Worms in Dogs: What You Probably Don’t Know

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / January 22, 2018

Discovering that your dog or cat has worms is horrifying. Worms in dogs certainly aren’t anything to take lightly, but rest assured that they are treatable.

worm in dogs

Both dogs and cats are incredibly vulnerable to contracting parasitic diseases. There are different types of worms that can infect dogs and cats. The most common types are tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, hookworms and heartworms. Each of these worms cause different symptoms, diseases, and infections—some of which can be fatal, especially if left untreated. Therefore, it’s important to pay close attention to your dog in order to recognize and identify when your dog has worms, so that you can get him or her treatment!

Read on to learn more about the different types of worms in dogs, how to tell if your dog or cat has worms, and some popular dewormers and treatment methods to help treat parasite infections and worm infestations.

What to Do If You Suspect Worms in Dogs

It’s normal for any pet owner to worry about their dog getting intestinal worms. However, before you freak out, worms in dogs are incredibly common. The most common parasite treatment method for worms in dogs is to provide a veterinarian with a stool sample to test for the presence of parasites or intestinal worms and to prescribe a medication or other treatment method.

If you do not seek treatment from your dog’s veterinarian, and if your dog really has intestinal worms, then they can end up causing an infection. This infection can damage your dog’s internal organs, causing long-term health issues. A heartworm infection or heartworm disease can be serious and also expensive. So, be sure to consult with your veterinarian if you suspect that your dogs has worms.

How to Tell if Your Dog or Cat Has Worms

The most common types of intestinal parasites or intestinal worms are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Roundworms and tapeworms are the only two types of intestinal worms that can be visually seen in your dog’s stool by humans.

Hookworm and whipworm eggs are often so small that they can’t be seen by the naked human eye. This is why most veterinarians will request a stool sample in order to microscopically detect the presence of tapeworms, worm eggs, or larvae. A veterinarian will perform an exam of your dog as well as test your dog’s stool for the presence of intestinal worms or intestinal parasites.

Types of Worms in Dogs

types of worms in dogs

You now know that the most common worms in dogs are whipworms, tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms. But what is the difference between each type of worm? Let’s take a deeper look at each type of worm.

Whipworms in Dogs

Whipworms are intestinal worms or intestinal parasites that are more common in dogs than cats. Adult whipworms resemble a piece of thread and thrive in the dog’s large intestine. Canine whipworm infestations are often difficult to detect since whipworms do not typically lay many eggs. Dog whipworm infestations are so difficult to detect that sometimes a stool sample examination won’t pick up the presence of whipworms.

However, if you notice significant weight loss in your dog, then this could be a possible sign that something is not okay, such as a whipworm infestation. Although a whipworm infection is not considered fatal, it can still make your dog incredibly ill.

Hookworms in Dogs

Hookworms are another worm infestation in dogs. In fact, most hookworm infections are more common in dogs than cats. Hookworms are also incredibly small and latch onto the small intestine wall in a dog to suck its blood. Dogs can contract hookworms when coming in contact with larvae or eggs.

In many cases, puppies will get hookworms from its infected mother. Puppies can get hookworms after birth or even through the mother’s milk. Severe cases of hookworm infections or hookworm infestations can kill a young puppy.

Some common signs and symptoms of a hookworm infection or hookworm infestation include a lack of stamina, weight loss, bloody diarrhea, anemia, and weakness. A hookworm infection can be detected microscopically.

Tapeworms in Dogs

Dogs and cats can both get tapeworms from ingesting fleas. This can easily be done when a dog or cat goes hunting in the woods or kills and ingests another animal, such as a rodent. Many rodents often have tapeworms and fleas, which is how most dogs and cats get tapeworms or tapeworm eggs.

A flea tapeworm is a larger worm when compared to the whipworm or hookworm, and the body is broken up into multiple segments. Tapeworms live in a dog’s intestines for some time, and can even grow up to six inches long!

Most tapeworms can be seen in the dog’s fur, around the bum, or under the tail. Some tapeworm segments can be seen moving around in the fur, whereas other flea tapeworms shrivel up and die. These dead tapeworms will resemble small grains near your dog’s anus.

The only effective treatment method for tapeworms is a prescription medication from a veterinarian. Most over-the-counter (OTC) dewormers will not work.

Roundworms in Dogs

Roundworms (toxascaris leonina) are another incredibly common parasite found in dogs. In fact, most dogs will contract a roundworm infestation at one point in their lives. Roundworms are more common in puppies than adult dogs because puppies often contract roundworms from their mother. Not to mention, their immune systems are weaker than that of an adult dog.

Adult roundworms live in a dog’s intestines and feed on the dog’s food! In severe roundworm infections, some dogs can suffer severe weight loss or can even become malnourished.

There are two types of roundworm infections: Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonine. Toxocara canis can become a serious disease and can even be transmitted to humans!

Heartworms in Dogs

Out of all the worm infestations we reviewed, heartworms are probably the scariest type of worm infection or worm infestation. Dogs can get heartworms simply by being bitten by a mosquito infected with heartworm larvae.

What’s worse is that it can take up to six or seven months after a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito for the larvae to develop into adult heartworms. Heartworms then lodge into the dog’s heart, surrounding vessels, and lungs. They then begin to reproduce and lay their own eggs. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches in length, and live in your dog’s system for up to seven years!

A serious heartworm infestation can be fatal for your pup, but it can easily be prevented by giving your dog heartworm medications. There are many heartwormers available over-the-counter. You can also ask your veterinarian or other fellow dog owners for recommendations. Treating heartworm disease can also be incredibly expensive, and can be physically burdensome on your pet. So, be sure to take preventative measures to protect your dog from heartworms.

Regardless of the type of worm infection or worm infestation in your dog, worms in dogs can be a serious issue. This is why it is important for dog owners to be aware of the different types of worms in dogs, how dogs get worms, how to recognize symptoms of a worm infestation, and how to get treatment.

If you suspect that your dog has a worm infection or other type of parasite infestation, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Worms in Dogs

symptoms of worms in dogs

If your dog is suffering with another type of worm infestation or infection, but you haven’t found anything in your dog’s stool or vomit, then your dog may be experiencing other symptoms. Most dogs that are suffering with worm infestations or worm infections will show the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea (blood may be present)
  • Weight loss
  • Dry hair or dull coat
  • Excessive itching or scratching, particularly near the anus
  • Skin irritations
  • Bloated belly
  • Change in appetite
  • General poor appearance
  • Vomiting (worms may be present)

Heartworm Symptoms

Because heartworm disease is incredibly serious and life-threatening, here are some symptoms of a heartworm infestation:

  • Coughing
  • Weakness or extreme fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Significant weight loss
  • Pale gums
  • Dark or bloody urine
  • Excessive fluid retention in the abdomenheart worm in dogs

Some worm infestations or worm infections are obvious, especially if you can visually see dried up tapeworms in your dog’s stool or vomit, or if your dog is showing symptoms of an infection. However, some dogs don’t show any signs or symptoms at all. This is because some worm eggs or larvae can be dormant inside your dog for some time, which is the case with puppies. For example, in the cases of roundworms and hookworms, worm eggs and larvae remain dormant in the mother adult dog and do not infest puppies until after they are born.

How Do Dogs and Cats Get Worms?

Dogs and cats can get worms in a variety of ways. One of the most common ways is through birth. If a mother dog has a worm infection or parasite infestation, then that worm infestation will likely be passed onto her puppies after birth. The eggs and larvae in puppies can be detected microscopically.

Additionally, roundworms can produce up to 200,000 eggs in a day. Adult worms pass on their eggs in stool that can be ingested or contracted by other dogs and cats. When the worm eggs hatch, larvae then begin to spread through the dog’s body and into organs, such as the lungs or intestinal tract. There, they thrive on the dog’s blood or even semi-digested food!

Dogs and cats can also get worm infestations from fleas. If a dog or cat ingests fleas, those fleas can then mature and develop into tapeworms, which can live within the animal’s intestines for up to several years! This is why treating a flea infestation in your dog is so important. A flea tapeworm infestation can quickly become a serious issue for your dog!

As mentioned above, heartworms are the most serious form of worm infestation and infection that can cause a dog real harm. Dogs can get heartworms by being bitten from mosquitoes that are infected with the heartworm parasite. Heartworms can infect the dog’s heart and surrounding organs and vessels, which can eventually cause death, especially if left untreated. However, heartworms are also entirely preventable.

How To Get Rid of Worms in Dogs

Although worms in dogs aren’t always life-threatening, this doesn’t mean that a worm infection should go left untreated. Proper treatment is necessary in order to rid your dog of an infection or worm infestation.

As mentioned above, the most common treatment method for worms in dogs involves providing your veterinarian with a stool sample for testing and then he or she will likely prescribe your dog with a dewormer medication. There are also some over-the-counter dewormers you can purchase at a local pet store or even online.

Ultimately, the type of dewormer you choose for your pet will depend on the type of worm infestation present. This is because not all worms in dogs respond to the same treatment method. So, it’s important to get an accurate worm diagnosis from a veterinarian before trying any dewormer treatment.

Adult & Puppy Dewormer

Additionally, some non-prescription wormers are effective in removing worms in dogs and cats. Adult dogs and puppies may also require different dewormer treatments, depending on the size and breed of the dog.

Here are some of the most common treatment methods and medications:

Drontal Plus

  • Drontal Plus is a dewormer that treats parasite infestations, including those caused by tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. The main active ingredients in Drontal Plus are praziquantel, pyrantel pamoate, and febantel, which work together to break down and kill parasites in order for the dog’s immune system to remove remove them. Drontal Plus is safe for both adult dogs and puppies.Drontal Plus typically requires a prescription, so be sure to ask your vet about Drontal Plus and to see if it is the best parasite treatment for your dog.

Durvet Triple Wormer

  • Parasite treatment medications also come in a chewable tablet form to help dogs consume them easier. Durvet Triple Wormer is a flavored, chewable tablet designed for both dogs and puppies. It helps treat and control parasite infestations and infections, including those from roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Similar to Drontal Plus, the main active ingredients are Pyrantel pamoate and Praziquantel.

Milbemax Chewable Dog Wormer

  • Milbemax is another popular and effective intestinal parasite treatment and dewormer for dogs. These chewable tablets are designed to treat the parasite infections and infestations caused by hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms.Keep in mind, Milbemax is available by prescription only. This medication is safe for both adult dogs and puppies, and are available in different packs. For example, Milbemax offers the puppy four-pack specifically for puppies. So, be sure you get the right prescription from your vet before ordering Milbemax.


  • Panacur is another dewormer medication for dogs.  The main active ingredient in Panacur is fenbendazole, which breaks down the biological life cycle of parasites. It helps treat roundworms and hookworm infections. However, Panacur may not be the best treatment method if your dog or cat has a tapeworm infection, particularly an infection caused by the dipylidium caninum tapeworm.In addition to being a dewormer treatment for dogs, Panacur is also used to treat parasite infections and infestations in cats, horses, livestock and other small animals. It is dispensed to the animal orally as a paste or granules. Therefore, Panacur comes in various dosages, sizes, and methods, so be sure to speak to your veterinarian to make sure you are getting the right treatment method for your dog or pet.

Of course, these are just a few examples of some popular dewormer medications for dogs and cats. If you prefer to use a different dewormer, then be sure to purchase one that contains the active ingredients Pyrantel pamoate, Praziquantel, or Milbemycin oxime. Some of the dewormers we listed above contain Pyrantel pamoate and/or Praziquantel to treat worm infections, but Milbemycin oxime acts as both a dewormer and a heartworm preventative measure.

If dog owners choose to use Milbemycin oxime as a dewormer or as a heartwormer, be sure to pay attention to the dosage recommendations. It’s worth noting that the dosage for heartworm prevention is lower than when used as a dewormer treatment. Giving your dog more Milbemycin oxime than directed can be dangerous and even cause adverse side effects, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, weakness, or even seizures. Be sure to speak to your vet to make sure that Milbemycin oxime is right for your dog.

Natural Dewormer For Dogs

cucumber natural dewormer in dogs

If you are worried about adverse effects or possible reactions to prescription dewormers and medications, or if your dog is particularly sensitive to medications, rest assured that there are also a number of home remedies that you can try to help treat intestinal parasites and worms.

For example, fermented foods have proven to be effective and healthy treatment methods for parasites and worms. This is because fermented foods contain probiotic properties, which can help prevent and eliminate many types of worms in dogs. Some great fermented foods include the following:

  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Fennel
  • Cucumber
  • Papaya fruit
  • Watercress
  • Green vegetables
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pomegranate
  • Pineapple

papaya natural dewormer for dogs

Furthermore, some other herbs, spices, and natural foods that can help treat worms in dogs include food-grade diatomaceous earth, cloves, turmeric, wormwood and coconut oil, just to name a few. There are also some home and natural remedies for treating worms in dogs. However, some of these methods may be effective depending on the dog, but they may require more time to treat worm infections than a dewormer medication.

How to Prevent Worms in Dogs

We mentioned above that worms in dogs can be prevented, particularly heartworms. Here are some of the best ways to prevent worms in dogs:

  • Remove feces from your yard or litter box regularly. Over time, feces can become infested with worm larvae, so taking the time to clean your yard or litter box at least once per week can significantly reduce risks of worm infestations in your dog or cat. Be particularly attentive to your dog if you take him or her to a dog park.
  • Use a dewormer recommended by your vet. Be sure to communicate with your vet about using the right heartwormer for your dog or cat. Avoid mixing wormers with other medications, which also includes heartworm prevention. If your dog or cat suffers from periodic worm infestations, some veterinarians will prescribe dewormers on a regular basis throughout the year.
  • Check your dog’s fur regularly. As we explored above, not all worms can be seen by the human eye, but periodically checking your dog’s fur, anus, or stool for fleas, eggs, or worms, and seeking immediate dewormer treatment, can help prevent a more serious infection and keep your dog healthy.

Can Humans Get Worms From Dogs?

Yes, some worm infestations in dogs and cats can be transmitted to humans. For example, humans can catch hookworm infections from dogs and cats. In fact, hookworms can cause a potentially dangerous disease known as Cutaneous larval migrans. This disease occurs when hookworms penetrate human skin, which can cause some serious inflammation and scarring.  Roundworm eggs can also be ingested by humans, which can cause a disease known as Visceral larval migrans. This disease involves worm larvae living in the wall of a person’s small intestine, large intestine, and body tissue.

Although humans are in fact at risk for catching worm infections from dogs and cats, children are at a higher risk since most play where they can come into contact with dog, cat, or even raccoon feces. This is why it is so important to keep your backyard and sandbox clean, and pay attention to your dog’s behavior as well as your child’s if you take them to parks.

What You Can Do About Worms in Dogs

All in all, worm infestations and infections are nothing to take lightly. If you haven’t already, begin using a heartworm medication for your pet to prevent heartworms, one of the most serious and potentially fatal worm infections.

If you suspect that your dog or pet has worms, then be sure to call your vet immediately to schedule a physical examination and a stool sample exam.

About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for Honestpaws.com.