Roundworm: What’s in Your Dog’s Poop?

When we hear about intestinal parasites we often think of tapeworm, but there are other types of worms that are commonly found in our pet’s feces. One of these is Roundworm (or ascarids), they are intestinal parasites that live inside of and feed off of animal’s intestines. They look very similar to spaghetti or vermicelli, and can be a few inches long. Some of the symptoms to watch out for if you are concerned about roundworms are:

  • A potbelly – we often see this is puppies
  • Vomiting/diarrhea – sometimes you will see roundworms in the vomit or feces
  • Weight loss
  • Off behaviour or health; i.e. dull coat, belly pain, lethargy

If you notice these symptoms in your pets you should contact your vet to discuss your best options. They will often suggest an exam as it is important to ensure that we are not seeing these symptoms due to another illness.

So how did your dog contract roundworm? Puppies are often born with them. If the mother has roundworm she can pass that along to the puppy before birth, or even in the breast milk at the time of feeding. Your adult has recently contracted roundworm? That can commonly be from the environment. Your dog can contract it by eating the feces of other animals such as other dogs, small rodents, or outdoor cats that are infected with Roundworm.

Treatment for Roundworm is typically a de-wormer (tablet or liquid), and your vet can recommend your best option depending on your pet’s needs. There will often be follow up doses of the de-wormer chosen as we need to address multiple life stages of the parasite. If you have just adopted a puppy your vet most likely provided a de-wormer at each puppy visit due to the above mentioned ability to contract from their mothers.

How do we prevent this? Doing the initial de-worming when they are young is the first step. Clean up feces in your yard often, you never know what animals are tracking through your yard. Discuss a deworming cycle with your vet that matches your lifestyle, they may want to know if you hike or camp often, or have an outdoor cat who hunts etc.

What is the risk to humans? It is rare, but roundworms can cause problems in humans which can lead to different medical issues. Kids are at a higher risk for these issues when coming into contact with roundworm. Just remember to prevent with de-wormer, and clean your hands after playing with your pets, or playing in areas where animals defecate.

Written by Dartmouth Veterinary Hospital


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