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Dog Roundworms

Dog Roundworms

Roundworm infection is transmitted through ingestion of eggs in an infected rodent, infected soil, or milk from an infected mother.

There are two species of roundworms affecting dogs and puppies: Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina. Both are treated with the same medication protocol so when eggs are seen on a fecal flotation exam, it is not necessary to determine which species is present.

Adult roundworms have a funny face with three big lips surrounding their mouth. They feed on partially digested food in the dog’s intestine.

Generally they are about 2 – 4 inches long, but can grow up to 7 inches long and if vomited up can be quite alarming. They are tan or white “spaghetti-like” creatures with tapered ends.

Dog Roundworm Symptoms:

If a roundworm infestation is heavy a dog may vomit these worms or pass them (whole) in the stool, have diarrhea and can have an effect on a dog’s overall general health and appearance. Puppies infected with roundworms will have a “potbellied” (bloated) look to them with abdominal pain, dull coat, diarrhea, and occasionally fatal small bowel obstruction. Roundworms can become so numerous that they can cause an intestinal blockage and stool cannot pass. Migration can cause respiratory signs that mimic upper
respiratory infections. Occasionally serious pneumonia can result.

Adult dogs rarely show GI signs but can compromise their overall condition,
especially if other diseases are active.

If humans ingest roundworm eggs, the eggs can cause infection. It is important to wash hands after handling dog feces. Children should not be allowed to play on soil where dogs defecate.

How infection occurs:

– Consuming infective worm eggs from soil in the environment (generally through normal grooming).
– Nursing from an infected mother dog.
– Consuming a prey animal (usually rodent) that is carrying developing worms.
– During embryonic development when an infected mother dog is pregnant (most
puppies are infected this way).

Dog Roundworm Treatment:

Treatment of roundworms in puppies consists of oral medication at 4, 6
and 8 weeks, followed by a microscopic fecal exam at 11-12 weeks. In
adult dogs, annual fecal exams are recommended to remove asymptomatic
infections. Monthly heartworm preventive drugs contain good round wormers
and effectively worm the dog each month during the heartworm season.
There are many good round wormers on the market – some are over the counter and some are prescription. Many flea control and/or heartworm prevention products provide a monthly deworming which is especially helpful in minimizing environmental contamination. Common active ingredients include:

– Febantel (active ingredient in Drontal and Drontal plus)
– Pyrantel pamoate (active ingredient in Strongid, Nemex, HeartgardPlus and others)
– Piperazine (active ingredient in many over the counter products)
– Fenbendazole (active ingredient in Panacur)
– Milbemycin Oxime (active ingredient of Interceptor and Sentinel)

There are two important concepts to keep in mind about deworming. Medications essentially anesthetize the worm so that it let’s go of its grip on the host intestine and passes with the stool. Once it has been passed, it cannot survive in the environment and dies. This means that you will likely see the worms when they pass so be prepared as they can be quite long and may still be alive and moving when you see them.

Roundworm is diagnosed by examining the feces for the presence of eggs.

Treatment generally requires more than a single dose and your veterinarian will recommend a follow-up deworming.

Pet owners should discuss the options with their veterinarian and ask whether monthly preventative medication (e.g., Sentinel�, Heartgard Plus�) is necessary.

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