The thought of parasites such as worms infesting your dog is an unpleasant one. Parasites are common in the environment and can have serious health implications for us, as well as for our dogs. We are fortunate to live in an era when we have many effective deworming products to keep our dogs safe and healthy.
How often should you worm your dog?
The short answer to this question is that adult dogs will need deworming at least once every three months. However some dogs will need worming more frequently.
It can be baffling to choose a deworming strategy, read on for a complete run down of options for your dog.
The benefits of worming your dog
Worming your dog regularly is important to keep it healthy and happy. It will also keep you and your family safe from zoonotic parasitic diseases, and prevent your dog from spreading parasites to other animals and people in your neighbourhood.
Reasons why dogs need to be regularly wormed
Dogs need to be regularly wormed for two main reasons:
- Their health; being infested with worms can cause your dog a range of health issues including anaemia, diarrhoea, weakness and lethargy, weight loss, and even death.
- Your health; your dog having worms can also lead to serious health problems in you and your family including weight loss, blindness and in the worse case scenario death. Puppies are particularly susceptible to worms and so need to be treated more regularly.
When you treat your dog with a dewormer it will act to kill the worms present at the time but it is generally a short acting medication. There are many ways your dog can pick up worms, so you need to worm your dog frequently enough that you can continue to kill any worms present before they are at a stage of their life cycle when they can cause harm.
How do dogs get worms
Dogs become infested with worms in a few ways:
- They may ingest contaminated soil, or another animal's faeces containing worm eggs
- By ingesting contaminated meat
- They may eat an infected flea
- Heartworm larvae are transmitted by infected mosquitoes
- Some worms can be transmitted by larvae passing through the skin
- Puppies can be infested with worms in utero before birth, or by drinking contaminated mother's milk in the first few weeks of life
Type of worms
Dogs can become infected with roundworm in a number of ways- by eating soil containing eggs, in utero, from their mother's milk, or from contaminated meat.
A common cause of diarrhoea in young puppies, affected dogs may also vomit, be in poor condition and be pot bellied. Roundworms can cause serious health problems in people, especially children, including blindness.
Hookworm infestation can occur from eating contaminated soil or meat, from a puppy's mother in utero or via her milk, or even via the larva directly entering the skin. Hookworms are particularly deadly to puppies, causing potentially severe anaemia and death.
Hookworms can cause diarrhoea with blood, and poor growth with a pot bellied appearance. Hookworms can also cause disease in people.
Whipworms cause diarrhoea, sometimes severe diarrhoea with blood in it, and can cause weightloss and anaemia. Whipworm eggs are hardy and can survive in the environment for up to five years. Infection occurs when a dog eats contaminated soil.
The flea tapeworm is commonly seen in dogs, and may be diagnosed by little segments of tapeworm appearing on your dog's bottom. Dogs with tapeworm may scoot their bottom along the ground, may lose weight, and may bite at their bottom. Dogs usually pick up this worm by ingesting an infected flea, so good flea control is an important measure to prevent infestation.
The hydatid tapeworm is worth a special mention because of the high risk it can pose to human health. Dogs can become infected when they consume infected raw meat, usually sheep or kangaroo meat, but wild pigs can potentially be infected also.
Infected dogs show no clinical signs, but they pass the eggs in their faeces, and this can lead to human infection. People can develop severe illness and death from hydatid tapeworm, and can require invasive surgery to treat hydatidosis.
Dogs who may be at risk of hydatid infection should be wormed more frequently than other dogs, at least every six weeks. It is crucial to check that the wormer used will kill hydatids, if your dog has any access to raw meat, or if they may be accessing kangaroo, sheep or pig carcasses when on walks.
Heartworm larvae can be transmitted to dogs by an infected mosquito biting them. Mature heartworms can cause blockages in the heart, and this can lead to exercise intolerance, lethargy and generally poor condition, coughing, and eventually heart failure.
Signs your dog has worms
There are a variety of clinical signs that can indicate your dog has worms, but equally, they can be infested and show no signs at all.
Common signs that can be caused by worms:
- Diarrhoea, sometimes with blood
- Pale gums / anaemia
- Poor growth, "ill thrift"
- Scooting and biting at bottom
- Visible worm segments on bottom, or worms in poo
- Dull coat
- Pot belly
If in doubt about your pet's health, please consult with your vet.
How often should I worm my dog?
How often you need to worm your dog depends on several factors including the age of your dog, your location, and which parasites you are targeting.
- As a general rule it is recommended to give puppies an intestinal wormer every two weeks from two weeks of age to twelve weeks of age.
- Puppies may then be dewormed once monthly to six months of age
- Pregnant bitches should be wormed near the end of pregnancy, after day 45, and then wormed with their puppies at regular intervals
- Dogs over six months of age can be given an intestinal dewormer every 1-3 months:
- If there's any risk of hydatid tapeworm, dogs should be wormed at a minimum of a six weekly interval, with a product containing praziquantel, for example Milbemax Allwormer or Drontal Chewable
- If there's no risk of hydatid tapeworms (no access to raw meat), adult dogs can be given an intestinal dewormer every 3 months
What kind of dog wormer should I use?
There are a variety of options for worming dogs. It is important to know your dog's weight, so you do not underdose or overdose them.
Product options include:
- Tablets such as Drontal and Milbemax
- Spot on products such as Advocate and Revolution
- Chews such as Drontal chews, Nexgard Spectra, and Sentinel
- Syrups (mostly for very young puppies)
Each of these products will cover a different combination of parasites, and the recommended dosing interval will vary also.
Whatever products you are using you will want to make sure that:
- They are protected against heartworm with a monthly chew or tablet or spot on (liquid medication applied onto the animal's back), or an annual injection
- They are protected against roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm
- They are wormed at least every six weeks if there is any risk of hydatid tapeworm.
- If there is no risk of hydatids, that they are wormed every 6 months against roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm
- They are always protected against paralysis ticks if you are in a tick area.
- They are adequately protected against fleas
So, for example you might choose to use Nexgard Spectra every month, plus milbemax every third month to cover tapeworm.
Or if you are not in a paralysis tick area you may choose to use Advocate every month, plus again using an allwormer every third month to cover tapeworm.
If your dog is at risk of hydatid tapeworm (any access to raw meat) then the tapewormer is the priority, so you may choose to use milbemax monthly for heartworm and intestinal worms, including tapeworm, plus something like Nexgard against fleas and ticks.
You could also choose a product like The Big 5, which covers paralysis ticks, fleas, heartworm, intestinal worms and tapeworms, all in one package.
Because there are regional considerations among other individual differences, take the chance to discuss your chosen worm management programme with a vet to make sure you have everything you need.
How to give a dog worming tablet
There are several ways to approach giving your dog a tablet
- You can gently open their mouth by grasping with one hand over each side of their muzzle, and rolling the top lips over the top teeth, this will make their mouth open. Then use the other hand to place the tablet near the back of the mouth. Allow the dog to close its mouth, and rub your dog gently under the chin. Keep stroking under the chin until you see them lick, which indicates swallowing.
- You can choose a chew product and allow the dog to eat it, for example Nexgard Chews or Drontal Chewables.
- You can hide the tablet in a small amount of a favourite food, such as a little bit of cheese.
Dog worming FAQs
Can you worm your dog too often?
Follow product recommendations when choosing the treatment interval. Treating more often than necessary is most likely to just be a waste of money. However it is possible that overdose can cause issues such as diarrhoea. Always follow label directions, and make sure you know your dog's weight, to choose an appropriate product.
Is it necessary to worm an indoor dog?
Because dogs can become infested with worms from soil on your shoes, from food, from mosquitoes, or from fleas, it is still recommended to keep up routine deworming, even for an indoor pet.
How long does dog worming treatment take to work?
Worming treatments generally start to work within a few hours of administration. You may see worms in your dog's poo in the day or two after treating them.
How much does worming a dog cost?
The cost of worming products varies depending on what each product covers, and the size of your pet. You can sometimes save money by buying in bulk, and you can save up to 10% by choosing auto delivery with PetCulture so your treatments arrive conveniently, at an appropriate time interval.
Avoiding the bad diseases caused to both dogs and people by parasitic disease makes purchasing worming treatments a very good investment. Treating a pet that is sick from worms is much more expensive than preventing the problem in the first place.
Can dog worms infect humans?
Yes, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms have a potential to cause disease in people, and children are most at risk. Risks can be minimised by ensuring your own pets are wormed appropriately. Encourage children to always wash hands after patting dogs, or after playing in the soil.
Are dog worms seasonal?
Some worm eggs and larva are very hardy in the environment. Although some climatic conditions (warmth and moisture) are more supportive of parasite survival in the environment than other conditions, in Australia most parasites are a problem year round. So it is important to keep up your treatment regime throughout the year.