What are worms?
Worms are internal parasites that can cause loss of condition and ill health in dogs as well as posing a potential risk to people. Most pets have worms, although it's not always easy to tell if your dog is infested as often there aren't any outward symptoms of ill health.
Symptoms are difficult to spot, but can include loss of condition, vomiting and diarrhoea. . By the time you notice these symptoms, the worms can be damaging your dog's health.
What causes worms?
Dog worms can be split into two groups - roundworms and tapeworms:
Roundworms are pale white to beige in colour and may be coiled like a spring. They grow to approximately 100mm in length and you may see them in your dog's faeces or vomit.
Dogs pick up roundworms by eating their larvae and the adult worm then develops inside the dog's body with worms and eggs being passed out in faeces. These eggs then develop into larvae and the cycle starts again.
The most common species of roundworm in dogs is Toxocara canis which can also infect people; children are particularly vulnerable as eggs can be picked up in contaminated soil. Once ingested by children, the worm larvae can migrate through the body and, if they reach the eyes, they may potentially cause damage to eyesight. This highlights how vital it is to 'pick up' after your dog.
Tapeworms are white or pale in colour and resemble flat segments filled with moving eggs that look like grains of rice. You might see tapeworm segments in faeces or near your pet's anus.
Dogs are infected with tapeworm by swallowing fleas while grooming. Once inside the dog's gut, the worm larvae carried by the flea develops into an adult worm that can grow up to 5 metres in length.
To treat worms, you should administer an effective wormer, following the manufacturer's recommendations.
It is far better to prevent your dog from ever getting worms, than to wait until there's a problem. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) recommends that dogs are wormed at least every 3 months. More regular treatment of young puppies is particularly important.
Your vet, country store, pet shop or pharmacist will be able to advise you on worming products.