Bringing a puppy home is such an exciting moment for a new pet owner and the last thing you want to be worrying about is worms! Unfortunately, intestinal worms are a common problem in young puppies and it’s important to know a little bit about them and the signs to look out for. We’ll also discuss when to worm a puppy and how best to prevent worm infection to keep them happy and healthy.
What is worming and why is it important?
When we talk about worming, we mean giving a treatment that will effectively kill the intestinal parasites (‘worms’) that commonly affect our pets. Intestinal worms can make any dog seriously unwell, but puppies are particularly vulnerable.
The major types of intestinal worms that infect dogs are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Intestinal worms can cause a number of serious health problems in puppies including stunted growth and anemia (not enough red blood cells). Several worm species can also infect humans, with immunocompromised people such as young children and elderly family members at increased risk.
Regular effective worming treatment is an essential part of treating and preventing intestinal worm infection in young puppies and should continue throughout their life to keep them happy and healthy. You need to know when to worm your puppy, how often, and what product to use.
Worming treatments are available as liquid suspensions (perfect for very young and tiny puppies!), tablets, and spot-on preparations, but not all preparations treat all types of worms. Your veterinarian is here to help you select the right product for your pup.
How do puppies get worms?
Dogs and puppies can be infected with intestinal worms via:
Worm eggs are passed in the feces (poop) of infected animals and can remain in the environment for months. These eggs are accidentally eaten when dogs lick the soil from their coats to groom themselves or by eating poop (coprophagia). Puppies may also pick up a hookworm infection through their skin when walking on contaminated soil.
Not only are fleas irritating and itchy, but they can also carry and transmit tapeworm to your dog or puppy! Regular flea control for all pets is an essential part of prevention to help protect them.
Transmission from their mother
Young puppies are commonly born with roundworms or are soon infected when drinking their mother’s milk. Reinfection is common while they are nursing, and this is one of the reasons why puppies require more frequent worming treatment.
Diet and lifestyle
If your dog hunts and eats wild or dead animals that have intestinal worms, they risk becoming infected themselves. Feeding raw meat also carries an increased risk for transmitting parasites such as intestinal worms to your pup, as well bacteria like Salmonella that can cause serious illness.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Global Nutrition Committee recommends that raw meat and bones should not be fed to dogs and cats due to these (and other) potential health risks.
What are the signs of worms in puppies?
Intestinal worms sometimes show no obvious signs in adult dogs, so it can be easy to forget the importance of regular worming treatment. As puppies are more susceptible to intestinal worms, they may show signs that include:
- Rounded tummy or pot-bellied appearance
- Dull, dry coat
- Lethargy or weakness
- Poor growth and development
- Pale gum color
- Scooting (dragging an itchy bottom on the floor)
- Changes in appetite – may be increased or decreased
Though highly unpleasant, you may also see roundworms (long worms resembling spaghetti) within the vomit or feces, or tapeworm segments (that look like grains of rice) around your pup’s bottom.
If your puppy is showing any of these signs, it’s best to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. We often see puppies that have become sick and dehydrated extremely quickly when they’re not eating well and experiencing vomiting and diarrhea.
Your vet will prescribe an appropriate worming treatment, give any required supportive treatment, and may perform fecal testing to confirm the diagnosis and make sure the infection has cleared after treatment.
What is the best worming schedule for your puppy?
Puppies need to be wormed more frequently than adult dogs as they are commonly born with roundworm infections and can be re-infected when drinking their mother’s milk. They are also prone to picking things up in their mouths, increasing the chance of them eating worm eggs.
So, when should you worm your puppy? The recommended worming schedule for puppies is as follows:
2 to 12 weeks old: Every two weeks
From 12 weeks of age: Every month or as directed by your veterinarian.
How often you worm your puppy will vary depending on the product being used and any risk factors that would make your puppy or dog more likely to pick up intestinal worms, such as hunting and eating wild animals or being fed a raw diet.
Your vet may also recommend a fecal screening test every 6-12 months to check for worm eggs, and then prescribe treatment based on the results.
How to prevent re-infection?
Safe hygiene practices should go hand-in-hand with regular effective worming treatment to help prevent your pup from picking up intestinal worms. Here are our top tips:
For your puppy and other pets
- Ask your vet to recommend an effective worming treatment and schedule for ALL pets in the household.
- Mark doses in your calendar or create a reminder on your phone so you never miss a dose.
- Make sure ALL pets receive regular effective flea prevention
- Ask your vet about regular screening tests to check for worm eggs
For your home and family
- Clean food and water bowls regularly and always provide fresh food and water.
- Try not to let your puppy eat another animal’s feces or dead wildlife.
- Always pick up after your puppy and dispose of the mess safely
- Regularly clean their toys, bedding, and living area
- Wash your hands thoroughly after every interaction with your puppy and before eating or touching your face. Closely supervise young children to make sure they do the same!
Worms simply aren’t worth the risk to your pet’s health or to your family’s. Safe, effective, and regular worm treatment from your veterinarian is the best way to make sure that worms don’t affect your pet.
We hope this article has helped you to better understand intestinal worms and their consequences for puppies, as well as how best to treat and prevent them.