Worm infections in dogs: What dog owners should pay attention to

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Bonn. Every dog ​​can become infected with different types of worms during its life. Most dogs are even infected with worms from birth. Special information for puppy protection is available here published.

There are also many sources of infection: the excrement of other dogs, small rodents that have been hunted or raw meat in the food ration. An infestation with worms can have no noticeable symptoms, but in other cases it can seriously affect the dog. Various organs can be affected. The immune system can also be impaired. Affected dogs may suffer from diarrhea and vomiting, dull fur or flaky skin. Nutritional deficiencies and, in young dogs, growth disorders can occur. Puppies can even die due to a severe worm infestation.

Depending on the type of worm, there is also a risk of transmission to humans (zoonosis), which can lead to serious health problems. For example, an infection with roundworms can cause damage to the nerves, eyes and/or brain. These are all good reasons to deworm dogs regularly.

The most important intestinal parasites (Worms) Overview of dogs
Roundworms (Toxocara, Toxascaris) of the genus Toxocara are the most common parasites in carnivores worldwide. Many puppies are infected with roundworms in the womb before birth; they can also become infected while nursing. Clinical signs of a serious infection in puppies are loss of appetite, vomiting, colic, a bloated stomach and diarrhea. Humans are also at risk. If roundworm larvae attack humans and damage organs and tissue, it is called toxocariasis. Depending on the location, this leads to a wide variety of symptoms. It is assumed that there are several hundred cases of toxocariasis in Germany every year. Children can become infected with roundworms when playing with contaminated soil/sand if they put their dirty fingers in their mouths. Roundworm larvae can hatch in the intestine after being ingested and damage internal organs and also the eyes as they travel through the human body. In severe cases, blindness can even occur. With monthly deworming, the excretion of roundworm stages can be largely excluded, because the time span from infection to the excretion of such stages is just over four weeks for these worms.

Tapeworms (Echinococcus, Taenia, Dipylidium) are parasites of the small intestine in dogs. The fox tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) Dogs become infected by eating wild rodents or other prey animals. Infection with Taenia, however, is a risk when dogs are fed infected raw meat or offal if these have not been heated sufficiently beforehand. (10 minutes, core temperature +65° C) or frozen (1 week, ‑17 to ‑20° C) This tapeworm is relatively rare in Germany. Greater attention should be paid to dogs that have been imported from areas where this tapeworm is common, or that have been/are traveling there. The fox tapeworm, on the other hand, plays an enormous role in our country, as it is found throughout Germany. Dogs with a high risk of infection with the fox tapeworm, i.e. those that have access to wild rodents, eat carrion, regularly run around freely unsupervised and/or are used for hunting, should be dewormed monthly with a preparation that is effective against fox tapeworms. Dogs that travel to endemic areas or holiday risk areas and are fed raw meat and slaughterhouse waste should also be dewormed regularly with preparations that are effective against tapeworms. Both the fox tapeworm and Taenia can be transmitted to humans if they ingest worm eggs that an animal excretes in its feces or carries in its fur. As a result, the development of tapeworms in humans can lead to dangerous blisters or cysts forming in the liver and/or other organs, which require extensive treatment. In the case of the fox tapeworm, the infection can even lead to death in humans if left untreated.

Another tapeworm in dogs is the Dipylidium tapeworm, which is transmitted by fleas. Dogs become infected by licking infected fleas from their fur and swallowing them. An additional flea treatment is therefore strongly recommended if this tapeworm is infested, or conversely, deworming against tapeworms if there is a flea infestation. The dog tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus is mainly found in southern and eastern Europe. Like the Taenia species, it is transmitted by ingesting infected slaughterhouse waste.

Hookworms (Uncinaria, Ancylostoma) are parasites that attach themselves to the mucous membrane of the small intestine and damage it to varying degrees. In cases of massive infestation, animals show weight loss and diarrhea. In the case of an infestation with the hookworm Ancylostoma, the diarrhea can even become bloody. An animal becomes infected by ingesting an infectious larval stage. This occurs either through contaminated soil, when the larvae migrate into the skin, through oral ingestion of the larvae, via infected rodents or via breast milk. Hookworm larvae can also penetrate the skin of humans and cause pathological changes there as larva migrans externa.

Whipworms (Trichuris) owe their name to their whip-shaped body with a thick rear end and a long, thin front end. They live in the large intestine. In heavily infected animals, whipworm infections lead to weight loss, fluid loss and anemia. The whipworm eggs can survive in the soil for years – even in colder regions. Very rarely, whipworm infections have also been observed in humans through the ingestion of infectious eggs. These manifest themselves with diarrhea, anemia and loss of appetite.

How can you protect yourself and your animals from worm infestation?

Worm infestations can be easily controlled by regular worming treatments. How often treatment is required depends on the animal's age and living conditions. There are special preparations for puppies, pregnant animals, young animals and adult animals, all of which are very well tolerated. Animals that are particularly at risk should be wormed monthly. These are animals that spend a lot of time outdoors, such as hunting dogs or animals that are in close contact with other dogs/cats. If the animal has close contact with small children, for example, a monthly worming treatment is also recommended.

More frequent deworming is also recommended for pregnant bitches or puppies. If the individual risk of an animal cannot be assessed, at least four treatments per year are recommended. Studies have shown that deworming is actually carried out much less frequently. In Germany, dogs are dewormed on average only twice a year. However, other studies clearly show that one or two treatments per year do not provide sufficient protection.

There are a whole range of anti-parasitic drugs available with different spectrums of action and dosage forms. The manufacturers state in their package inserts exactly which parasites the drug is approved for and at what intervals it must be administered. It is best to seek advice from a veterinarian here. This also applies to special advice with regard to planned vacation trips.

By the way, stool samples alone do not provide 100% information about worm infestation in dogs and cats. If no worm eggs are found, this may be a coincidence and may be because there were no eggs in that particular sample. Therefore, for a meaningful stool test, samples must be collected over three consecutive days. It is also important that stool tests are carried out regularly, i.e. just as often as recommended deworming, as these only represent a snapshot in time. Even if the dog has only recently been infected, the test will be negative despite the presence of an infestation.

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