Worms In Dogs: Breaking The Cycle

Although they do not usually pose serious problems, worms in dogs always seem to be an issue, especially for puppies.  This is because their lifecycle is designed to be hard to break. Given that worms in dogs can cause health problems in both dogs and humans, owners have a responsibility to interrupt the cycle and try to keep it broken.

In the UK, the roundworm is the most common worm infestation seen in dogs, because most puppies are born with an infestation. This infestation often causes puppies’ abdomens to become distended and may delay their growth whilst in humans it has the potential to cause blindness.

Like other types of worms in dogs, the cycle can be broken with a little understanding. At first, a female puppy is infected in the womb or through her mother’s milk. Then, in the infected puppy, some worm larvae will migrate through the intestine wall, into the bloodstream and into muscles where they will form cysts which cannot be destroyed. In the event of pregnancy in later life, the larvae will be reactivated and will move through the blood to infect the puppies.

In young puppies, not all the worm larvae will form the cysts mentioned above. Rather, some will stay in the intestine and become adults. After feeding on the part-digested contents of the intestine and reaching maturity, the adult worm releases eggs which are passed with the dog’s faeces. In the open air, the eggs are infectious to other dogs and even people. Touching contaminated soil or sand rather than touching puppies is what poses the infection risk to people.

That is how the cycle works and to break it, owners must treat adult dogs for worms every three months. As they are so prone to worm infection, puppies should be treated every two weeks from the ages of two to twelve weeks and once a month thereafter until they reach six months. Worms in dogs do pose a danger to public health, so even though the risk is relatively small, picking up after dogs and promoting hand hygiene in the whole family is vital to break the cycle and reduce risk.

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