Worming dog: Protect your four-legged friend with deworming | Dr. SAM

How often should a dog be wormed?

Author: Dr. Sam | Last edited: April 8, 2022 | Reading time: 26 min
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There are many discussions on the internet about whether or not it is necessary to worm a dog. The recommendations vary from herbal preparations to faecal examinations. In the following article you will find out how often deworming should be carried out and whether it really helps.

What are worms actually?

Worms and giardia infect the internal organs of our beloved four-legged friends. Usually the intestine is affected first, but the infection can also spread to other organs. Depending on the type of worm, the liver, lungs, heart or skin can also be affected. Some, but not all, of the parasites that infest our domestic dogs are also dangerous to humans. But do they occur so frequently and does deworming make sense in this case?

Cause worms

Widespread in Germany, mainly roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms, as well as the unicellular Giardia. However, more and more cases of heartworm, hookworm and skin worm diseases are also being found in this country. In recent years, more and more dogs here in Germany have become infected with these original "travel diseases". In principle, any dog can become infected, but whether it falls ill with worm infestation depends on the dog's state of health. All parasites have in common that they can make young and weakened dogs very ill very quickly, while they can remain undetected for a long time in adult, healthy dogs. A worming treatment does not protect the dog from a new infestation.

Most worms are licked and swallowed as eggs or larvae when sniffing, and develop into adult worms in the intestine. In the intestine, they then produce eggs that are released back into the environment through the faeces. From there, dogs, other animals and also humans are infected. In very severe worm infestations, the worms can block the small intestine and migrate to the stomach, oesophagus and liver. As long as a dog harbours undetected worms, it also spreads eggs or larvae in its environment, and can thus infect other dogs and humans. But fleas can also transmit worms. For this reason, deworming belongs after a flea cure.

Heartworms and skin worms: typical "Mediterranean diseases", both types of worms are transmitted as larvae by mosquitoes via the bite, and then migrate to their destination.

  1. Heartwormsreach the heart via the blood vessels. There they become adult worms 20 to 30 cm long, multiply from there for life.
  2. Skin worms do not affect the blood vessels, but the subcutis. They can be felt as nodules or bumps, and are transmissible to humans.

How often should dogs be wormed?

It is generally recommended to worm adult dogs every 3 months. Depending on your dog's individual risk of infection, the frequency of deworming can be lower or higher.

If your dog spends a lot of time in the woods and dog parks and especially likes to catch (and eat) mice, or even goes hunting with you, it definitely makes sense to deworm more often (monthly!).

Feeding your dog raw meat (e.g. BARF) also increases the risk of infection.
If you have small children or immunocompromised persons in the house, if you are pregnant, or if the dog sleeps in the bed and is allowed on the sofa with you, you should also worm your four-legged friend monthly, because the risk of infection is high!
By regularly picking up and disposing of dog poop, you can significantly reduce the worm burden in your neighbourhood.

When should a dog be wormed for the first time?

Since many puppies can already be infected with different worms in the womb, this naturally has enormous consequences for our little four-legged friends. If the mother is already infected, then the probability is very high that the puppy is also infected with worms. Most of the time, larvae migrate into the muscles and seal themselves off there. Due to hormonal changes, it can happen that in the so-called dormant stage, the parasites can be activated again and thus continue to migrate from the muscles into the uterus. The infection then takes place there. It is also possible that the dog puppies become infected through their mother's milk.

For this reason, deworming is recommended at the age of two weeks. Subsequently, a further deworming should take place regularly, always at intervals of another two weeks. This should be done regularly up to 2 weeks before the end of the breastfeeding period.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The symptoms mainly depend on the organ affected. However, they can be very varied, and very non-specific. The most common 6 symptoms are as follows.

  1. Diarrhoea: Worm infestation leads to inflammation of the intestine, and consequently to diarrhoea. The diarrhoea is often coloured, mucousy and foul-smelling, sometimes there is blood, and in rare cases even an adult worm.
  2. Sledging: Some tapeworm species actively migrate out of the intestine. The small, mobile worm limbs look like small grains of rice and itch terribly. To relieve the itch, affected dogs slide their bottoms over rough surfaces.
  3. Vomiting: Parasite infestation can lead to vomiting. Here, too, the cause is inflammation of the intestine. If the worm infestation is very severe, your dog may vomit worms.
  4. Bloated belly: A "worm belly" is a well-known phenomenon, especially in puppies. When small animals have a lot of worms, you can often tell by the fact that the puppies' bellies are all swollen and round. This usually happens when the puppies or the mother animal have never been wormed.
  5. Weight loss: With long-term worm infections, affected dogs lose weight. This is because the permanently inflamed intestine cannot absorb enough nutrients to nourish the dog. This can cause permanent damage to the development of puppies and young dogs in particular.
  6. Anaemia: If many parasites suck blood in a dog's intestine over a long period of time, this can lead to anaemia. In addition, the dog constantly loses small amounts of blood through the inflamed, damaged intestinal wall.

Most worms, as they live mainly in the intestine, are quickest to diagnose via a faecal examination.

Worms do not always lay eggs consistently, so a faecal examination may be incorrectly assessed as 'worm-free' when the dog actually has worms.

A more reliable result can be obtained if "collective faeces samples" are examined, from at least 3 different droppings. There are 3 possibilities:

  1. Faecal samples can be examined under the microscope, then eggs, worms, and larvae are searched for.
  2. Heartworms and skinworms are diagnosed via a blood test. Since these worms are active in the evening, it is best to take the blood sample after 18:00.
  3. To diagnose giardia, there are quick tests available for the veterinary practice that change colour, similar to a pregnancy test, when giardia is detected in the faecal sample.

Another option is a worm test for dogs, which can be performed extremely conveniently and without much effort from home.

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Therapy for dogs by means of deworming

Most worms are easily treated with modern worming medicines. Dewormers for dogs are usually well tolerated and come in flavoured tablets that taste like treats! There is no known resistance in Europe so far, but it is still important to always pay attention to the correct dosage. When it comes to routine treatment, one treatment is usually enough. However, if a worm infestation has been detected, it may be advisable to repeat the tablet administration after 10-14 days in order to kill all the worms that were still in the egg and unreachable for the medication during the first treatment.

It has been proven several times that herbal remedies or other remedies such as garlic granules are not effective against worms. Many of these agents are even contaminated or can lead to poisoning! Just because the dog has been given such remedies and has never had worms, it does not automatically mean that they are effective.

  • The decision as to whether deworming is appropriate is made individually by your vet. Especially for puppies it is always important to adjust the right medication to the current weight.
  • Heartworms and skinworms need to be clarified in the course of a blood test and have their own specific therapy regimen.
  • Giardia is much more complicated to treat. There are several medications that work very well, but they have to be administered over a somewhat longer period of time. Resistant giardia does not exist, although this is often claimed by vets.

It is usually not the case that a worming medication does not work with certain worms or giardia, but that the dogs very quickly become infected again at the same source. The hygiene measures in the household and in the environment are decisive for the success of the therapy, this is especially true for giardia.

At Dr. SAM, we will advise you personally and in detail.

Worming as a preventive measure

Contact with worms and other parasites can never be completely avoided, which is why it is generally recommended to deworm dogs prophylactically at least every 3 months. However, it is also possible to carry out faecal examinations regularly.

However, the faecal examinations are more time-consuming, as 3 faecal samples must be taken to a vet every 4 weeks. The faecal samples should also be collected over a period of 3 days.

Overall, the effort required for a prophylactic worming treatment is therefore lower and is therefore preferred more often by pet owners. This is because it is guaranteed to protect not only the dog, but also the people around the dog.

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