Parasites: Signs of Worms

How to Spot Worms in Dogs:

Clinically, a dog may be suspected of having a worm infestation, if it shows some general signs. Generally, a dull coat  with anorexia (loss of appetite), progressive weakness and weight loss, with some clinical signs such as “pot-belly” and relatively blackened or a dirty look in the white part of eyes can be suspected as a sign of worms in dogs.

Along with general signs, specific signs may also be present depending on the type of worm infecting a dog. The worm's Life cycle, mode of transmission and pathogenesis (how the condition develops) are collective factors leading to these signs. Anemia (weakness due to a decline in red blood cell function) and bloody diarrhea e.g. is more common in a canine hookworm infestation, while cough due to heartworms is due to route of transmission i.e. pulmonary arteries (lungs).

Some specific signs associated with different types of worms may be:

Round Worms: Round worms may be transmitted through the trans-placental route from mother to unborn puppy and through the milk milk. Puppies are; therefore, more susceptible with most born with roundworm, even if the puppy was obtained from a quality breeder. Dog Round worms can cause vomiting, diarrhea and death due to obstruction in the intestines, along with general signs of anorexia, dull coat and weight loss.

Hook Worms: Hookworms are attached to mucosa of the intestine, with the help of hook like extremities, thus causing acute bloody diarrhea. Blood loss results in acute anemia and severe dehydration. This condition may cause death if is not treated. Hemorrhages in the intestine may develop into ulcer like injuries; which are hard to cure, thus complications of generalized illness may suggest hookworms, if other signs of worm infestation are noted.

Tape Worms: Tapeworms cause severe itching and irritation at the anus, plus abdominal pain and restlessness in dogs. Rice like tapeworm segments can be noticed in the feces with the naked eye and at the anus. General signs may also be present such as weight loss and vomiting&.

Whip Worms: Dog Whipworms can also cause anemia, weight loss and vomiting with diarrhea. This worm in particular causes a loss of energy which is more pronounced than symptoms associated with other worms.

Heart Worms: A mild cough; which grows into severe pulmonary complications is an initial sign, followed by intolerance to exercise, lethargy, weakness, progressive weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, loss of body conditions and then collapsing. During a collapse caused by dog heart worm, it is almost impossible to save the life of the dog. For these reasons, preventatives are recommended.

Esophageal and Stomach Worms: These are uncommon types of worms in dogs, causing hemorrhages at the esophageal and the stomach walls. Inflammation may cause narrowing of the digestive tract, thus dogs may feel difficulty in passing digestive contents through the tubular esophagus. Rare cases of inflammation in the stomach can develop into an ulcer.


Worm infestation of any type should be  treated systematically. Symptomatic treatment is usually  not durable and recurrence or development of the disease worsens the body condition (physiology) of the affected dog. Use of anti–helmintics (de-worming medications) should be  used to treat specific types of worms.

Signs of anemia can be treated with blood transfusions, up to the level that “Packed Cell Volume” becomes normal. Dogs that become dehydrated due to diarrhea should receive intravenous fluid therapies. Anti-emetic drugs can be used for vomiting in dogs, but has not been proven effective.

Weakness, depressed body physiology and weight loss can be treated by administering supportive supplements containing vitamins, minerals and energy content such as carbohydrates.


There are several preventatives available to help dogs avoid having to be treated for worms.  Veterinarians in areas where mosquitoes are a problem, recommend that dog's use a heartworm preventative.  These are available in chewable form, (Heartgard, Interceptor, Sentinel),  topical (Revolution) or injection (Proheart 6).  Each product with the exception of Proheart, also protect against other parasites, depending on the product.  To save money on these types of products and to learn more about different types, see VetMedicine.

There is also a homeopathic preventative available that uses natural ingredients to expel internal parasites like Heartworm, Roundworm and Tape Worm in dogs. The product, Parasite Dr. Capsules , is worth researching for those owners who want to use a natural vs. chemical approach to avoiding worm infection.