Roundworms in Dogs | Infection & Treatment

Roundworms in Dogs | Infection & Treatment

Author WDF Staff


Unfortunately, dogs can get infected with different parasites. One of the most common ones is roundworms. No dog owner wants to hear their dog has parasites. If that happens, we immediately want to know more about it. We’d like to know how our dog got them, how dangerous they are, and how they’re treated. Here’s what you should know about roundworms in dogs.

What are roundworms?

Roundworms are intestinal parasites that live freely in the dog’s intestines and feed on partially digested contents. They are also called nematodes or ascarids, and they can cause all sorts of health issues. They were named after their round shape, and there are two types of roundworms - Toxocara canis and Toxocara leonina. The first one can be transmitted to humans and causes a lot more dangerous diseases.

How do dogs get roundworms?

Roundworms are probably the most common parasite in dogs. These parasites are very adaptable and have several ways of infecting dogs. Roundworms can be transmitted to puppies by their mothers. The roundworm larvae can become encysted in the female dog’s body, where it will develop during pregnancy. It can cross the placenta and infect newborn puppies. These parasites can even infect a female’s mammary glands and infect nursing puppies.

The second form of infection is through feces. Adult dogs or puppies infected with this parasite lay eggs that will be expelled when the infected dog defecates. A healthy dog can lick or eat the infected feces and get infected with the parasite.

dog on street

The third way of getting infected is through other species. Unfortunately, dogs are not the only species that can carry and spread roundworms. These parasites can be spread by birds, rodents, earthworms, and cockroaches. The parasite knows it was picked up by an unsuspected host and will not develop into an adult. However, if a dog eats one of these infected animals, the worm will continue its lifecycle and infect the dog.

How can I know if my dog has roundworms?

Most dog owners notice something’s wrong with their dog. Their dog will be impacted by this parasite, and after the owner takes the dog for a checkup, the vet can determine the presence of roundworms. The best thing we can do as owners is to learn the symptoms roundworms cause.

Symptoms of roundworms in dogs

Another tricky thing about this parasite is that there are many cases where dogs don’t show any symptoms. Nevertheless, there are a few clinical signs that might point to roundworms in dogs. That means your vet will be able to detect them pretty fast and start treatment. Here are the most common roundworm symptoms in dogs;

  • Potbellied appearance
  • Malnourishment
  • Vomiting
  • Presence of worms in the vomit
  • Coughing

english-bulldog on grass

How dangerous are roundworms in dogs?

Finally, some good news regarding roundworms. They might be disgusting, but they are not that dangerous when treated. Roundworms pose the biggest threat roundworms to puppies. Puppies need all available nutrients to develop and grow. If there is a large number of roundworms in their intestines, they will rob puppies of the nutrients they ingest. The puppies can underdevelop, which will lead to other issues later in life.

BREEDER TIP: All responsible breeders will give puppies antiparasitic medications between the first 14 and 18 days of the puppy’s life. That will clear them of any possible infection from their mothers.

How do vets diagnose roundworms?

The vet will examine the dog and observe the symptoms. They will most likely notice the potbellied appearance, malnourishment, and recurring diarrhea, especially in puppies. After the initial physical examination, the vet will ask for a stool sample. They will mix it with a special solution that will cause roundworm eggs to float on top of the solution. That test is called feces flotation. They will examine the eggs and diagnose roundworms.

How can roundworms infect humans?

Unfortunately, roundworm Toxocara canis can infect humans. It happens mostly with kids due to poor hygiene. Kids can play with the dog and accidentally touch the infected feces. After a while, they might put their hands in their mouths, bite their nails, or make any sort of contact that can transfer this parasite into the child’s digestive system. The parasite will reach adulthood and infect humans.

german shepherd old

Want to know more about parasites like the roundworm? Check out this article - Parasites in dogs.

How are roundworms treated?

Another piece of good news regarding roundworms in dogs is that the treatment is simple and effective. Dogs that need to be treated can take different antiparasitic medications to kill roundworms in all life stages. There are various brands available, and here are our recommendations - Best dog dewormers.

Can roundworms be prevented?

There are a few things you can do to prevent the spread of roundworms. Never allow your dog to eat feces you might come across. Teach them the “NO” command, and prevent your dog from trying to eat animal carcasses like birds or rats. Another thing you should do is pick up after your dog immediately. Roundworms can survive in the ground for weeks, but the roundworm eggs cannot reach the ground if you pick up the feces.

VET TIP: Even if your dog is completely healthy, you should exercise routine deworming. You can take your dog to the vet and ask what products can you use to keep your dog safe from roundworms and other parasites.

One of the worst parasites dogs can get are heartworms. They are spread through mosquito bites, and you can read more about them here - Heartworms in dogs.

World Dog Finder team

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