Critter Culture
How Do Dogs Get Worms?

How Do Dogs Get Worms?

Critter Culture Staff



Several types of parasitic worms use dogs as their host. A parasite uses a host body for shelter, food, and reproduction. Dog owners often feel shocked when healthy pets in clean homes develop worms. Dogs and puppies get worms in several ways, even when their owners keep spotless homes.

Dogs frequently pick up or ingest parasitic worms and their owners do not notice until much later when symptoms of infection appear. Puppies can even get worms before birth.


Dog Feces

Dogs and puppies frequently get worms by sniffing another dog's feces. Many species of worms use feces as part of their life cycle. The adult worms lay eggs in the intestines. Those eggs are evacuated from the infected dog's body along with feces. The eggs hatch in feces and larvae are very small. Other dogs inhale or swallow the larvae when they sniff at piles of feces.

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sniffing, feces, inhale, larvae, Marion Kuban / Getty Images


Other Animals

Roundworms and other types of parasites that infect dogs also infect other animals. A dog can be infected with worms from eating small animals or even sniffing at another animal's remains. Many dogs enjoy hunting mice and other rodents. Infection through this route is possible even if the dog does not actually eat the other animal because worm eggs and larvae are so small.

Safeguard your dog from tapeworms they may contract from other animals with Natural Broad Spectrum Treatment for Tapeworm.

small animals, remains, hunting, mice JMichl / Getty Images



Mosquitoes carry heartworms, which are a very dangerous parasite. Heartworm infestations are fatal without treatment, and they may be fatal if treatment does not begin until the worms have spread throughout the dog's body. Heartworms infect the heart and lungs, so even the worm's bodies left behind after treatment pose a threat. Controlling the mosquito population can be difficult, but veterinarians can provide medications that prevent heartworm infection even if a dog is bitten by a carrier mosquito.

heartworm, threat, mosquito, heart, lungs arlindo71 / Getty Images



Roundworms and several other types of parasites can infect puppies before birth if their mother is infected. Sometimes a mother dog that had worms at some point in the past can still pass them on to puppies. Some types of worms can stay dormant in muscle tissues for years. Pregnancy can wake the dormant worms and cause an active infection again. This is why veterinarians recommend worming all puppies on a set schedule.

pregnancy, mother, worming, dormant worms elenaleonova / Getty Images


Nursing Puppies

Puppies are not always infected before birth, but they can still ingest worms through their mother's milk. The larvae, or even adult worms, ingested through nursing make their way through the puppy's digestive tract into the intestines. If the worms are at a fairly advanced point of their lifecycles, the worms in the puppies could start producing eggs quickly. The eggs in the puppy's feces can infest bedding and spread to other puppies in the litter or cause re-infection after treatment. Always keep the bedding and area surrounding a mother dog and her babies clean and fresh.

Support the health of nursing puppies prone to worms with Hemp Oil for Dogs and Cats.

nursing, puppy, milk, babies, clean FabioFilzi / Getty Images


Skin Exposure

Most parasitic worms can not infect a dog simply by going through the skin, but hookworms can. Hookworm eggs spread through feces in the same manner as other worms, but the eggs and larvae can survive for weeks or months in feces and soil. Dogs become infected with hookworm larvae by sniffing around contaminated areas or by grooming their feet. Hookworm larvae can infect a dog through the skin if the dog lays down on contaminated soil to rest or take a nap. The risk of hookworms is higher in hot, humid areas.

puppies, pregnancy, dormant, reactive, milk Slonov / Getty Images


Undercooked Pork

Tapeworms are known to exist in a dormant state in pork. Normally the dormant worms are not a problem because pork is cooked before it is consumed. The temperatures necessary to thoroughly cook pork are high enough to kill any possible tapeworms. A human can get tapeworms from undercooked pork, and dogs can get tapeworms the same way. Some people believe dogs can eat uncooked meat because wolves, coyotes, and wild dogs eat raw meat. This is true, but wild canines are also at risk of worms and illness. Never feed a dog uncooked or spoiled pork products.

pork, raw, tapeworm, spoiled, undercooked moniaphoto / Getty Images



Some worm species infect dogs and other animals through fleas. This usually happens when an animal infected with worms is also infected with fleas. The worm larvae in or around the dog's bedding are eaten by fleas. The larvae are not actually digested by fleas; they remain dormant in the flea's body until another animal eats the flea. Dogs eat fleas when they bite at their own fur and skin after a flea bite.

fleas, bite, swallow, bedding, larvae Kerkez / Getty Images



White Dog with black nose licking his paw closeup

Dogs can ingest many types of worm eggs or larvae while grooming their paws, but whipworm is especially likely to infect dogs this way. Whipworms infect many animals, including coyotes and wolves. Whipworm eggs and larvae can survive in the soil for almost a year. A dog has a good chance of picking up whipworm eggs and larvae on its feet if any animal in the area is infected.



Parasitic worms infect dogs through several avenues. Everything about a parasite is meant to help the organism find and infect a host. This can make prevention challenging. Several medications can prevent worm infections instead of just treating them after an infection has occurred. Medications to prevent heartworm are the most commonly known. Veterinarians can recommend appropriate medications to prevent worms depending on location and the types of parasites known to affect animals in the area.

prevent, treatment, veterinarian, recommend, parasite FatCamera / Getty Images


Environmental exposure

Happy dog rolling on the grass

Dogs love to dig, roll, and play outside, but these everyday activities can expose them to parasitic worms. Hookworms and roundworms, in particular, thrive in the soil of your backyard or local park. These parasites lay eggs that can live in the environment for months or even years, waiting for a host. A simple act of sniffing or pawing at the ground can result in your dog ingesting these dormant threats, leading to an unexpected infestation.


Hunting and scavenging behavior

Naughty Dog chasing gull bird playing on beach

The prey drive in dogs isn't just a quirk of their personality; it's a behavior that can lead to worm infestations. Dogs that chase and consume small animals like rodents, birds, or even insects are at risk of contracting worms. These animals often carry parasites that can easily be transferred to your pet. Monitoring your dog's outdoor activities and discouraging them from eating anything they catch can help prevent these types of worm infestations.


Worming treatments

At a Modern Vet Clinic: Golden Retriever Sitting on Examination Table as a Female Veterinarian Assesses the Dog's Health. Handsome Dog's Owner Helps to Calm Down the Pet

Consistent and regular worming treatments are vital for maintaining your dog's health. Puppies, especially, are vulnerable to worms passed from their mother either before birth or through nursing. These infestations can be severe, sometimes even fatal. Starting a worming regimen early and continuing it under the guidance of your vet ensures that your dog is protected against the many types of worms they might encounter.


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