Dog Round Worms
Roundworms include all worms under the classification of nematodes, such as hookworms, whipworms, esophageal worms, heartworms, lungworms, and kidney worms, as well as the large roundworms that most pet owners recognize. But as we use the term “roundworms” in this section, we shall limit it to the whitish or yellowish worm that grows up to five inches long in the stomach and intestines of pets, is pointed at both ends, and inclined, while alive, to curl up like a spring. When dead, it straightens out so that it may appear to be simply bowed at the ends.
Although there are several kinds of intestinal roundworms, their life histories are much the same. The eggs pass out of the dog with every bowel movement. In less than a week, if the temperature and moisture arc propitious, a little worm forms in the egg. In other words, it has to incubate before it can hatch. Now, this egg is in the infective stage and, as such, it will live for years, waiting to be picked up by a suitable host. It may enter the host in any one of dozens of ways. A dog may walk in a spot where feces have entirely disintegrated but where the eggs remain. They stick to their feet; it licks themselves and becomes infested. A puppy may find the eggs on its mother’s breasts, or a dog may drag a moist bone through an infested area.
The egg enters the stomach, and the shell, or coat, is digested, liberating the embryo. If it happens to be an egg of Toxascaris leonina, the larva moves along into the intestine, where it penetrates the lining, remains there for ten days, and grows. Finally, it returns to the lumen, or hollow part of the intestine, and continues to grow to maturity, feeding on the dog’s partially digested food.
If the roundworms are of the Toxascaris canis or T. cati variety, they are much more harmful to their host. In the intestine, the little larvae bore through the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream where they grow. Many may be found in the liver and spleen while on their way to the lungs. In the lungs, they penetrate through the blood vessels into the air spaces and are moved on to the windpipe. Up this, they move in mucous secretions until the irritations cause the dog to cough and gag as if clearing its throat. The small amount of mucus with the worms in it is swallowed. Down the gullet go the parasites, which from then on until old age overtakes them, or worm medicine kills them, live in the intestine, migrating up and down at will, copulating and laying thousands of eggs.
Not only do roundworms give off a toxin, but the migrations of the larvae in the body, especially in the lungs, frequently cause death. In puppies, these worms cause potbellies, lethargy, diarrhea, anemia, often subnormal temperatures, and dull coats. When only a few worms are harbored, the symptoms are, of course, less noticeable and may consist only of general lethargy, despite a fair appetite. In older dogs the worms’ ravages are much less severe. Perhaps the most serious injury done by roundworms is to the lungs. Dogs develop verminous pneumonia as a result of the damage inflicted by large numbers of larvae boring from the blood vessels to the air sacs, irritating as they work up the bronchi and trachea to the throat.
PREVENTION: Prevention consists in deworming a bitch before breeding and keeping her off soil and out of quarters that are contaminated with roundworm eggs. If there is any chance that she has been where roundworm eggs are present, wash her teats before the newborn puppies nurse. When the puppies are walking, they too must be kept out of infected quarters. Bones and food that can be dragged around in filth are common sources of infestation.
TREATMENT: With puppies, a fecal examination should always be made before treatment. If worms are present, the puppies should be treated with Piperazine, which may be obtained from pet accessoryestablishments. It is the one over-the-counter drug that is safe, efficacious, and inexpensive. Veterinarians have medication that destroys several types of worms at one time.
If tremendous numbers of roundworms are suspected, it is wise to follow the Piperazine for an hour with half a teaspoon of milk of magnesia to move the dead worms along. It is best to rewarm parasitized puppies in three weeks.
Some owners ask how young age puppies can have roundworms and at what age can they safely be dewormed. We have kept a careful record of the age of infested dogs and have found a high percentage of three-week-old puppies with worms. These, of course, had been contracted before birth. It proved safe to deworm the youngest infested puppy. In our opinion it is safer to deworm them at the first sign of worms rather than to wait until they are two or three weeks older and sicker; they will tolerate it at the earlier age much better.
See more: Dog Pneumonia
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