How Often Should I Worm My Dog?

LAST UPDATED 6 JANUARY 2020

This article is written by our veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons)

Not only are intestinal worms pretty gross, they can also cause serious health problems for your pet and even human family members. The good news is that with the right preventative strategy, you can be confident in the knowledge your number one canine companion is covered!

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What worms are we talking about?

Broadly speaking, there are four kinds of worms that dogs commonly carry. Some of these worms can be transmitted to puppies from their mother's milk, so it is important to get started with your worming regime early.

Hookworm

Hookworm is a very common and nasty parasite of dogs in Australia. These small worms live in the intestine and use their hook-like mouthparts to feed from intestinal blood vessels. Especially in young puppies, hookworm infestations can result in a life threatening anaemia which may require hospitalisation and blood transfusion for treatment of severe cases. When the hookworms lay their eggs, they are passed into the faeces into the environment. The eggs then hatch into larvae which can penetrate human skin (for example people walking barefoot in the backyard) causing itching and a rash.

Roundworm

Another common intestinal worm of dogs is Roundworm. Roundworms are long spaghetti-like worms that also live in the intestine. They differ to hookworms in that they feed off partially digested food rather than blood. Roundworms mainly pose a threat to puppies as high worm burdens may result in reduced growth rates. If a person accidentally ingests soil contaminated with roundworm eggs they may also become infected. When the eggs hatch, the larvae can migrate through the organs in the body, including the eye which can cause blindness.

Whipworm

Whipworms are small worms that live in the large intestine of dogs, like hookworms they attach to the intestinal wall and feed from the blood vessels. In large numbers that can cause inflammation resulting in bloody diarrhoea for your dog.

Tapeworm

Top Tapeworm Treatments

Tapeworm are long flat worms that live in the intestines. The two major species of tapeworms to worry about in pet dogs are the flea tapeworm (Diplylidium caninum) and hydatid tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus).

The flea tapeworm is contracted by dogs who ingest infected fleas while grooming. Once infected with the tapeworm, the dog will pass tapeworm segments in his faeces. Sometimes these segments may stick to the hair around his rear end causing him to bite and lick or scoot his bottom along the ground.

Dogs become infected by hydatid tapeworm by consuming cysts present in uncooked offal or meat. Once the tapeworm reaches maturity in the intestines, it lays eggs that are passed with the dog's faeces. This tapeworm is of particular significance because if a human ingests one of these eggs, they can go on to develop potentially life-threatening hydatid cysts in their brain and other vital organs.

Dogs vary in their worming needs

Adult Dogs

As a minimum adult dogs should be treated every three months for intestinal worms. Many monthly heartworm and flea treatment products also treat for worms, but be sure to check that the product that you are using covers for tapeworms. If your monthly product doesn't contain a tapeworm treatment, you should give a worming chew or tablet containing praziquantel like Drontal or Cazitel. Alternatively, most vets stock tapeworm only tablets which also contain praziquantel.

Puppies

As puppies are particularly vulnerable to worms, they need to be treated much more frequently. As a rule, they should be wormed every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks old, then once monthly until they are 6 months old and then at least every three months for life after that.

Dogs in Rural Areas

While treating for tapeworms at least every 3 months is recommended for all dogs, those in rural areas who are more likely to be exposed to hydatid tapeworm in animal carcasses should be treated for tapeworms every 6 to 8 weeks. It's also important to take other steps to reduce the risk of transmission by:

  • Avoid feeding raw offal to dogs
  • Take steps to limit dog access to animal carcasses
  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching dogs

While it can be a little confusing at first, it's important for both your pet's and your family's health that your dog is on a regular worming. If you're still not sure which product to give or how often, ask your vet or Check with a Pet Circle Vet.

Further Reading

Your Complete Guide to Fleas, Ticks and Worms

Which Flea and Worming Product Do I Need For My Dog?

New Puppy Guide

Guide to Fleas, Ticks and Worming for Cats

Tick Paralysis in Dogs and Cats

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