How to Identify and Get Rid of Dog Parasites

dog parasites symptoms

If you love your dogs, you need to be well-informed about their health and know how to get rid of dog parasites. There are many types of parasite affecting dogs including external parasites, like fleas and ticks and internal parasites such as worms.

This article focusses on the many types of worms that are a constant threat to your dog’s good health.  And you will learn how to identify, diagnose and treat the various types of internal parasitic worm, to keep your dog/s healthy and in peak form!

5 most common worm infections

The five most frequently found worm infections are caused by heart-worms, tape-worms, whip-worms, round-worms and hook-worms.  They are described in detail further down, but the main symptoms of a worm infection are these:-

Signs and symptoms of worm infection in dogs

  • Coughing
  • Poor appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Noticeable weight-loss
  • Fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Breathing problems

Some worms also cause:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Blood or mucous covered excrement
  • Anal itching
  • Pale nose and gums

Sometimes there are no symptoms until months after the infection takes hold, so as soon as you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your vet immediately.

How dogs get parasite infections


Heart-worms come from mosquito carrying the Dirofilaria immitis parasite.  Bites from infected mosquitos transmit this parasite directly into your dog’s blood-stream.  The parasite is automatically carried into the dog’s heart, where it stays.

As the parasite matures it becomes big enough to block the flow of blood around the body and eventually causes insufficient blood-flow to the heart and lungs.  Without treatment, heart-worms cause heart failure and death in dogs.


Tape-worms are transmitted to dogs from the bites of infected rodents and fleas.  The tape-worm wastes no time in setting up home in the host animal’s gut.  From this location, the tape-worm will feed, grow and lay eggs, which are regularly expelled from the body in the dog’s excrement.

Freshly expelled tape-worms are about ¼ in. to ½ in. long and are white in color.  You will see them in your dog’s excrement or attached to hair around the anus.  Dry tape-worms look like grains of rice.


This parasite enters a canine host when dogs eat soil or excrement infected with whip-worm eggs.  They also inhabit the dog’s gut, from where they produce eggs that are expelled from the anus in the animal’s regular bowel movements.

Whip-worms are very small and need to be identified using a microscope to look closely at the dog’s excrement.  General signs of infections are as shown above and especially:-

  • Diarrhoea
  • Sudden weight-loss
  • Blood or mucous in the dog’s bowel-movements


Round-worms (ascarids) enter their host by two main methods.  Dogs ingest round-worm eggs from eating infected soil or dog-poo, and from rodent bites.  Like other parasitic worms, round-worms live in the host dog’s intestines and their eggs can be seen in the anal area and bowel-movements.

Round-worms can infect you or your family if you handle dogs without washing your hands and face carefully afterwards. Round-worms appear in your dog’s excrement as spaghetti-like threads that are tan or whitish in color.  Your dog may also show symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight-loss
  • Blood or mucous in the stools
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coat condition


Dogs can be infected by picking-up the larva on their coat, which then burrow through the skin into the body.  Hook-worms are another parasite that can be passed on to you or your family through the skin.  This happens through bare feet, legs, hands and face, so strict hygiene and washing is a real necessity.

Only a vet can truly identify hook-worm by inspecting your dog’s poo through a microscope.  The symptoms are as above, plus dehydration and nose/gums looking unusually pale.

Always get a vet’s advice

Although puppies are very susceptible to worm infection, dogs of any age can get parasites, so it pays to check your dog’s excrement regularly for anything unusual.  And monitor your dog/s health for any change in their condition or behaviour, so you can pick-up the signs of a parasitic infection as soon as they appear.

Your vet will do a professional examination and diagnosis, so you get the correct medication and treatment plan for your individual dog.  Some worm infections require a hospital stay, so a vet’s diagnosis is vital to your dog’s recovery to full health. Some non-prescription worm treatments are simply not effective for de-worming all sizes and types of dog.