dog worm free. Worming treatments are available in injection, tablet, and spot-on format and you should speak to your vet to get their advice on the best worming treatment for you and your dog. If you buy your worming treatment from a pet shop, make sure you are using the right treatment and dose for your dog.

How long do dog worming tablets take to work?

The time it takes for dog worming tablets to work varies, but worm treatments usually start to kill the intestinal worms around 2-6 hours after being administered. After you’ve wormed your dog, some worms will dissolve inside, and some might be excreted in your dog’s poo or vomit – you might see worms in their poo for up to a week. Your dog should start to feel better when the worm treatment is working.

Can you prevent worms in your dog?

  • Make sure you clean up after your dog immediately after they’ve been to the toilet and dispose of their poo correctly
  • Regularly clean and disinfect your dog’s food and water bowls
  • Regularly wash your hands and make sure your family does too
  • Use dog worming treatments regularly
  • Follow a worming treatment routine

You should consider all these factors from when your puppy is three weeks old and continue them through adulthood, especially the treatment routine. If you have any questions about how to choose the right routine for your puppy or dog, speak to a vet for further advice.

It’s important to keep your precious pooch happy and healthy, whilst also protecting yourself from unexpected vet bills with Argos Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle plc. Explore our dog insurance policies today and discover our We Talk Pet blog for our help and advice.

Argos Limited is an Appointed Representative of Home Retail Group Insurance Services Limited (HIS). HIS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 314050). Registered office: 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT (registered in England and Wales, no 04109436). HIS act as an introducer to Pinnacle Insurance plc, who sell, administer and underwrite the policy and who are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register number 110866). Registered office: Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 2XX (registered in England and Wales, no 01007798). HIS and Pinnacle Insurance plc are not part of the same corporate group.

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