Little girl and dog playing in field

Worms in dogs: why and how to protect your dog from worms

A good worming routine is all part of being a responsible dog owner – and it’s vital to protect your dog or puppy from the dangers of these pesky parasites.

We take a look at the types of worms your dog can catch, the symptoms of worms in dogs, and the best way to protect your pet from worms.

Does my dog have worms? Identifying worms in dogs

It’s not uncommon for dogs with worms to show no signs or symptoms, so it’s possible for even the most healthy-looking dog or puppy to have worms without you even knowing. By contrast, worms in dogs can cause a long list of symptoms. No wonder they can be hard to identify! 

The risk of complications from worms is high, which is why a regular worming routine is vital for your dog. As always, your vet should be the first port of call when it comes to diagnosis and treatment. 

 “Even the healthiest-looking dog or puppy can have worms without you even knowing.”

Common types of worms in dogs and puppies

Roundworms, tapeworms and lungworms are the most common varieties in dogs in the UK. Your dog may also be at risk of:

  • hookworms
  • heartworms 
  • whipworms

Roundworms (toxocara cati and toxascaris leonina) are the most common variety in the UK. They look like cooked spaghetti and can grow up to several inches long.  These can infect puppies in the womb and all dogs will encounter them in infected faeces.   Roundworms can cause serious illness, especially blindness, in humans.

Tapeworms are made up of small segments and look a lot like flat ribbons. Like roundworms, tapeworms are common in dogs in the UK.

Lungworms are becoming more common in the UK, and can cause your dog to cough, have difficulty breathing or show other signs of illness.  Lungworms can be fatal and are usually infected by eating slugs or snails.
Hookworms look a lot like roundworms with teeth that allow them to hook on to your dog’s intestines – hence the name. They survive by sucking your dog’s blood, and can put your dog at risk of anaemia.

Heartworms affect your dog’s heart, and are passed on by infected mosquitoes. While rare in the UK, your dog may be at risk if travelling overseas.

Whipworms, like hookworms, are parasites that survive by sucking your dog’s blood, and are particularly hard to identify as they can’t be seen by the naked eye. 

Signs and symptoms of worms in dogs may include:

●    weight loss
●    change of appetite
●    itchy bottom
●    weakness
●    dull, dry coat
●    vomiting
●    diarrhoea
●    enlarged abdomen
●    constipation
●    coughing
●    persistent bleeding from cuts


How often should I worm my dog?

Your dog or puppy needs regular worming – at least every few months – to keep them in tip-top health. Puppies are particularly at risk of contracting worms, due to their immature immune systems and possible infection in the womb. While dog worming treatments are very effective, the benefits are short-term, so it’s vital to get into a regular treatment routine. 

Most dog worming treatments kill worms your dog has already picked up, but will not prevent infection, so keep those regular treatments up!

Your local vet can advise you on dog worming treatment options and costs. 

Scoop the poop

It’s worth mentioning that dog worms can be dangerous to humans – illness and even blindness and can be caused by coming into contact with old dog faeces. As well as worming treatments, scooping your dog’s poop is a vital and effective way to reduce the risk of infection. 

Expert advice on worming your dog

For expert advice on dog worming, contact your local vet.