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How To Tell if Your Dog Has Worms: 7 Easy Signs

How To Tell if Your Dog Has Worms: 7 Easy Signs

Visiting the vet because your dog has been acting out of sorts only to hear, "Your dog has intestinal parasites," is something no dog owner wants to experience. Yet, it's more common than you may think. The realization that your fur baby might be harboring worms is enough to make any pet parent's heart sink.

For the best chance at keeping your dog's intestinal tract healthy and free from intestinal worms, it's important to understand how dogs get worms, what signs to look out for, and how to prevent them in the first place.

How Do Dogs Get Worms?

Dogs can get worms or intestinal parasites in a number of ways, from young puppies getting them from their mother to adult dogs eating something or interacting with other infected animals. Here are some of the most common ways dogs can get an intestinal parasite.

Ingesting Worm Eggs

One of the most common ways dogs intestinal contract worms is by ingesting worm eggs present in their environment. These eggs can be found in contaminated soil, feces, and even water. When dogs explore their surroundings, their natural curiosity often leads them to sniff, lick, or eat things that may be harboring these parasitic eggs. This is particularly common in areas where dogs are frequently walked or where wildlife is present, as the soil can be contaminated with feces that contain worm eggs.

Contact with Fleas

Fleas are not just a source of irritation for dogs; they are also carriers of tapeworm eggs. When a dog ingests a flea, it can also ingest the tapeworms that the flea is carrying. This is why managing flea infestations is so important; not only does it keep your dog itch-free but also helps prevent the introduction of tapeworms into their system.


Worms can also be passed from a mother to her unborn puppies, either during pregnancy or through nursing. This is why it's incredibly important to treat pregnant dogs for worms, as it can prevent the worms from being passed to the puppies. Make sure your pregnant dog is under proper veterinary care and receiving appropriate treatments in order to reduce the risk of her puppies being born with a worm infestation.

Risky Behaviors

Certain dog behaviors significantly increase the risk of worm infestation. Dogs that are allowed to roam freely in areas where other animals defecate are at a higher risk of ingesting worm eggs. Dogs that have a habit of eating another dog's stool (a behavior known as coprophagia) are directly ingesting worm eggs. Even dogs that eat prey animals, like rodents, can contract worms, as these small animals can be carriers of parasites.

Common Types of Parasitic Worms in Dogs


Hookworm larvae can penetrate a dog's skin or be ingested from contaminated soil or feces from another infected dog.

These parasites are blood feeders, attaching to the dog's intestines, which can lead to anemia, especially in young puppies.

Hookworm infections can be difficult to detect early on because symptoms might not be immediately apparent, which is why your dog needs regular veterinary checkups that include fecal exams.


Roundworms are most commonly contracted by ingesting roundworm eggs that are present in contaminated soil, feces, or infected prey animals.

Puppies can get roundworm larvae from their mothers either in utero or through nursing, making roundworm infections a concern from a very young age.

Symptoms of a roundworm infection can include visible adult worms in the dog's vomit or feces, a pot-bellied appearance, weight loss, and diarrhea.


Dogs typically get tapeworms by ingesting an infected flea, which can occur during grooming.

Tapeworm segments, which look like small, white rice grains, can often be found in the dog’s feces or around the anal area, indicating a tapeworm infection.

Although tapeworm infections may not always lead to significant illness in the dog, they can cause irritation and lead to secondary infections if not treated.


Whipworm eggs are ingested from the environment, particularly from soil contaminated with feces containing the eggs, which can survive for years.

These worms live in the colon of dogs, causing irritation and damage to the area, which can lead to bloody diarrhea and weight loss.

Because whipworm eggs are shed intermittently and in small amounts, whipworm infections can be difficult to diagnose without multiple fecal exams.


Heartworms are a different type of parasitic worm that live in the arteries of the lungs and the right side of the heart of infected animals. This potentially fatal disease they cause is known as heartworm disease.

Early in the infection, dogs may show few to no symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include reluctance to exercise, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

You should always keep your dog on a regular dose of heartworm prevention medication. You can usually get this from your veterinary medicine doctor.

Signs Your Dog May Have Worms

a lethargic dog with intestinal worms

If your dog is exhibiting any of the signs below, it may be an indication that there are worms in the dog's intestinal tract. It's important to see your vet right away if your dog is showing any of these symptoms in order to get rid of worms quickly.

1. Changes in Behavior

When your usually energetic and playful dog starts showing signs of lethargy, disinterest in their favorite activities, or even aggression, it’s a sign that something is off. Worm infestations can severely impact a dog's overall health and wellbeing, leading to noticeable behavioral shifts.

This change often comes from the discomfort and pain the worms may be causing internally, affecting your dog's mood and energy levels. If your dog starts to isolate themselves or stops engaging in physical activity, it might be their way of telling you they aren't feeling well due to a worm infestation.

2. Changes in Appetite

In some cases, dogs might become more hungry than usual because the parasites inside them are consuming the nutrients they need, leading them to feel constantly hungry. In other situations, the irritation and discomfort caused by the worms can lead to a significantly reduced appetite, as eating might exacerbate their discomfort or they may feel too unwell to eat.

Monitor your dog's eating patterns and stay alert to any sudden changes in order to quickly identify any underlying issue such as intestinal parasites.

3. Changes in Stool

A healthy dog's stool is generally consistent in texture and free of any foreign bodies. The presence of diarrhea, unusual color, mucus, or blood can be indicative of a variety of health issues, including intestinal worms. Some types of worms, such as hookworms, can cause severe blood loss leading to bloody stools, whereas others may cause a mucus-covered stool. Consistent observation of your dog’s stool can provide early signs of worm infestation, enabling prompt treatment.

4. Visible Worms in Vomit or Stool

Seeing visible worms in your dog's vomit or stool is a pretty clear indicator of an infestation. These worms may look like small, wriggling pieces of spaghetti (in the case of a roundworm infection) or tiny, moving segments that resemble rice grains (in the case of a tapeworm infection). This is often the most unmistakable sign that your dog is hosting intestinal parasites and needs immediate veterinary attention.

5. Weight Loss or Signs of Malnutrition

If your dog is losing weight despite eating normally, or if their ribs begin to show, it could be a sign that worms are taking a toll on their nutrition. Intestinal worms feed on the nutrients intended for your dog, leading to malnutrition that may show up as a dull, brittle coat, lethargy, or general weakness. This loss of nutrients can prevent your dog from maintaining a healthy weight and affect their overall health.

6. Changes in Coat Appearance

Just like our skin can be an indicator of our health, a dog's coat is often a reflection of their health. A shiny, smooth coat that suddenly turns dull, dry, or coarse can indicate that worms are affecting their nutrition and overall health.

Worms deprive your dog of the essential nutrients they need to maintain a healthy coat, leading to these visible changes. Regular grooming and close observation can help detect these changes early on, prompting a visit to the vet.

7. Persistent Itching

While itching can be caused by a number of things like fleas or dry skin, persistent scratching, particularly around the tail, anus, or belly, can sometimes be an indicator of worms in dogs. This could be due to irritation caused by worms or the body's reaction to the parasites.

It's important to differentiate this itching from other causes, such as allergies or fleas, and to observe if it comes with other signs of worm infestation.

How to Prevent Intestinal Worms in Dogs

The best way to deal with intestinal parasites in your dog is to prevent them from happening before you have to deal with an infestation. Here are some things you can do to prevent worms in your dog.

Regular Vet Check-Ups

Scheduling regular visits to the vet is important for your dog's overall health, and this includes preventing and treating worm infestations. During a check-up, your vet will conduct a thorough examination that often includes a fecal exam to detect the presence of adult worms or their eggs.

Regular check-ups also provide an opportunity to discuss any concerns you might have noticed, such as subtle changes in behavior or appetite that could indicate a worm infestation. When you catch worms early, it can make treatment more straightforward and less stressful for your dog.

Flea Control

Fleas are common carriers of tapeworm eggs, so preventing and controlling flea infestations can in turn help prevent worm infestations. Be sure to use vet-recommended flea treatments, maintain a clean living environment by washing your dog's bed regularly, and regularly grooming your dog.

If you can break the life cycle of fleas, you significantly reduce the risk of tapeworm and other parasite infections. Flea control not only helps in preventing tapeworms but also contributes to your dog's overall comfort and health.


Good hygiene practices are also important for preventing worm infestations. Here are some things you can do to keep your dog clean and healthy:

  • Clean up after your dog and properly dispose of feces, especially in public areas or your backyard.

  • Keep your dog's living environment clean—regularly wash their bed cover, toys, and eating areas.

  • Bathe your dog regularly, using a medicated shampoo if needed.

  • Disinfect outdoor areas where your dog frequently urinates or defecates, using pet-friendly disinfectants that can help kill parasites in the soil.

  • If certain areas are known to be contaminated with feces from other animals, prevent your dog from accessing these areas.

Preventative Medication

Talk to your vet about preventative worming treatments and deworming medication that are designed to regularly eliminate any worms that may have been ingested.

The frequency and type of preventative medication your dog needs will depend on several factors, including your dog’s age, breed, health status, and lifestyle. Preventative treatments are particularly important for dogs that are at higher risk of exposure, such as those frequently visiting dog parks or living in areas with high wildlife activity.

Stool Eating Deterrent

Stool-eating deterrents are products designed to make feces unattractive to dogs. These can come in various forms, including chews, additives for your dog's food, or sprays. When a dog consumes food treated with a deterrent, the resulting feces will have an unpleasant taste that discourages them from eating it. Be sure to select a product that is safe and specifically formulated for dogs, with natural ingredients that won't harm them if ingested.

Proactive Monitoring for Canine Health and Worm Prevention

Pay close attention to your dog's behavior, appetite, stool, and overall appearance on a daily basis in order to help prevent intestinal worms. Changes in these areas are often the first indicators of health issues, including worm infestations.

Make sure to also maintain a routine of consistent care practices, including regular deworming schedules, flea and tick prevention, annual vet check-ups, and maintaining a clean environment.

By actively including these habits into your pet care routine, you're not just preventing worms; you're also fostering a deeper bond with your dog, ensuring they remain a happy, healthy, and integral part of your family for years to come.

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