Dog Treatment and Prevention

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TREATMENT AT THE VET

If you believe that your dog has contracted a parasitic worm, your veterinarian can treat the worm infestation effectively and safely.  A vet can run a series of tests including a physical exam, a fecal smear, and a fecal centrifugation (flotation) test in order to determine the species of worm living inside your dog.  After it has been confirmed that your dog does in fact have a parasite and the species has been identified, the vet can recommend and administer medications and specific regimes to follow in order to eradicate the worms.

Testing Methods

Fecal Centrifugation

Fecal centrifugation is a process that separates parasites and other objects in feces based on their different densities.  This test should be performed by your veterinarian at least four times a year during your puppy’s first year of life, and then performed at least two times per year every year after (Companion Animal Parasite Council, 2018). To learn more about how this test works, check out our blog, “What in the World is Fecal Centrifugation?”

Fecal Smear

This is perhaps the easiest test and is performed by smearing a stool sample onto a microscope slide, and then examining the sample under a microscope.

Physical Examination

A physical examination should be performed at a veterinarian’s office at least every 6 to 12 months.  Inform the vet of any unusual symptoms or behaviors that your dog may be exhibiting.  This could include lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, or coughing.  Your vet will check for a dull coat or hair loss, as well as look for visible presence of segments that may be attached to the skin and fur around the dog’s hind quarters and backside.

Intestinal Worms

Once it has been determined that your dog does in fact have worms, your vet will administer medicine by mouth or by shot to kill the worms.  Many of the drugs that are given to dogs are good for treating a large variety of parasites. They are deadly to worms, but safe for dogs to take.

According to the Hudson Animal Hospital, your veterinarian can prescribe the best de-worming medication and provide a schedule to follow based upon the type of worm and severity of the infestation:

  • Tapeworms- the medication breaks up tapeworms inside of the intestinal tract, making them too small to see in the feces.
  • Roundworms- the medication detaches the worms from the intestinal tract, and excrete them into and with the stool.
  • Hookworms- the medication kills the adult hookworms only. A vet will recommend another treatment in 2-4 weeks to treat the hookworms that were babies during the first treatment.
  • Ringworm- a vet can prescribe antifungal medications, shampoos, lime-sulfur dips, and the shaving or severely affected areas.
  • Whipworms- a vet can prescribe medication in 3-4 week intervals, and then every 3-4 months to help prevent a re-infestation.
  • Heartworms- 9 month treatment protocol recommended by American Heartworm Society.

Heartworm

Heartworm is treated a little bit differently than worms found in the gut.  The first step is to have your dog receive a blood test and to take several x-rays to determine how severe the infestation has become.  These tests can be pretty pricey and typically cost around $500- $1,000, depending on your location and the severity of the disease. Your dog will start on heartworm prevention medication, an anti-inflammatory medication, and antibiotics.  After about a month, heartworm medication will be administered by your veterinarian, which normally consists of three shots over a two month period.

After the shots, it is important that you keep your dog calm and relaxed in the following months.  When the medicine kills the heartworms, they break off into small chunks, which can block the flow of blood to the heart or lungs.  There is a greater chance of this happening when an animal exercises and the blood is pumping harder or faster than normal.

Six months after the heartworm medication, your vet will do another blood test to make sure that the worms have been eradicated.  If they are still there, your dog will need to have another round of shots, but if they are all gone, you will only have to continue to give your pet preventative medication for the rest of their life.  It is also important to have your dog tested every year for heartworms, just to be safe.

When it is time for your dog’s annual vet check-up, call the veterinarian’s office beforehand to ask if you will need to provide a stool sample for the vet to check under a microscope during the visit.  If the answer is yes, simply scoop up a sample immediately after your dog defecates, and seal it in a plastic bag.  Your vet can also take a sample from your dog during the exam if you are not comfortable collecting a sample yourself.  The veterinarian may also take a blood sample during the exam to test for heartworms, which is the most effective way to diagnosis that particular worm.

TREATMENT AT HOME

After testing has been performed to determine that your dog has a parasitic worm and the species has been confirmed, you have the option to treat your dog’s worm infestation at home rather than have a veterinarian administer medications.  There are several de-worming medications that you can purchase online, as well as herbal and natural remedies to try.

Eradicating Worms

Puppies

Parasitic worms can pass from a mother dog to a puppy in utero or after birth through her milk while nursing.  Since worms are so prevalent in puppies, veterinarians suggest de-worming puppies as soon as possible, typically when they are between two and three weeks old.  It is recommended to administer anthelmintic medicines (medicine used to destroy parasitic worms) every two weeks after the initial dosage, until the puppies start a regular broad-spectrum parasitic control treatment.  If you choose to treat your dog at home, you can find several anthelmintic medicines online, or your vet can prescribe them for you as well.  The first round of medicine will kill the adult worms in the puppies’ gut, and the second dosage will kill the worms that have hatched from the eggs a few weeks after (Pet WebMD).

Dogs

Treating a parasitic worm infestation in adult dogs is very similar to treatment for puppies.  Your veterinarian will prescribe an anthelmintic (deworming medication), which is different and tailored to the specific type of worm.  Some medication will break up the worm inside of the intestines, while others work to detach the worms from the intestinal tract and excrete them in the dog’s feces. There are anti-fungal shampoos and topical medications that can also be prescribed to use externally on a dog’s backside.

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Herbal Remedies

If you want to try a home remedy approach and take a more natural and holistic route, there are many different herbs and vegetables to try.  According to Rita Hogan, a canine herbalist and co-founder of Farm Dog Naturals- an herbal remedy company for the All-Natural Dog, there are many foods that can aid in making your dog’s intestinal tract less appealing to worms.  Some of these foods include:

Vegetables

Give your dog at least 1/2 tsp per 10 lbs. of your dog’s body weight of the fruit or vegetable that you choose from above, twice a day.

Hogan's Tips For Eliminating Worms

Tapeworms

Dried coconut- sprinkle onto food, about 1 tsp for small dogs, 2 tsp for medium-sized dogs, and 1 Tbsp for large dogs.

Roundworms

Orange vegetables such as carrots, squash, papaya, and pumpkin provide vitamin A which can help get rid of roundworms.

Worms in General

Raw, organic pumpkin seeds- grind the seeds and mix with ground meat.

Black seed or black cumin seed- known by indigenous populations as “the cure for everything except death.”  Use ½ to 1 tsp (depending on size of your dog) mixed in with food every day. You may want to heat the seeds first in order to get rid of the bitter taste.

Olive leaf extract- sold in different strengths of oleuropein, a compound found in the fruit and leaves of olive trees.  You will want an extract that is at least 12% oleuropein or higher.

Dosage Tips

Hogan also suggests to dose ten days on, five days off, and then ten days on again to get the most effective results.  She states that it takes ten days to kill the worms, however they laid eggs which has created another generation in the intestines.  It takes about five days for the eggs to hatch, therefore treatment will need to be repeated again to kill the new generation. It is also recommended to bring in another stool sample to your veterinarian after you have complete the several rounds of treatment to confirm that the parasites have been completely expelled (Dogs Naturally Magazine, 2018).

*Disclaimer:  We do not guarantee remedies will work or that we have tried them.  Always consult a vet before trying anything. This article is purely informative. 
Prevention banner_FINAL

Disease prevention aims to reduce the risk of chronic disease and a preventative health plan is important in order to be proactive about keeping your pet healthy.  Thankfully, there are many steps that you can take in order to reduce the risk of parasitic worm contraction. If you take the proper precautions, you can protect yourself, your family, and your dog from potential exposure.  Below are some of the best prevention methods to try for parasitic worms in dogs.  Remember, prevention is the best practice, and it will keep you and your family, both human and furry, happy and healthy!

Remove Fleas

Controlling a flea problem can help avoid a parasitic worm infestation.  Fleas can carry worm larvae, and your dog may swallow an infected flea while grooming itself.  If this does occur, the worm can grow inside your dog’s intestines and attach itself to the walls of the gut.  In order to prevent and remove fleas, you should frequently vacuum and wash pet bedding, carpets, and furniture.  Flea treatment can protect, remove, and break the flea life cycle, which in turn can prevent a worm host from entering your furry friend’s body.

Dead Animals & Trash

dog sniffing groundDead animals are prime carriers of parasitic worms, and it is important to keep your dog away from carcasses, such as birds, that may be lying around.  Remember, dogs explore with their mouths, so anything on the ground has the potential to enter your dog’s body. Additionally, trash can have similar hosts and can be a breeding ground for worms.  Keep your pup on a leash to prevent him or her from rummaging around trash cans and waste.

Good Everyday Practices

  1. Keep sandboxes covered outside while not in use.  Animals often use sandboxes to relieve themselves, and they can be contaminated with worms and larvae. Check out our blog for more information about the potential risks of sandboxes, and how to protect your pets and children.
  2. Pick up feces immediately.  Feces is one of the most common ways that parasites and diseases are transferred from dog to dog.
  3. Keep dogs on a leash while not at home to prevent them from getting into trash or picking up a dead animal.
  4. Wash your hands immediately after handling feces or other animals.

Disinfect

During and after a parasitic worm infestation, it is important to clean your home and yard to eliminate the risk for reinfection.

Non-Porous Items

Clean and sanitize food and water bowls regularly, while making sure to only use a disinfectant that is safe for animals like a diluted bleach mixture (RSPCA).  Prepare a solution of 1 part bleach to 32 parts water (or 4 ounces of bleach to 1 gallon of water) to make an animal-safe, yet effective solution.  You can also use this solution to clean other non-porous objects in the home such as plastic toys.

Outdoor Dog Houses or Kennels

Vacuum outdoor houses thoroughly and scrub with the diluted bleach solution mentioned above.  Rinse the entire dog house with water and let dry before allowing your dog to use it again.

Dog Beds & Fabrics

Sanitize dog beds and fabrics such as blankets to ensure that they are clean and worm-free.  Wash beds and fabrics in hot water in the washing machine, separate from any clean fabrics, and dry on high heat.  Spray all furniture that your dog has touched with a household disinfect spray.

Flooring

Keep the floor clean by vacuuming and sweeping daily or as frequently as you can, and then mop with soapy water.  Rinse and allow the floor to dry before walking on it again.

Outdoors

Remove all pet feces in the yard and do not use pet waste as fertilizer.  Salt brine, borax, or diluted bleach will kill most larvae on gravel or concrete, but unfortunately the chemicals will kill plants and grass (hunker.com).  Use a garden hose to rinse the lawn after disinfecting.

Regular Vet Visits

regular vet visitsThis is perhaps one of the most important steps you can take.  Visiting a veterinarian regularly and having annual check-ups can help identify and diagnose a parasitic worm infestation in its early stages.  A vet will take a fecal sample from your dog, either right there at the clinic or one that you collect and bring in. The vet will then look at the sample under a microscope to inspect it for adult worms or worm eggs.  The earlier the worms are detected, the better the treatment results will be for your pup!

TOP 5 FAQ

How much does heartworm treatment cost?

Treatment often consists of tests and X-rays to determine the severity of the infestation, and will be followed up by heartworm preventative medication, anti-inflammatory medication, and antibiotics.  You can expect to pay around $500- $1,000, depending on your location and the severity of the disease.

Is there a home remedy for tapeworms in dogs?

According to Rita Hogan, a canine herbalist and co-founder of Farm Dog Naturals, you can eliminate Tapeworms with dried coconut.  Hogan suggests to sprinkle the coconut onto food, about 1 tsp for small dogs, 2 tsp for medium-sized dogs, and 1 Tbsp for large dogs.

Can lungworm be passed from dogs to humans?

Lungworm has not been known to be transferred from dogs to humans, however you should always wash your hands and practice good hygiene to protect yourself.

What kills whipworm in dogs?

Your veterinarian can prescribe a de-worming medication, typically in 3-4 week intervals and then every 3-4 months to help prevent a re-infestation.

Are hookworms in dogs treatable?

Yes.  Your veterinarian will prescribe a de-worming medication to eradicate the adult hookworms, and then prescribe another treatment again in 2-4 weeks to treat the hookworms that were babies during the first treatment.

OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do you treat Strongyloides stercoralis in dogs?

Over-the-counter de-worming medicines are not approved to treat strongyloidiasis, so infections can be treated with prescription medication from your veterinarian.  Medication is typically administered for at least 3 days, and repeated weekly until larvae are not found in feces.

Are lungworm and heartworm the same?

No!  Although lungworms live in the heart and major blood vessels of the lungs and cause respiratory illness, they are not the same as heartworm.   Lungworms can only be contracted if a dog consumes larvae in a slime trail that is found in infected snails, slugs, and frogs, or by eating the snail, slug, or frog itself.  Heartworms can only be contracted by an infected mosquito bite, and have 4 stages of symptoms that vary in severity.