This article will discuss the four primary types of worms that infect the canine digestive tract (intestines), commonly known as dog worms. This article also talks about the least expensive and most effective way to rid your dogs of dog worms and similar parasites. The four primary types of canine worms are Hookworms, Roundworms, Tapeworms, and Whipworms.
There are four species of hookworms that infect dogs (Ancylostoma braziliense, Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma tubaeforme, and Uncinaria stenocephala). In dogs, A. caninum is the most common hookworm and causes the worst disease. A. tubaeforme is more common in cats than dogs, and is less likely to cause severe disease than A. caninum. Dogs in the Northern states and in Canada are more likely to be infected with U. stenocephala as it prefers cold climates and A. caninum prefers warm climates.
A. caninum hookworm infestation in dogs can lead to severe anemia, especially in puppies. These hookworms have big appetites and attach to the intestine and feed on the dog's blood. The other three types of hookworms are less likely to cause severe anemia but it is a potential problem with them. Signs of hookworm infection include weight loss, pale color, black or tarry looking stools, weakness, anemia and death. In areas in which hookworms are prevalent there can be skin disease in pets associated with exposure to the larval worms as well. The following are a list of clinical signs of hookworm infestation in canines:
- Dose, age, immune status dependent; may be severe and life-threatening
- Primarily a disease of puppies, since adult dogs exposed as puppies have a premune status due to presence of arrested larvae
- Puppy pneumonia
- Enteritis, bloody diarrhea, blood loss anemia
- Life threatening for pups - may show signs as early as 2 to 3 weeks of age in a peracute case (puppy crashes without prior signs of disease) or may occur in an acute stage at 3 weeks to weaning where there are eggs in the feces, bloody stool
Hookworms can be acquired from the mother's milk, from penetration of the skin by hookworm larvae in the environment and from eating hookworm larvae. Some vets think that it may also be transmitted during pregnancy from mothers to puppies but this is controversial.
One of the problems with hookworms is that they can accidentally infect humans. This creates a problem called cutaneous larva migrans, which loosely translates to worms migrating through the skin. Humans pick up the hookworm larvae from areas contaminated by dog feces and they penetrate the human's skin just like they would the dog's. Since they don't belong in the human they don't develop into adults but just migrate around in the skin, causing sores and inflammation, until they die. This is a good reason to keep dogs and cats from defecating in playground areas, beaches and other places where people's skin is likely to come in contact with the ground.
Fortunately, the monthly heartworm preventatives are also effective at controlling hookworms and can provide a measure of protection against the possibility of the cutaneous larva migrans syndrome occurring in the humans that own dogs and cats on heartworm preventative medications. In areas in which heartworms are not a problem but hookworms are, it is a good idea to consider having a pet's stool examined for the presence of worm eggs once a year and when clinical signs that may indicate infestation occur.
Roundworms (Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina) are found in the intestine of dogs and are a major hygienic concern because they are transmissible to people. Because people get infected by ingestion of dirt contaminated with the feces of infected dogs, roundworm elimination should be the concern on every responsible pet owner. An average-sized dog passes 136 grams of feces daily and it is known that a dog with a "light" roundworm infection may pass 10,000 eggs in every gram of stool. If 12% of the 80 million dogs in America have "light" infections, 1,300 metric tons of dog feces containing 13 trillion roundworm eggs are discharged in the streets and lands of America every day!! In different surveys, 0.3 - 15% of soil samples and 7 - 31% of house yards or children's sandboxes contained roundworm eggs.
Your plan of attack to eradicate roundworm infection should be: to eliminate roundworm infection from dogs; to prevent dog defecation in areas frequented by people, and; to educate your family and friends about the risks and appropriate control measures.
Concerned pet owners should collect their pets' feces every day and place them in the garbage or burn it. Flushing the feces down the toilet is inappropriate because many eggs survive sewage treatment. There is some fear that roundworms may be passed by a puppy licking the owner. While the transmission rate through this avenue of infection is probably very, very low it is still a good idea to observe good hygiene and wash hands and faces after playing with the puppy. Also, Humans should clean vegetables grown in the garden before eating them. For most people, these preventative measures are just normal procedures but it is good to know there is a reason for all this caution!
Because pups may start passing eggs as early as day 21 of life, the first treatment must be administered before this age. Since reinfection is common from the environment as well as in the mother's milk, treatment must often be repeated every two weeks until the pups are 49 days old. In practical terms, this means treating pups at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. Bitches should be treated at the same time as the pups since they are most often the source of the pups infection. All bitches should be presumed to be carriers of roundworms even if they have had negative fecals prior to whelping since the worms often persist in her system in a resting stage. The following list discusses how bitches carry roundworms and infect pups before they are even born:
- Roundworm larvae migrate to somatic tissue (liver and lungs), including skeletal muscle and remain there in a quiescent state
- Only resume activity in pregnant bitches following the 42nd day gestation (third trimester)
- May establish an infection of the small intestine by tracheal migration
- Usually infect the fetus via the umbilical vessels; initially they attack the pups liver, then lungs at birth
- This is the primary reason that bitches should be wormed before breeding, during the last week of gestation, and each time the pups are wormed.
Once the initial infection is treated properly it is a good idea to occasionally check a stool sample for the presence of worms or to consider prophylactically administering deworming medications if the situation seems to warrant it. It is hoped that at some point in the future a vaccine will become available for roundworm control since current control measures seem to be only marginally effective. For the present however, routine treatment of pups and bitch, as well as environmental control are necessary and essential.
Tapeworms (Taenia pisiformis, Dipylidium canium, Enchinococcus granulosus, and Echinococcus multilocularis) are found in the intestine of dogs and are a major hygienic concern because they are transmissible to people. Dog-rabbit tapeworms (T. pisiformis) have a life cycle that starts with them living in the small intestines of wild foxes, coyotes, and wolves where they produce eggs that are shed in the feces and subsequently contaminate the local environment. Rabbits then become infected by ingesting these eggs which then form hundreds or even thousands of "hydatid cysts" in the tissues. When dogs or their wild cousins eat these rabbits they can be infected with hundreds to thousands of adults. These adults latch onto the wall of the intestines and after about a month, start shedding eggs. These eggs are then immediately infective to other animals, including people. To complicate matters further, these tapeworm eggs can remain infective in the environment for several months.
Infected dogs may seem clinically normal while shedding large numbers of infective eggs. The eggs are generally first seen in your dog's feces or sticking to the hair around your dog's rear. These specialized muscular egg cases are actually segments of the worm that are full of eggs and they look like a small, flattened, grain of white rice that moves. As the egg case wiggles around it is spreading thousands of tapeworm eggs which are too small for the naked-eye to see.
Adult tapeworms appear to cause very few clinical problems in dogs. However, this is the real point of concern since infected people are not as lucky. Alveolar hydatid disease in humans, caused by Echinococcus multilocularis, is a very serious infection that usually involves the liver. Early in the course of the infection, patients may be misdiagnosed with other liver ailments. Involvement of other tissues, including the lungs and brain can also occur. Since over 50% of people with alveolar hydatid disease die, this is considered the most lethal worm infection that people get. It is therefore important for all dogs and cats in high-risk areas be screened for tapeworm infection. This is more difficult than it sounds since infection with Echinococcus eggs can not be readily differentiated from the more common tapeworms which do not affect people. Veterinarians finding tapeworm eggs on fecal exams usually closely examine pets for the rice-like grains known as proglottids which are found with common tapeworms but not the lethal variety. Occasionally more dramatic methods are necessary to try to recover worms from suspect pets. A more convenient blood test is available to diagnose infection in people and hopefully similar tests will soon become suitable for pets.
The best defense is increased public awareness of this condition. Personal protection and hygiene are important, especially to those individuals that may contact feces from potentially-infected pets. Children are particularly at risk. Mulch that contains feces from dogs, cats, wolves or foxes should not be used on gardens. Beagles should be discouraged from consuming rabbits or any other type of wild rodent.
Fortunately for pets, there are medicines that are safe and very effective for treatment. People are not as lucky and surgery still remains the preferred treatment.
In conclusion, Echinococcus multilocularis, may cause a mild problem in pets but if people get infected, the results can be fatal. In order to minimize the risk of human infection the public must increase its awareness of the potential complications that are associated with the parasites.
Surveys consistently identify whipworms (Trichuris vulpis) as one of the most common parasitic worms of dogs in North America, while only infrequently being reported in cats or humans. They live in the lower aspects of the intestines (the cecum and colon) where they latch on to feed. Sometimes they cause no problems at all but they may cause abdominal upset (colic) or diarrhea, often tainted by blood and mucus. When eggs are laid in the intestines, they pass into the feces and become infective within 9-10 days. When consumed by dogs the infective eggs hatch in the intestines and the larvae parasitize the intestines and matures further.
Many people do not realize that dogs do not begin to shed whipworm eggs in their stool until about 3 months after being infected. At that time each female whipworm may pass from 1000 to 4000 eggs per day into the stool. Complicating matters further are that female whipworms are long-lived, surviving for months or years in the intestines. The life cycle therefore includes a larval stage in the small intestine, an adult stage in the large intestine, and infective eggs that pass into the feces.
Diagnosis is not always easy since it depends on finding whipworm eggs in the feces. Remember that animals are infected for 3 months before they begin to shed eggs and you can appreciate the problem. Once females begin shedding eggs, they are usually recoverable by direct smears and centrifugal flotation. They are not as easily found with standard fecal evaluations. In some instances, the adult worms are actually seen attached to the lower bowel during endoscopic procedures.
Treatment is also not straightforward because of the peculiar life cycle of this parasite. Although many medicines are effective in removing adult worms, the larvae are less reliably cleared. Therefore treatment must often be repeated in 3 weeks and often, in 3 months as well, when the larvae have evolved into egg-producing adults. The biggest hindrance to effective treatment is that animals are often re-exposed to environments in which whipworm eggs are plentiful, and are thereby re-infected.
It can be difficult to control exposure to whipworm eggs on lawns or soil but concrete can be effectively disinfected. Proper disposal of egg-containing dog feces is critical.
The cost to effectively keep worm infestations out of your dogs may be entirely too much if you take the dog to a Veterinarian. A Vet will use a multitude of expensive dewormers. The cost for the Veterinarian treatments along with the cost of the office visits will add up to a lot of money per year. Once again, I want to remind everyone that I am not a Veterinarian, but rather a long time Beagle kennel owner. I'll tell you what I use and do, you can use your own judgment whether you want to follow in my footsteps. This article is presented only as a documentation of how I treat canine intestinal worm infestations in the Beagles that I own at a fraction of the cost that a Veterinarian will charge for the expensive worming tests and deworming treatments.
The easiest and most inexpensive, all-around, deworming treatment available is Fenbendazole (Safe-Guard). It is virtually 100% effective against all four types of canine intestinal worms. If you buy deworming medications that are made and packaged specifically for dogs, you will be paying a fortune for them. After reading this article and seeing how often you need to treat your Beagle(s) for worms, I think you may want to follow my lead.
Instead of buying and using only dog/puppy dewormers, I use the Safe-Guard 10% suspension horse/cattle dewormer. I use this for all Beagles that are at least 2 weeks old. This liquid dewormer comes in a 1000 ml bottle and contains 100 mg per ml of the active ingredient which is Fenbendazole. This is much cheaper to buy on a yearly basis than any other deworming product. You can purchase this huge bottle for only $104.95 (accurate price as of 04/20/2008) from Lambert Vet Supply by simply clicking on the photo to the left of this paragraph. It is about 100 times cheaper than any other dog/puppy dewormers made. Also, please note that several of the commercial dog/puppy dewormers are only effective against two or three of the different types of canine intestinal worms; therefore, you would be forced to buy two or three different kinds of dewormers, yet the Safe-Guard 10% suspension horse/cattle dewormer is effective against all four types. (NOTE: Lambert Vet Supply is not a sponsor of BEAGLES UNLIMITED and we do not make a cent by referring them to you. They do have the absolute lowest prices available to help all of us keep our Beagles in great health while we save hundreds of dollars each and every year. Just think about it, no need to buy the very expensive, canine dewormers to proactively keep worms out of all your Beagles.
The recommended dosage of this exact product and strength is 1 ml (which contains 100 mg active ingredient) per 5 lbs of Beagle bodyweight. For example, a 25 lb Beagle would receive 5 ml per day for a 3 day period (total 3-day treatment consists of 15 ml). With a 1000 ml bottle you have enough dewormer to treat a kennel full of Beagles on a bi-monthly treatment program for a very long time. For example, this one bottle of dewormer will treat sixty-six (66) Beagles ( avg. 25lb dogs) for a full three-day treatment. As long as all pups are eating and equally active, I deworm each litter at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks. Adult dogs are proactively treated for worms on the fifteenth of every other month. Fenbendazole is always administered for 3-consecutive days rather than only one day, to be sure your puppies and dogs are 100% worm-free. The reason I deworm on the 15th of every other month is because I do a heartworm preventative treatment on the 1st of every month. This way the two medicines are not given at the same time.
Fenbendazole (Safe-Guard or Panacur) is one of the safest dewormers on the market. Fasting is not required and it is safe during pregnancy and lactation. This is a list of the attributes of the Benzimidazole (BZD) type dewormers such as Fenbendazole:
- Actions: the antiparasitic action of Fenbendazole paste 10% is believed to be due to the inhibition of energy metabolism in the parasite
- Contraindications: no known contraindications observed, even when administered to young, sick, or debilitated animals
- Very wide margin of safety with regards to dose
If you have a kennel of dogs, then buying the Safe-Guard 10% suspension horse/cattle dewormer will definitely save you a lot of money each year. This deworming treatment will stay effective for up to three (3) years if kept refrigerated once opened. Don't wait until you see worms in your dog's feces before treating them, but rather be proactive in deworming your dogs. You should deworm bitches before breeding, during the last week of pregnancy, and each time you deworm your pups. Treat pups with the appropriate dewormers described above at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age. Also, treat all of your Beagles every other month. An example of a recommended deworming program is as follows: December 15th - 17th, February 15th - 17th, April 15th - 17th, June 15th - 17th, August 15th - 17th, and October 15th - 17th. Once again, the reason I deworm on the 15th through the 17th of every other month is because I treat the dogs with Ivomec as a heartworm preventative on the 1st of every month. Also, don't forget that this deworming treatment with Fenbendazole every other month has the added benefit of ridding and preventing giardiasis in all of your hounds.
If you follow this deworming treatment schedule you will see a significant improvement in your dog's appearance because you will be ridding your hound(s) of intestinal worms before any damage is done. Remember, always keep your kennel(s) disinfected and your backyard clean of feces. Dispose of your dog's feces as often as possible -- preferably daily. You will be happy because your hound(s) body and your family's living environment will be worm-free.