5 Surprising Ways Your Dog Can Get Intestinal Worms

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Intestinal parasites often hide in plain sight.

 A sad dog with his head on his paws.

Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms — your dog may come in contact with one or more of these intestinal worms at some point in their life. In fact, intestinal worms are quite common. If you’ve ever seen your dog eat grass, dirt or feces, or if your pet goes to the dog park regularly, these factors and behaviors can put your dog at risk for intestinal parasites.

Here are the five most common ways dogs pick up worms.

Close-up of multiple intestinal worms on a table.

1. Eating Worm Eggs or Worm Larvae

Risk of: Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms

Roundworm and whipworm eggs are deposited in the soil from the droppings of infected animals. These eggs can survive in the soil for long periods of time and even in harsh environmental conditions. If dogs accidentally eat these eggs — by sniffing or licking the ground, or by eating dirt or grass — they can become infected.

Your dog can contract hookworms by accidentally ingesting hookworm larvae found in the soil. They can also get hookworms through close skin contact with larvae left in soil or sand. The larvae, which are tiny living worms, can burrow into the skin on their feet.

People can inadvertently bring worm eggs into their home on their shoes, too. If you have stepped on soil or vegetation that’s harboring roundworm eggs, whipworm eggs or hookworm larvae, these can be tracked into your home, putting your dog at risk for accidentally ingesting them.

2. Hunting Behavior

Risk of: Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms

Dogs aren’t the only ones eating parasite eggs. If your dog likes to hunt or scavenge, they could catch worms from other infected animals like rodents, rabbits, birds and even insects like roaches and earthworms that have eaten worm eggs. Unlike in dogs, the eggs ingested by these animals stay in a hibernating state instead of developing into adult worms. Once the eggs are eaten by a dog, however, they “wake up” and develop into adult worms. Keep an eye on where your dog roams to help keep them from scavenging these potentially dangerous animals.

3. Grooming

Risk of: Tapeworms, roundworms

Your dog could also get worms just from trying to keep clean. Roundworm eggs can attach themselves to your dog’s coat, and if your dog swallows any while grooming, a new roundworm infection may develop. To limit this risk, it’s never a bad idea to give your dog a bath after they have been rolling around in the dirt or roughhousing in the yard or garden.

4. Fleas

Risk of: Tapeworms

If your dog is suffering from a flea infestation, they are also at risk of picking up an intestinal worm. Fleas are common transmitters of tapeworms, and if your dog swallows infected fleas when grooming, they could develop tapeworms. Regularly groom your dog, check for fleas with a flea comb and keep up with your routine flea prevention program to reduce the likelihood of a flea infestation in your dog and home.

5. From Mother to Pup

Risk of: Roundworms, hookworms

Roundworm, one of the most common worms affecting dogs, can be transmitted from an infected mother to the unborn puppies in her womb via the placenta before they’re even born.

An infected dog could also pass roundworms and hookworms to her puppies during nursing. This means nursing puppies are at risk of continual exposure to these parasites as well.

Roundworm and hookworm can be extremely dangerous in young puppies and can even be fatal in severe cases. If you have recently adopted a young dog, check with your vet to see when you can begin worming treatments for your puppy.

Red golden retriever mom nursing her puppies.

When Is Worm Season?

As you can see, worms can be found in your dog’s environment every day, and your dog can be at risk for infection any time of the year. Most worm eggs are hardy and can survive environmental extremes (including harsh winters) for up to several years. It’s important to always be aware and on guard against worms all year long, though warmer weather can especially increase the risk of worms to your dog.

How to Treat Intestinal Worms in Your Dog

If your dog has worms, don’t panic — it’s common for many dogs to be infected with some type of worm in their lifetime. Effective dewormers are readily available to get rid of any intestinal worms your dog has contracted.

Implementing a broad-spectrum deworming product into your routine according to label instructions and testing your dog for parasites yearly can help your pup stay healthy and protect them from a range of intestinal worms, including roundworms, hookworms, whipworm and tapeworm.

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