Worms are one of the more grotesque aspects of owning a dog. Canines can get worms in many ways. Some will accidentally ingest them as they explore the world with tongues and snouts. Others will get them from fleas and other pests they encounter.
For adult dogs, worms are pretty easy to avoid and prevent. But puppies are another story.
Puppies have less capable immune systems. As a result, they're more susceptible than their adult counterparts. Many puppies are born with worms or get them from their untreated mother through feedings. If a puppy is lucky enough not to have worms at birth, it's only a matter of time before they do!
Parasites love puppies due to their weakened immune systems. As a proud puppy owner, it's your job to deworm puppies. But when should you provide treatment?
Understanding Worm Infestations
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's talk about how worms affect puppies.
Many different types of worms can invade your puppy's system. The most common are:
- Roundworms - pests that live in the intestines and feed on partially digested foods
- Hookworms - invaders with hook-like mouths used to attach to the intestinal walls
- Whipworms - tiny worms that live in the cecum of the intestines
- Tapeworms - segmented worms that often come from ingesting infected fleas
- Heartworms - thread-like worms that live in the heart and come from mosquito bites
All of these worm infestations are dangerous. They feed off your puppy, putting them at risk for severe health complications in an already sensitive time of their lives. Heavy infections can be fatal. Typically, symptoms start small.
You may notice your otherwise rambunctious puppy acting lethargic and weak. Diarrhea and vomiting may occur, too. Depending on the type of worms infecting the puppy's body, you might notice small works wriggling around in their feces.
As the infestation worsens, your puppy may lose weight as the worms deprive them of the essential nutrients they need to stay healthy. The stomach may become swollen, indicating a serious infection.
Related: What Should Healthy Puppy Feces Look Like?
What is Deworming?
Deworming is precisely what it sounds like. It's a treatment that aims to rid your puppy's body of worms! The process sounds complex, but it's entirely medication based. Your vet will walk you through your options. This typically comes after a diagnosis.
If this is your first time dealing with worms, consider collecting a sample of your dog's feces to give your vet more information to work with when diagnosing.
Don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly! Worms can spread from canines to humans.
Generally, deworming medications come in the form of chewable tablets. Topical solutions and liquid medicine are available, too.
Over-the-counter deworming products are available at most pet stores. However, we always recommend working with a vet. These products are strong. While they work to kill the worms, they also have side effects. Some of the most common are:
- Upset stomach
If you provide too much medicine, there's a real risk of complications. A vet can give you the proper dosing information based on your puppy's age, size, and severity of the infection. There's a fine balance between providing too much medication and not enough to kill the worms.
Fortunately, many medications are universal. That means that they can kill multiple types of worms. Think of them as a catch-all solution when approaching the deworming process for young puppies.
When to Deworm Puppies
Because puppies can have worms from birth, you must start deworming relatively early.
The best practices are to start deworming at only two weeks old! If you're getting a puppy from a breeder, ask about their deworming procedures. Most reputable breeders will follow those best practices for you, ensuring that puppies are worm-free when you get them.
Of course, it doesn't stop with one treatment. Puppies can get worms from their surroundings. Thanks to the naturally curious nature of young pups, their chances of getting worms and experiencing multiple reinfestations are high.
As a result, you should continue to deworm your puppy every two weeks from birth up to 12 weeks of age. After that, you can slow down the frequency of deworming to once every three months.
What About Adulthood?
As your puppy ages, its immune system strengthens. Their bodies are more capable of fighting off possible infestations. But there's still a risk that they can get worms! It happens all the time.
The threat of worms never goes away. Fortunately, adults tend to be better at avoiding these issues. You can use training to prevent your dog from getting into situations where worms can take hold.
The biggest threat is heartworms. A heartworm infestation can be fatal, even for a healthy adult dog. Therefore, vets typically recommend monthly heartworm preventative treatments. They come as easy chews that your dog only has to take once a month. As for other worms, you can turn to deworming treatments as needed.
Some dog owners like to deworm adult dogs as a precaution. Consult with your vet if you're not sure. Typically, dogs that spend most of their time outside have a higher risk. But if you have an inside dog, you can often hold off on dewormers until you notice the symptoms of infestation.
Keeping Your Pup Worm-Free
Don't rely on the medications alone to prevent worm issues. There are several things you can do to avoid worms.
Pick up your puppy's poop immediately after they do their business. Not only will that prevent them from eating it, but it gives you a chance to observe the feces and spot issues early.
You can also take measures to avoid fleas and ticks.
Tapeworms are a big issue for puppies because they come from infected fleas. It's easy for puppies to get worms when chewing on a flea bite. Using flea and tick preventatives goes a long way in dramatically reducing your dog's chances of getting worms.
As always, clean your hands and do your best to keep your home tidy. Bathe your pup frequently, train them not to eat garbage, and keep a watchful eye.
Worms and puppies are an unfortunate match. Most people think of puppies as these cute and cuddly creatures. However, many are harboring worms inside!
Deworming will ensure your puppy can grow up without having worms deprive them of the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
If you want to know when to deworm puppies, the answer is to start two weeks after birth. Provide deworming treatments every two weeks until they reach 12 weeks old. After that, you can move to deworming every three months.
Don't be afraid to consult your vet for assistance.