In a Nutshell
One late summer afternoon, my new puppy Brandy, an 8 week old German Shepherd, threw up in her crate. To my horror there was a big pile of worms there—long white, featureless yet disgusting looking fellows. Brandy had a roundworm infestation.
Unlike tapeworms, roundworms have solid, unsegmented bodies that some people describe as looking like spaghetti. They can be big-adult females are around 7 inches long. They can also be nasty for puppies, causing malnutrition and even intestinal blockage.
Brandy, a roundworm survivor
Where do they come from?
Roundworms can be obtained in basically one of four ways:
If the mother is infected, puppies can obtain the infection while in utero
Puppies can also obtain the infection from their mothers milk while nursing
Dogs can pick up roundworm eggs from the soil
Eating an infected rodent like a rabbit can transmit roundworms
Roundworm eggs are passed out into the environment from the dogs feces. As a result, roundworm is detected by testing a fecal sample at your veterinarian's office. When the eggs are picked up by the got, usually by picking up some dirt containing eggs and ingesting it, the eggs hatch in the intestinal tract then a rather complicated life cycle begins. Are you ready for this? Let's break it down into stages:
The baby worms migrate to the liver where they hold up in encrusted cysts.
At some point, they decide to get out of the cysts. From there, they migrate to the lungs.
Once in the lungs, they utilize the air passages to make their way to the throat. This stage is often indicated by a dog which is coughing.
When the worms are coughed up into the throat, they make their way back down-to the intestines again!
This time they mature into adult worms. They mate, absorb nutrients from the dog and lay eggs which come out in the dogs feces.
Strange fact: If the dog is pregnant, the worms hatching out from encrusted cysts in the liver don't go for the lungs, instead they find the puppies and infect them. Brilliant strategy!
When my dog Brandy vomited up a whole pile of worms, well it was pretty obvious what was going on. But you may not be so lucky. So here are some symptoms of roundworm infection you should be aware of, especially if getting a new puppy:
- A pot-bellied appearance
- Vomiting of worms
- Diarrhea, especially in puppies
In serious infestations, there can be so many roundworms that they clog up and choke off the intestines. This can be a serious health problem for the dog.
While discovering the worms can be quite unnerving, the treatment is actually very easy. Roundworms can be treated easily using an orally administered de-wormer. Some effective dewormers include Heartgard Plus, Febantel and Panacur.