How Often Should I Worm My Dog?
A dog with worms is an unhappy, unfulfilled and potentially very poorly dog. You might be surprised to learn that one of the more common queries we receive is from dog owners who want to know "how often should I worm my dog?". The frequency of worming is something that requires some further analysis on the topic of worms in dogs on a more general level. You'll see why when you read on.
Dog worms used to be considered as 'just something you have to accept'. Not any more. We know that dogs can actually pass on nasty illnesses to humans as a result of worm infection and if that's not enough to motivate the average dog owner to keep their dog free of worms, the very fact that a worm infestation can actually prove fatal should really do the trick.
Worms generally tend to be more prevalent in younger animals, but there is a common misconception that by simply treating worms in puppies the dog won't require regular worming as he or she grows. The fact is, a dog can be infected and reinfected with worms at any time. So even a dog who has been wormed very recently can still reinfect themselves within days, let alone weeks.
Zoonotic diseases are those that can be passed on by animals to humans. They can be very serious, in extreme cases can even cause blindness.
In the UK, the two most common types of dog worms are roundworms and tapeworms. Some have complex life histories and may infest more than one type of animal in their life cycle. A good example of this is the flea tapeworm. Here the maggot-like flea immature stage eats the eggs produced by the tapeworm. The egg hatches within the flea and develops in a dog or cat’s intestine when the flea is swallowed during grooming. It is possible that young children can catch this tapeworm from accidentally eating fleas originating on a pet.
Most responsible dog owners know that they should be worming their dog but there are many myths regarding why to worm, how often to worm and what to worm with. Here are the facts:
Why worm your dog?
Worms are masters of multiplication and survival so there are plenty of worms out there waiting to infect your dog. Dogs can acquire worm infections when they come across tiny worm eggs from sources such as:
- Animal faeces
- Contaminated soil
- Scavenging and hunting
- Mother’s milk
There are many different types of worms in the UK including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms and others!
It can be difficult to know if your dog is infected with one of these common intestinal worms. Your dog can appear totally healthy and may not pass worms in their faeces as is often thought. Symptoms of worm infection can include scooting their bottom on the ground, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss and a distended abdomen. However, it is better to treat your dog for worms before they start to damage their health. In addition to this a dog with worms poses a health risk to other animals and humans.
How often to worm?
It is recommended that you worm your dog at least every 3 months to kill any worms present and prevent them developing to a stage where they can damage your dog’s health. In certain situations more frequent worming may be needed. An example is in puppies where worming should be carried out every fortnight until the age of 12 weeks. You should consult your vet if you are concerned about the correct worming regime for your dog.
It is also important to control fleas on your dog or they will re-infect your dog with worms and you will be fighting a losing battle!
The large roundworms of dogs and cats produce thousands of eggs and are commonly seen in puppies. Ingestion of these eggs releases the immature worm, which leaves the gut and migrates around the body of the animal eventually ending up in the intestine, where they develop into egg laying mature adult worms. In older animals they usually stop migrating and become stuck in tissues as cysts where they do little harm. In pregnant bitches these dormant stages re-activate and migrate to the mothers intestine, the milk glands and also directly into the puppies in the womb.
All tapeworms are caught by a pet following the ingestion of raw animal flesh (e.g. mice or birds) containing tapeworm cysts.
One tapeworm of dogs found in sheep rearing areas of the UK is of particular concern. The worm lays eggs that, when eaten from contaminated pasture, develop into large cysts in sheep (hydatid disease). If a human accidentally eats one of these eggs then a similar cyst can develop in the liver or lungs, requiring extensive surgery and (very rarely) proving fatal.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
Fortunately there is plenty one can do to eliminate the risk of worms...
Remember to dispose of dog faeces safely, cover sand pits when not in use (to prevent cats using them as litter trays), and keep control of your dog in the countryside.
Most importantly, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association recommends that pets be wormed four times a year.