There are many illusions about
worms. Some dog owners believe that
worming a dog consists merely of giving the dog a worm tablet or
capsule. Others are under the impression that dogs always have
worms—that worms are somehow natural to the dog and that all dogs
should be wormed periodically. Others have the idea that the feeding
of sugar and candy will cause worms in dogs, that garlic will eliminate
worms, that there is a worm under a dog's tongue, and that humans never
catch worms from dogs. It is sufficient to state that all these ideas
Worming dogs is a dangerous procedure and should be performed only with
expert guidance. In order to undergo the strain of worming, the animal
should be in apparent good health, for if some disease process already
exists worming might aggravate the condition.
The normally healthy animal should never be wormed unless the
parasites are positively identified. Veterinarians do this by
microscopic examination of the animal's stool. Indiscriminate worming
will almost invariably affect the dog's health adversely and should
therefore definitely be avoided. The parasite must be positively
identified to determine the specific species of worm, since there are
many different species and each of these must be treated in a
different manner. It is therefore not good sense simply to buy a "worm
capsule" and expect it to do its job, since the capsule might
incorporate the medication effective against one type of worm while
the animal is affected with another.
Animals with worms have a tendency to bloat easily. There may be
occasional nausea with some vomiting and diarrhea. The eyes may tear
and the animal may rub on its bottom or bite its tail. The animal may
appear unhealthy, have a ruffled hair coat and have either a very poor
or a ravenous appetite. If there is a mild infestation, many dogs will
seem apparently normal in every respect.
Worms may occur at any time
during the animal's life, though they seem to be most prevalent in the
puppy. This is due to the fact that puppies often have an excellent
opportunity to catch worms either from the mother dog or in the kennels
where they are raised. The worms are usually found in the stool or they
may be vomited.
The types of worms most commonly encountered are tapeworms,
roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms. Tapeworms are flat and segmented
in structure and their segments are commonly seen with the naked eye,
in the stool, in the form of cream-colored, rice-shaped rods; in fact,
they look just like slightly enlarged beads of rice. Roundworms may be
up to several inches in length, are the easiest to identify, and
usually have the appearance of curled-up spaghetti. Whipworms are very
thin, are about an inch long, and taper off in a whiplike mechanism at
one end. Hookworms are about a quarter of an inch long and are usually
identified by noting their eggs on microscopic examination of the stool.
Worms are commonly transmitted from animal to animal by means of the
worm egg. Fleas, too, often help to transmit worm larvae. Animals
ordinarily become infected by sniffing or licking other animals'
droppings. Thus they pick up worm eggs from the affected stool and,
after these eggs mature and reproduce, worms make their appearance in
the new host. The common idea that sweets will cause worms is an old
fallacy. Worms can come only from other worms. They can come about in
no other way. Because the dog licks up worm eggs from affected stool,
it is dangerous to permit it to kiss you because tapeworm eggs may be
transmitted in this way, and this worm can develop in the human being
as well as in the dog.
There are a great many medicines used in the treatment of worms. There
is no point in mentioning them here because the most effective ones
can be purchased only on a veterinarian's prescription. Since most worm
medicines in effective doses are poisons, they must be administered
with caution and the animal should be under professional supervision
during the worming so that proper measures can be taken should any
toxic reactions arise from the medication. This note should dispel once
and for all the illusion that worming is a simple process that demands
no special knowledge or that it might not be dangerous to the animal.
A highly recommended hygienic measure is to have the animal's stool
checked twice a year. If the examination shows that the stool is
negative, the owner is assured that the animal is clean. If worms are
demonstrated, then the prompt elimination of the infestation is
advisable to avoid the possibility of any serious complications.
Since the heartworm is rather different
from the other types of worms,
it is well to discuss it separately. This parasite is seen quite often,
enjoys a world-wide distribution, but is
found most frequently in warmer climates. The adult worms are slender,
whitish in color, and vary in size from five to seven inches in length
in the male worm to twice that size in the female. They lodge mainly in
the right ventricle of the heart and in the pulmonary artery, though
they may be seen, in rare instances, in other parts of the body.
Neglected cases of heartworm infestation will invariably result in
death. Therefore, in obscure conditions that do not react favorably to
routine treatment, the possibility of the existence of heart-worm
should be given due consideration.
The symptoms of heartworm infestation are indefinite. Sometimes the
animal may appear healthy in every respect and the diagnosis may come
as a complete surprise to the owner. In the ordinary case, the animal
does not appear in good health, and coughing is a very common symptom.
After vigorous exercise the animal may tire easily, lie down, gasp for
breath, and sometimes collapse.
Long-standing cases may show a marked
abdominal enlargement, due to improper circulation resulting in the
accumulation of liquid in the abdominal cavity. This condition is
called dropsy. Further, swellings may appear on the legs and on other
parts of the body. In infected animals, certain nervous symptoms such
as a peculiarly fixed stare, fear of light, and convulsions have been
Diagnosis is established by the identification of the heart-worm larvae
on microscopic examination of the blood. The blood examination is
usually performed after ordinary methods of examination yield
inconclusive results. In warmer climates, where the incidence of these
worms is often very high, it is advisable to have the blood checked
periodically for this parasite.
Heartworm larvae may be transmitted from animal to animal through the
bite of certain species of mosquitoes, which act as intermediate hosts.
It is believed that dog fleas may also act as intermediate hosts in
The treatment of heartworms is specific and has been performed
routinely with considerable success in moderate infestations. It
consists of a series of injections which are administered periodically
until there is no further evidence of heartworm larvae in the blood.
The heavier the infestation, the less favorable will be the outcome.
There is also a fairly effective tablet medication.