How to Prevent Worms in Your Dog

Worm-prevention_001Unless you're putting one on a fish hook, worms are something to be avoided. That goes double in the case of the many intestinal parasites commonly found in dogs, including roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms and hookworms.

Stool samples are the only way to confirm the presence of intestinal parasites. Some, including roundworms and tapeworms, can actually be seen with the naked eye. Hookworms and whipworms require a microscope to spot.

The most common complaints from dog owners are diarrhea, blood in the stool, weight loss, dry coat, vomiting and a general poor appearance. What's worse are the problems that don't manifest readily.

Some worm eggs and larvae lay dormant and only activate in times of stress. In the case of roundworms and hookworms, the later stages of pregnancy is when these pests activate and infect the soon to be born puppies. Puppies are commonly infected with roundworms and hookworms and must be treated even before the new owner picks up their fledgling hunting dog. Roundworm larvae can actually be transmitted from the mother's uterus tissue and through breast milk.

Roundworms and other worms are transmitted from one dog to another when the egg-laden stool of one dog is eaten by another. It's also possible for dogs to become infected by coming in contact with eggs in the stool, which in turn come in contact with the soil. And since dogs are always digging around in the dirt... It's important to note that anti-worm medications don't kill encysted larvae in the dog's tissue and can't prevent this parasite from being passed from mother to newborn puppies. Instead, most worm medications work on adult worms present in the intestinal tract. This is precisely why it's so difficult to completely control worms in dogs. Some over-the-counter worming products do a good job of controlling adult roundworms, hookworms and whipworms.

Tapeworms are even more difficult. The only way to treat these pests is to take your pet to the vet and have appropriate medications prescribed.

Controlling Heartworms

There are a lot of myths surrounding the subject of heartworms. The only way a dog can get heartworms is by being bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworm is present in all 50 states and the bite of just one infected mosquito is all it takes to infect your dog. Even folks who live in arid regions of the country are vulnerable to heartworm. Once bitten, it takes about seven months for heartworm larvae to mature into adult worms that will attack the heart, lungs and connecting tissue. Heartworms can grow up to 12 inches in length and live for five to seven years.

One dog cannot give heartworms to another dog because only the bite of an infected mosquito passes on this parasite. Heartworm can be fatal and must be treated. The best treatment is actually prevention. Medications to prevent heartworm are inexpensive and include pills, ointments and a six-month injection. Dogs need to be treated year-round. A year's supply of heartworm prevention costs from $35-$85, a small price to pay for your prized hunting dog.

Should your dog become infected the cost can be very expensive. Untreated, the dog will die. Symptoms are impossible to detect at first and later on when the dog is seriously infected it is too late. Coughing or lack of energy  are the most common symptoms. Between the medications needed, X-rays, blood work and other steps necessary to attack heartworms, be prepared to pay up to $1,000 to treat a dog. This is why the best course of action is prevention medications. The money spent on prevention will save on larger expenses down the road should the dog become infected.

Worms of all kinds are a big issue among dog owners and hunting dogs are more apt to be in harm's way than the typical suburban pet. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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