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Most dogs probably have a few parasites floating around in their digestive tracts, but the immune systems of mature dogs are typically able to keep the invaders in check.
Puppies, on the other hand, can quickly become overwhelmed and develop a belly full of wriggling worms.
Puppy worms can actually cause quite a few health problems.
They are, quite literally, stealing some of the calories, vitamins and minerals your young pup consumes. They can also cause terrible intestinal issues, lead to secondary infections and generally make your puppy feel horrible.
Worms in puppies (and other parasites) are also quite contagious, and puppies can pass them between each other several different times. Fortunately, most common puppy worms are easy to eradicate, and they rarely cause serious problems if treated in a timely fashion.
But the puppy deworming process, as it is often called, can present a few surprises for first-time dog owners.
We’ll explain some of the side effects of deworming puppies below along with a recommended quality dewormer for your puppy.
But let’s first review the basics of deworming a puppy.
First of all, it is important to understand that parasites are a natural occurrence, and although you’ll want to eliminate the problem as quickly as possible, they shouldn’t cause you to feel ashamed or as though you’ve neglected your puppy.
Even puppies raised in the best possible conditions will typically develop worm infestations at one point or another.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to eliminate worms from your puppy. But you need to understand how puppies get worms in the first place to have a good chance of success.
Typically, the process works as such:
It also bears mentioning that puppies often contract worms while still in their mother’s uterus or via their mother’s breast milk. Because of these two routes, it is safe to say that nearly 100% of young puppies are infected with worms and require treatment.
So, you’ll want to use a quality dewormer for puppies to eliminate the parasites and help keep your pet healthy.
A puppy dewormer usually works by killing the adult parasites living in your pet’s intestines. This prevents them from reproducing and allows the dead parasites to be eliminated from your pet’s body.
Sometimes it is necessary to administer a puppy dewormer several times before you’ll completely fix the problem, and you’ll have to practice good hygiene to prevent your puppy from becoming re-infected.
But fortunately, there are a number of very effective puppy dewormers on the market, which will make the process pretty easy.
But before we discuss the best dewormers for puppies, you need to understand the symptoms that can indicate your puppy is parasitized and learn about the different types of parasites that commonly cause problems.
It’s important to learn to recognize the signs that may indicate your puppy is suffering from worms or other parasites. This way, you can treat the problem proactively and help avoid serious complications.
Some worm infestations fail to generate any obvious symptoms, but the following are some of the most common symptoms of worms in puppies:
But perhaps the most obvious sign of a worm infestation occurs when a puppy passes adult worms when he poops.
This can be quite upsetting for some owners, but it is quite common and no cause for serious concern. You simply need to administer a good puppy dewormer, so you can eliminate the problem.
However, it is important to use a dewormer that will kill the parasites that are infesting your dog, as there are a number of different types that commonly afflict puppies. We’ll discuss some of the most common types of parasites that infect puppies below.
Although owners and vets often refer to parasitized puppies as having “worms,” there are several different types of parasites that can afflict dogs. Coccidia, for example, are single-celled protozoans that are not worms at all.
There are also several different types of parasitic worm. Tapeworms belong to a group of organisms called flatworms, while roundworms, hookworms and whipworms are all members of the same group.
Some of the most common types of parasites that afflict puppies include:
Collectively, these parasites exhibit different life histories and harm dogs in different ways.
Fortunately, there are several broad-spectrum dewormers available, which will eliminate several different types of worms, protozoans and other parasites. These types of medications will make it easier to treat your dog and help him feel better as quickly as possible.
Check out our review of the Best Puppy Dewormers for Big Dogs to find some of the best options on the market.
However, if you’d like a quick recommendation, it is hard to go wrong with Excel 8 in 1 Safe Guard Canine Dewormer.
Designed to be sprinkled on top of your pet’s food three times a day for a period of three days, this is one of the easiest puppy dewormers to administer.
It is also quite affordable, as it costs less than most other over-the-counter dewormers for puppies.
Do note that this product is only appropriate for puppies who are at least 6 weeks old.
Just be sure to keep your vet in the loop when deworming your puppy, and always follow the directions on the package explicitly.
Photo from the CDC.
As mentioned earlier, different worms have different lifecycles, but most of those who target dogs have what is known as a direct life cycle.
This means that they do not require an intermediate host to infect a dog (although a few canine worms, such as tapeworms, do have indirect lifecycles and must pass through another species before causing problems for your dog).
Parasites with direct lifecycles can exhibit explosive population growth in a very short period of time. Most organisms with direct lifecycles live as adults in a puppy’s digestive tract. While inside your puppy, they absorb nutrients from your pup’s intestines and shed eggs (or spores) that exit the dog’s body during elimination.
Any dog that comes into contact with these microscopic eggs may inadvertently swallow a few, which will ultimately hatch and mature inside your dog’s digestive system.
Because almost all puppies likely have worms when they are young, most vets recommend a pretty standard puppy worming schedule.
Typically, they recommend worming puppies at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age. Then, they are given a while to rest and grow before getting two more worming treatments at 12 and 16 weeks of age.
It may also be wise to deworm puppies whenever they exhibit the signs or symptoms of a parasite infestation. Just be sure to work with your vet to ensure that you give your puppy the best possible care and that you eliminate the parasites quickly and completely.
If you aren’t sure whether your puppy has worms of not, you can do one of two things:
If you want to try the second option, you may want to consider Perfect Pet Product’s Fecal Worm Test.
Within 24 hours of delivery, the lab will contact you and let you know which worms (if any) are infecting your puppy.
This test is quite affordable and will allow you to avoid the fees associated with a visit to the vet. Additionally, Perfect Pet Products also provides discounts on their worming products for customers who use their test kit.
Normally, there are not many visible signs that directly indicate the presence of worms or other parasites. Your dog may vomit, suffer from diarrhea, drag his rear end on the carpet or show disinterest in his food, but you won’t see anything unusual, as parasite eggs are not often visible to the naked eye.
However, when you give your dog a deworming medication, the adult worms and protozoans living in your dog’s intestines are killed. This causes them to release their grip on your puppy’s intestinal tract, and they’re ultimately expelled via the anus.
This side effects of deworming a puppy can be a bit startling. Adult protozoans are not visible to the naked eye, but most adult worms are visible – many look like long strands of very thin pasta.
Sometimes these dead parasites are expelled during defecation, but they can also be seen emerging from a puppy’s anus when he is not defecating. Sometimes, the worms will still be in the process of dying, which means they’ll be crawling around when you see them.
This can obviously be quite unsettling for owners who aren’t expecting such a ghastly sight, but it is completely normal and of no cause for concern.
There are a few other common deworming side effects that often occur when you deworm a puppy. For example, your pup may also suffer from minor intestinal issues, including diarrhea, but this should pass within a few days.
Some puppies may also act a little different for a few days while their body eliminates the worms, but as long as they return to normal and resume typical elimination habits within about three days, there’s no reason to worry about these types of deworming side effects.
If you’d like to see a puppy eliminating a rather significant quantity of large worms, watch this video.
Caution: While extremely educational, this video may be very disturbing to some viewers.
Because some dog parasites can be transmitted to people, and eggs in the environment can lead to re-infestation problems, it is always important to employ sound hygiene measures when caring for a puppy with worms.
Bathing your dog regularly and washing your hands with soap and warm water after touching him will help reduce the chances that you or your dog will inadvertently ingest additional eggs. However, you can provide an even cleaner environment by using a pet-safe disinfectant.
One of the best pet-safe disinfectants available is Top Performance 256.
It not only kills viruses, bacteria and fungi, but it’ll kill things like giardia and coccidia (both of which are important parasites of puppies) too.
It’s also quite easy to use (it requires no rinsing) and comes in five different scents, including lavender, cherry, lemon, wintergreen and fresh scent.
If you’ve selected an appropriate deworming medication for your puppy and administered it in accordance with the product’s instructions, you shouldn’t have to worry about many problems.
However, although rare, there are a few serious side effects of deworming a puppy that can occur in a small number of dogs. If your dog exhibits blood in his stool, ongoing diarrhea (that lasts longer than three days), vomits more than once or appears disinterested in food for more than a day or two, contact your vet.
Of course, serious symptoms – trembling, uncoordinated behaviors, extreme lethargy, breathing difficulties and similar signs – should always trigger an immediate trip to the vet, but such symptoms are extremely rare.
Your puppy will begin passing worms approximately 12 hours following the administration of the dewormer, and he’ll continue to do so for several days. In some cases, it may take up to 2 weeks to completely expel them from his body.
You should worm your puppy anytime your vet recommends it, and anytime he produces a fecal sample that tests positive for worms. Additionally, puppies should be put through routine worming at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 12 weeks of age. You’ll want to continue to deworm him every three months or so for the rest of his life.
Puppies can experience a variety of mild side effects after being given a dewormer. Some of the most common include mild nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, intestinal disturbances, and a general sense of feeling unwell. These are all normal side effects, which should pass with time.
However, signs of an allergic reaction, including hives, swelling of the mouth, throat or face, or breathing difficulties, necessitate immediate veterinary assistance. Fortunately, allergic reactions to worming medications are quite rare.
Most side effects of worming medications should disappear within 24 to 48 hours. If your dog continues to exhibit troubling symptoms for longer than this, contact your veterinarian.
As mentioned above, the default worming schedule for puppies requires them to be wormed at weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12.
Worms rarely cause serious health problems when their populations are kept in check, but the immune systems of young puppies are unable to cope with high numbers of worms. This can lead to a number of serious health problems, including anemia, malnourishment, intestinal irritation and, if any of the worms migrate outside of the intestinal tract, organ damage. Many puppies eventually die from excessive worm infestations.
Because some worming medications may kill off some of the good bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract, it may be helpful to provide your dog with a probiotic supplement while going through the worming process. Probiotic supplements can help replenish the beneficial bacteria living in your dog’s intestines and help ensure that he digests his food appropriately.
Check out our comprehensive review of probiotic supplements to compare the best options of the market.
Deworming puppies is a pretty simple task, and it will greatly improve your puppy’s chances of thriving. But you’ll want to select a good puppy dewormer for your pet and make sure that you follow the administration instructions to the letter.
With a little luck, your puppy will remain worm-free and you can stop looking at worms crawling around in his poop.
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