How To Tell If Your Dog Has Roundworms: A Pet Owner’s Guide

Roundworms are one of the most common parasites among canines. It’s often a major concern among puppies, though adult dogs aren’t fully invincible to an infestation. Knowing how to tell if your dog has roundworms is crucial to prevent it from posing a serious health threat.

In this post, I will discuss what a roundworm infestation is, how your dog gets it, and what you can do in case your pet gets infected. Identifying the symptoms early is key for early diagnosis and early treatment.    

What are roundworms?

how to tell if your dog has roundworms
Photo Credits – Great Pet Care

Roundworms are parasites that live inside mammals’ intestines, including dogs. They are also known as ascarids or nematodes, and they come from several species.

Of all the roundworms species, the Toxocaris leonina and Toxocara canis are the most crucial for canines. For one, the Toxocara canis wreaks more havoc than other roundworm species, and it can also be passed to humans.

Most roundworm species can grow for several inches long and reproduce inside the canine’s intestinal tract.

Puppies are at high risk of experiencing adverse effects due to their small bodies. Also, puppies are yet to fully develop their immune system, making them vulnerable to infections. Their bodies can’t fight the parasites well as much as adult dogs do.

Still, older canines aren’t an exception to roundworms. If not dewormed regularly or exposed to various risk factors, an old dog can also suffer from the wrath of these worms.

Overall, roundworms are the most common parasites in canines. As much as it’s common, it’s also equally easy to treat and prevent.

Where do dogs get roundworms?

The first thing that would come to mind of every dog owner is how their pets get roundworms. As with any parasites, there are many ways a canine can contract roundworms or any parasitic worm, for that matter.

The following are the most common ways dogs get roundworms:

🐶From the surroundings

how to tell if your dog has roundworms

The most common source of roundworm in dogs is their surroundings. Your dog or puppy can accidentally ingest the worm eggs from the soil or plants. This is more prevalent in shared places like dog parks, doggy daycare, and so on.

Although roundworm eggs take weeks to become infectious, they can survive in the outdoor environment for months. This makes curious puppies vulnerable to a potential infestation.

Dogs that love grazing or licking the ground can easily pick up the tiny worm eggs. It will take weeks for your pooch to show signs. By then, the worm has reproduced inside the canine’s tummy.

🐶From an infected animal

Another potential source of roundworms is infested animals. Dogs that love eating dead birds, rodents, and insects are at high risk of contracting roundworms.

While the mentioned animals aren’t the main hosts of roundworms, the eggs in them can reactivate once a dog ingests them.

Also, if a dog ingests the stool of another infected canine, it will experience direct transfer of the worm eggs.

🐶From the mother dog

Here’s one truth about roundworms: mother dogs can pass them into their puppies. It can be through nursing or upon birth.

Canine roundworms are sneaky parasites because some of them can become dormant or encysted. Such encysted larvae will survive inside the dog’s body even after deworming. Such larvae can live inside the dog’s body for years and can be reactivated.

Most of the time, reactivation occurs when a canine becomes pregnant. The pups can be infected while they are still in the mother dog’s womb. Another way the worms are passed on is through the mother dog’s milk as it nurses the newborn puppies.

Take note that the reactivated worm can also make the mother dog sick during pregnancy. If you suspect that your pregnant canine has roundworms, you should talk to the vet about safe deworming options. This is also to protect the puppies from a potential infestation.

How to tell if your dog has roundworms

Almost all dogs that contract roundworms will start to show symptoms in a matter of time. Here are some of the signs you should watch out for:

  • Potbellied appearance. This is fairly common among puppies with a worm infestation. As the roundworms reproduce inside your pet’s intestinal tract, it will cause a potbellied appearance as if your dog is always full. Take note that roundworms multiply quickly, so this symptom will show up fast.
  • Visible eggs or worms in stool. As roundworms reproduce exponentially, the dog’s tummy can no longer hold them in. With this, some will be expelled through stool, either the live worm or its eggs.
  • Malnourishment. If your dog is thin and frail despite giving the most nutritious food, you should have it checked for worms. Parasites like roundworms steal nutrition from their host in order to survive. Over time, you’ll notice your pup becoming stunted or smaller than it should be.
  • Coughing. As they propagate inside your dog’s intestines, roundworms will start to enter the canine’s lungs. It will cause coughing and other related respiratory issues. Some dogs would even succumb to roundworm-related pneumonia.
  • Vomiting. Your dog’s body will find a way to release the excessive amount of worms being produced inside.

It can be alarming to discover that your dog has roundworms, but you shouldn’t panic. Most importantly, you should never self-medicate your pooch without talking to its vet. The veterinarian will prescribe a deworming medication that suits your dog’s age and overall health status.

If your dog has other illnesses, it’s best to bring them to the vet’s clinic. This way, the vet can perform an in-depth examination to ensure that the deworming will be safe.

How to treat roundworms in dogs

how to tell if your dog has roundworms

Roundworm can be easy to treat if your dog is healthy and at the right age. Most of the time, veterinarians will recommend the following solutions:

The only way to get rid of roundworms on your dog is to perform deworming. The vet may recommend deworming solutions like pyrantel, fenbendazole, piperazine, and so on.

Take note that deworming drugs need to be given in multiple doses. This is to prevent an extremely high, one-time dose while ensuring that all the worms will be eradicated in the process.

Most of the time, dogs with worms will undergo up to three deworming doses. After that, a fecal exam will be conducted to identify whether your pooch needs further doses to eliminate worms that survived the initial treatment.

Puppies would require fecal exams up to four times a year. This is because pups are at a higher risk of infestation. Meanwhile, adult dogs only require a maximum of two fecal exams each year.

🐶How to deworm your dog

Deworming must be done properly to ensure that you’ll remove all the roundworms in your dog. Also, it’s crucial to perform the process properly to keep your pet safe. Here’s what you need to do:

Talk to the vet

The first thing you should do is contact your dog’s vet. This way, you’ll be given or prescribed a dewormer that suits your dog. Most of the time, vets will go for a broad-spectrum dewormer to purge other parasites that might be present in your dog’s intestines.

Administer the tablet right

Most dewormers used in dogs are in tablet or pill form. You have to put it as far back as your dog’s mouth you can reach.

Once the pill is inside your dog’s mouth, rub its neck to initiate the swallowing response. You can also blow into your dog’s face gently to encourage swallowing.

For liquid dewormers, you need a syringe.

If the vet prescribed a liquid dewormer, you need a syringe without the needle. Some liquid dewormers will come with a syringe to make administration easy.

You just fill the syringe with the recommended amount of dewormer. Next, you open your dog’s mouth and squirt the dewormer into its throat. Same with the tablet or pill form, you need to apply it as far back in your dog’s mouth as possible. However, avoid touching your dog’s mouth with the tip of the syringe, as this can trigger the gagging reflex.

Most puppies can be dewormed as early as two to three weeks. This way, you can exterminate roundworms that the mother dog has passed on to the puppies either through nursing or gestation.

Deworming mistakes to avoid

To ensure that you’re going to eliminate the roundworms efficiently, you have to avoid some mistakes. Here are the things you shouldn’t do:

🐶Forgetting to consider your dog’s weight

Always remember that antiparasitics are administered based on your dog’s weight. Whether you’re dealing with roundworms, tapeworms, ringworms, and so on, the dose is always proportionate to the canine’s body weight.

Failure to consider the dog’s weight can lead to overdose or a very low dose that’s not enough to eliminate the worms.

🐶Forgetting the re-administer the dewormer

Oral dewormers work best if administered in multiple doses. Most of the time, the vet will ask you to administer a second dose 15 days after the first one. This way, all the worms, and parasites will be purged out of your dog’s intestines. And depending on the result of the fecal exam, a third or fourth dose may be necessary.

🐶Deworming only one pet

If you have a multi-canine household, it’s a big mistake to deworm only one pet. Parasites like roundworms can spread like wildfire within a group of dogs, so you need to deworm all of them.

It’s crucial to perform mass deworming on your dogs with the guidance of a veterinarian. This way, you’ll get the right dosage for every canine.

🐶Self-medicating your pet

As much as dewormer solutions are available for over-the-counter purchases, you should still consult the vet on how to use them. This includes the right dosage, timing, and type of drug based on the parasite you’re dealing with.

Consulting a professional will save you and your dog from a lot of trouble. It can even prevent a lethal case of overdose on your pet.

🐶Using a single dewormer for all parasites

Although there are broad-spectrum dewormers, you still need to ensure that it covers roundworms or any parasite you want to get rid of. As simple as reading the label will save you from trouble. Better yet, you should consult a veterinarian.

How to prevent roundworms in dogs

As with any parasitic infestation, roundworms are very much preventable in dogs. Here are some of the measures you can take to avoid another infestation:

Photo Credits – The Balance Careers

🐶Provide your dog with continuing parasite medication

Even after treating the roundworm situation, it’s crucial to keep providing your dog with medication that will prevent the infestation from recurring. In most cases, vets can administer heartworm medication that also targets roundworms. This can be given periodically, depending on the risk level of your dog.

🐶Deworm regularly

Deworming your dog once or twice a year is also a big step in preventing roundworm infestation. Since dogs explore the world through their mouths, it can be challenging to prevent exposure to roundworm eggs.

You can ask the vet for the best deworming schedule and medication to use on your dog. It’s crucial to seek guidance from a professional to guarantee your pet’s safety.

🐶Keep wild animals at bay.

You should also keep your dog away from wild animals. Some dogs have intense prey drive, which compels them to hunt down birds, insects, squirrels, and other feral animals. You have to prevent this as wild animals are often carriers of various parasites, including roundworms.

If you’re taking your dog outdoors, you must keep it leashed and fully supervised. You should also watch over your dog the whole time, so you can see what it’s licking or trying to eat.

🐶Pay more attention to pregnant dogs.

If your dog is currently pregnant, you should avoid bringing her to public places where roundworms might be present. This is to prevent the possible parasitic infestation.

Moreover, you should talk to your dog’s vet about the best approach to prevent roundworms from being transferred to the puppies.

🐶Check your dog’s poop.

It will also help a lot if you perform a quick inspection of your dog’s stool. You should look for white and grain-like stuff that could indicate the presence of roundworms. If you spot these on your pet’s poop, you should consult the vet right away.

🐶Always clean your surroundings.

While it will not fully eradicate the risk of roundworms, keeping your yard clean will help reduce your dog’s risk of being infested. You should clean up the feces of stray animals as well as other pets that wandered to your yard.

Aside from that, you should consider putting up a fence to reduce your dog’s exposure to other animals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can roundworms kill a dog?

A: Roundworms aren’t highly pathogenic, but they can cause severe health problems if not addressed right away. Puppies and dogs with weak immune systems are at high risk of suffering from life-threatening effects due to roundworms. It’s best to bring your dog to the vet if you suspect a roundworm infestation.

Q: What will happen if roundworms go untreated in dogs?

A: An untreated case of roundworms can cause malnutrition, poor growth, and other severe effects. This is why diagnosis is crucial so that the dog will be treated right away. This is much so if the infected canine is still in the puppy stage.

Q: Can I get roundworms from my dog?

A: There’s a risk of contracting roundworms from your dog, but the possibility is quite low. Still, your dog can infect other pets, so you have to address the infestation right away. Roundworms can steal nutrition from your dog’s body, which will lead to poor growth despite proper nutrition.

Q: Do dogs poop out roundworms?

A: As roundworms reproduce inside your dog’s intestinal tract, its eggs will be expelled through the canine’s stool. You’ll see elongated white stuff similar to that of rice grains. It’s also the tell-tale sign that your pooch is currently infested with roundworms.

Q: Are roundworms painful for dogs?

A: Roundworms can cause intestinal pain to canines. Also, it will cause added suffering as your dog experiences vomiting, diarrhea, and poor coat appearance. Roundworms will impact your pet’s growth if not treated right away as the parasites steal the dog’s nutrition.

Q: What kills roundworms?

A: Bleach can easily kill roundworms found on various surfaces. However, you should use bleach responsibly since it’s toxic to a dog, which can cause poisoning if ingested. You should keep your dog away from bleach-treated areas until it’s fully rinsed and ventilated.

Final words

Knowing how to tell if your dog has roundworms is the first step to diagnosis. From there, you can consult the veterinarian about the best solution you can take. Just remember that deworming is a process that requires multiple administration. It’s crucial to perform this with the help of a licensed veterinarian.

Has your dog been infested with roundworms before? How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts below!

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