Virtually every dog will be infected with worms or other parasites at some point in his or her life. Almost all puppies battle worms and many adult dogs can also develop a belly full of wigglers from time to time.
Minor parasite infestations rarely cause serious problems for mature dogs, but you’ll want to treat them as soon as possible, to prevent their population from growing. Left unchecked, parasites can rob a dog of the nutrients he needs to live a long, healthy life.
Your vet can certainly help you eliminate the bugs in your pet’s stomach, and you should be sure to work closely with him or her while trying to clean out your dog’s digestive tract (this is especially important when treating puppies, as their fledgling immune systems can quickly become overwhelmed by parasites).
However, there are a number of home remedies you can implement, which may also help your adult dog get rid of the invaders. Deworming a dog naturally may allow you to avoid expensive veterinary visits and medications. We’ll talk about some of the best home remedies for worms in dogs below, but first, we’ll talk about the parasites that often afflict dogs and the symptoms that may indicate that your dog is infected.
Dogs are susceptible to a number of different worms and parasites, but the following are among the most common to afflict dogs:
Unlike many other worms, which are difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye, tapeworms occasionally reach several feet in length. Several different species of tapeworm can afflict dogs, and they’re transmitted in several different ways.
Some dogs contract tapeworms by scavenging animal carcasses or eating rodents but most canines probably become infected while biting and eating fleas – important intermediate hosts for some tapeworm species.
Adult tapeworms have long, flat, segmented bodies. The worm periodically jettisons some of these segments, causing them to be expelled with the feces – this is how the worms complete their life cycle. These segments are often visible on your dog’s feces. They are typically white to yellow-white in color, and they vary in size. Some are too small to be seen without magnification, but others are about the size of a grain of rice.
Some tapeworm species can be transmitted to humans, and they can damage your dog’s internal organs and compromise his health, so it is important to eradicate them quickly and completely.
Whipworms are particularly nasty critters and they are some of the most damaging worms that dogs get. The adults are only about ¼-inch long, but they can wreak havoc on your dog’s intestines and cause long-term diarrhea.
Left untreated, this diarrhea can also cause severe dehydration and damage the lower intestines.
Whipworms also very hard to positively diagnose, as the adults don’t produce eggs on a consistent basis like many other worms do. Instead, they release very small numbers of very small eggs sporadically. Once these eggs are released into the environments, they are remarkably resilient and can remain viable for a very long time. This makes whipworms difficult to treat, as most dogs will tend to become reinfected as they encounter previously shed eggs. Multiple rounds of treatment are usually necessary to completely eradicate whipworms.
Fortunately, whipworms aren’t contagious to people, so you don’t have to worry about them infecting your family.
Roundworms are some of the most common parasites that afflict dogs. They most commonly infect puppies, but they can cause problems for adult dogs too. They’re often transmitted from mother to puppy during the final weeks of pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Most roundworm infestations are caused by one of two different species: Toxocara canis or Toxascaris leonina. Both species have relatively similar lifestyles, and they are usually treated in the same way. However, T. canis is typically the more troubling of the two. It is also the one that is more likely to be spread to humans.
Roundworms nourish themselves by feeding on the food in your dog’s intestines, so they can cause malnourishment and digestive upset. Adult worms (which may be several inches long) are occasionally expelled with a dog’s feces, and they may even appear in a dog’s vomit. Left untreated, roundworms can grow and multiply, eventually causing dogs or puppies to develop a “pot-bellied” appearance.
Despite their ubiquity, roundworms can cause serious illness, so they demand rapid, effective treatment.
Hookworms are particularly troubling parasites, who are named for their hook-like mouthparts, which the worms use to attach themselves to the lining of the digestive tract.
They then puncture local blood vessels and feast on the blood inside – they do not consume intestinal contents like roundworms and some other parasites do. Animals with severe infestations may become anemic and require blood transfusions and other aggressive treatments.
Like many other worms, hookworms are most problematic for puppies and immunocompromised adults. They can even cause death if not treated promptly. Humans can contract hookworms and occasionally suffer from a condition called cutaneous larva migrans. This occurs when a hookworm larva penetrates and travels underneath the skin.
Hookworms pass eggs that are expelled with a dog’s feces, and like those of many other intestinal worms, the eggs can survive for a long time in the environment. Accordingly, prompt treatment and strict hygiene are imperative.
Protozoans are single-celled organisms that can live in your dog’s digestive tract. Giardia and coccidia are two of the most common examples.
Neither giardia or coccidia usually causes serious symptoms, and they often go completely unnoticed. However, some species can be contagious to humans, including at least one (Cryptosporidium) which is potentially dangerous. So, you’ll definitely want to treat your dog anytime an infection is suspected.
Coccidia isn’t very common and rarely causes serious symptoms in healthy adults. But, puppies and dogs battling other illnesses may experience severe, watery diarrhea if they contract the parasite. Giardia is much more common than coccidia -- entire kennel populations often contract the parasite. The primary symptom associated with giardia infections is greasy, foul-smelling diarrhea.
Coccidia is usually acquired through contact with contaminated soil, but giardia is more commonly spread via the water or through direct bodily contact.
Not all parasite infestations cause visible symptoms – this is part of the reason regular veterinary care is important. Your vet can analyze a fecal sample to identify any worms or protozoans in your dog’s gastrointestinal system and then recommend an appropriate treatment.
However, many dogs exhibit one or more of the following symptoms when they’ve got worms wiggling around in their bellies:
The following eight ingredients may help your dog expel the worms or other parasites in his digestive tract and begin feeling better. Just be sure to follow the directions provided and contact your vet at once if your dog exhibits any troubling symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea or trouble breathing.
Note that while many owners have experimented with these treatments, dogs are individuals who react differently to various substances and there is very little empirical data available about the safety of each. Just because a substance is available over-the-counter or from your grocery store doesn’t mean it can’t cause your dog to fall ill.
Accordingly, you’ll want to use caution whenever treating your dog with any of the items listed below and consult your vet before offering them to your pet.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the first home remedies you should use when trying to alleviate worms in a dog, as they’re completely edible and included in many commercial dog foods. Typically, pumpkin seeds are crushed into a fine powder, and then administered at a rate of a ¼ teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight. You can just mix the powder in with your dog’s food.
Garlic appears on just about every home remedy list, as its efficacy is relatively well established for a home remedy. However, many authorities (including the ASPCA and AKC) include garlic on their toxic food lists. Nevertheless, small amounts of garlic are included in many commercial foods. Garlic is typically minced and mixed in with a dog’s food to treat parasites, at a rate of one clove for every 10 pounds of body weight.
Wormwood has been used for centuries to treat parasites in people and other animals. But despite being considered one of the more effective worm remedies you can use at home, it can be a bit hard on your dog’s body.
Accordingly, it is rarely the first option used to eradicate parasites. Wormwood is usually administered in dried form, at a rate of ½ teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight. It is usually offered at mealtimes.
Cloves have antiparasitic and antibacterial properties, and they are frequently used to eliminate tapeworms. Cloves are generally crushed over a dog’s food and offered once per day. Typical dosing regimens call for ¼ clove for small dogs, ½ a clove for medium-sized dogs, and a full clove for large dogs. Caution: Cloves can cause uterine contractions, so they should never be offered to pregnant dogs.
Plain old shredded carrot flakes are sometimes helpful in expelling parasites, as they are thought to help strip the mucous from the lining of the digestive tract. This makes it hard for the parasites to maintain their grip, and it allows them to be flushed out with your dog’s feces. Carrot is an excellent food for dogs anyway, and most love the taste. Give your dog about 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of his body weight; you can just sprinkle it over your dog’s food at dinnertime.
Black walnut is a bit of a controversial natural remedy. It is very effective for treating worms in humans and a variety of other animals, but walnut is also toxic to dogs. Accordingly, walnut is usually one of the last remedies owners should try, and it should probably only be used when all other treatments fail. Dosing your dog with black walnut requires very precise measurements, so consult with your vet before offering any to your dog.
Pomegranate is widely recognized as a “superfood,” and it provides a wealth of health benefits. Additionally, it may be helpful in eliminating your pet’s worms. People prepare pomegranate in many different ways with hopes of treating worms, but it is probably best to simply mix some pomegranate seeds in with your dog’s food.
Parsley water is usually prepared by adding an entire clump of parsley to 1 quart of boiling water. Allow the mixture to steep for about 10 minutes and strain the water into a glass jar (remove the parsley). Allow the solution to cool before administering it to your dog. Owners typically provide 1 tablespoon of the water for every 10 pounds of body weight to their dog every day until the worms are gone.
It is always a good idea to employ sound hygiene practices with any pet, but it is even more important to do so when treating your dog for worms – especially if you are trying to use natural home remedies, which often take more time to work than conventional medications do.
A few parasites that afflict dogs can also live in humans, so you’ll want to take the steps necessary to keep yourself healthy and worm-free. This essentially involves implementing the following measures:
It’s always wise to wash your hands after touching your dog. Even though you probably treat him like a member of the family, he’ll spend his days rolling around on the ground, licking disgusting things on the ground and occasionally coming into contact with feces. Any of these activities can coat his fur in parasite eggs – including those that may infect humans.
Regular baths will help dislodge any parasite eggs clinging to your pet’s fur, so consider increasing the frequency of your dog’s baths while putting him through the deworming process. Be careful to avoid bathing him too frequently (once or twice a week should be sufficient), as this can strip his skin and coat of their natural oils.
Be sure to clean up any accidents immediately to prevent your kids or other pets from being exposed to worms, worm eggs or other parasites. Remove and discard any solid material and then wipe up any remaining residues with paper towels. Then, spray the entire area with a floor- and pet-safe disinfectant. Be sure to throw away all of the waste and paper towels inside a sealed plastic bag.
Don’t wash your pet’s dishes together with the plates and utensils your family uses. Make sure that you don’t prepare or handle your dog or your dog’s food while preparing dinner for the family. It’s also a good idea to prevent your kids from laying on the dog’s bed or sharing blankets and other materials with your pet.
Just like you’ll want to bathe your dog more frequently while treating his worms at home, you’ll want to wash his bedding (actually, the bed cover) more frequently too. Make sure that you use hot water (if permitted by the care instructions) and that you allow it to dry completely before putting it back into use.
Your dog’s toys – especially any with fabric exteriors – may also become contaminated with worm eggs. Replace any that can’t be washed in hot water, and opt for smooth, non-porous toys whenever possible.
Natural worming remedies for dogs aren’t always effective, but many owners prefer to treat their dog with all-natural substances, rather than harsh medications, so they’re frequently worth trying. Just be sure to work in conjunction with your veterinarian and employ good hygiene measures while dealing with the problem.
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Parasite photos courtesy of Wikipedia.