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Worms in Dogs: A Natural Approach to Prevention and Treatment

ProDog’s in-house Canine Nutritionist, Alison Frost, has a long history of helping dogs through raw feeding and nutritional supplements. In this article, she shares her expert insights on worms in dogs, including symptoms to watch for, why she advises against pharmaceutical dog wormers, and safe, natural options for preventing and treating worm infections.

Alison Frost

Author: Alison Frost

Edited By: Anna Bain

Worms in Dogs: A Natural Approach to Prevention and Treatment

Worms in dogs is unfortunately a common concern for pet owners. As dog owners, we’re all familiar with the idea that “puppies come with worms,” as well as the veterinary guidance of the importance of routine dog worming. However, the common practice of chemical routine worm prevention is often more harmful than it seems on the surface.

Thankfully, you can help your dog to be inhospitable and eliminate worms (and even prevent them) using safe, natural methods. I’ll discuss these in this article, along with other important information on worms in dogs.

In this article, we feature one of our nutritional supplements from our range:

REPEL for tick, flea, mite & worm repellent.

Health dangers of monthly pharmaceutical wormers

Immediate health risks/side effects

Due to their chemical composition and the fact that they are literally designed to eliminate life forms, pharmaceutical worming tablets for dogs can have numerous adverse effects. They don’t discriminate between species, and whilst dogs will obviously get a much smaller dose than the worms, the risks are still evident. With every dog being unique, symptoms will vary somewhat, but can include:

Mild

  • Digestive upset (vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Dilated pupils

Severe

  • Irregular heart rate
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Blindness
  • Depressed nervous system
  • Disorientation/loss of coordination
  • Hypothermia

These symptoms can occur anywhere from a few hours after treatment to a few days later. They can be temporary or longer lasting depending on the individual dog, their overall health, and other factors, so it’s important to get to a vet immediately if any of the symptoms listed as severe are present. Better yet, utilising a natural dog wormer will help avoid the risks altogether.

Overall health effects

Aside from the more immediate health effects, pharmaceutical dog wormers can also impact dogs’ health in various other ways over the long term. The chemical compounds in these drugs wreak havoc on dogs’ digestive systems, disrupting the bacterial balance of the gut biome. This can result in multiple systems becoming imbalanced, causing health issues affecting the brain, reproductive organs, liver, and kidneys, to name a few [1].

Worms in dogs are less likely to be a problem when the digestive system is functioning optimally. This is because the gut influences the immune response, allowing the body’s defences to more effectively protect against intruders, while making the internal environment less hospitable. Feeding dogs natural species-appropriate food, such as a raw dog food diet and using natural dog worming remedies contribute to their gut health, immune response, and health in general.

Types of worms common in dogs/forms of transmission

Worms species common in dogs

Worms in dogs often belong to one of four common species. These are:

Roundworms

Roundworms are long, white worms that survive by absorbing nutrients from their host. They typically infect dogs’ intestines, though they can also burrow into other parts of the body. They eventually work their way up to the lungs, causing dogs to cough, choke, or vomit.

Hookworms 

Hookworms are short, blood-sucking worms with teeth, which also absorb nutrients from their host. They begin their life cycle in the intestine, eventually working up towards the lungs. Hookworms can be fatal in young puppies, who require their nutrient reserves to survive and develop.

Whipworms 

Whipworms generally remain in the intestines of their host. They absorb less nutrients than other worm species and generally don’t cause noticeable symptoms, which allows them to go undetected for longer than other, more obvious infestations.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms can grow to 6 inches or longer, and have a flat, “tape-like” appearance. They reside in dogs’ small intestines, where they can easily access food during the digestion process, causing weight loss.

Dogs can contract worms through exposure to contaminated soil.

How dogs contract worms

Worms in dogs are transmissible through a number of sources, and the various types of worms are linked to certain transmission routes. For example, puppies in utero or still nursing can contract roundworms and hookworms from their mother, as these species can penetrate the uterus and are also transmissible through mum’s milk. Here are a few other examples of how dogs might contract worms:

Contaminated soil 

As most worm species shed eggs with a host’s bowel movements, soil that has been contaminated by faeces can pose a risk for worm transmission. Eggs of roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms can remain in the soil long after the poo biodegrades, and dogs can pick it up through normal outside activities [2]. They then ingest the eggs when grooming themselves, and the worms’ life cycle begins. 

Additionally, hookworms can be absorbed through simply walking or playing on contaminated soil, as they’re able to penetrate whichever part of a dog’s skin they touch, such as their paws, rump, or belly.

Other infected animals

This mode of transmission generally happens when a dog eats another infected animal or comes into contact with its faeces. For example, rodents can carry the same types of worms as dogs, therefore contact with them is a common form of transmission. 

Fleas

Tapeworm can be passed on to a dog through infected fleas, as they can be accidentally ingested while a dog bites or chews at an itchy spot. In fact, this is the most common way tapeworms can be transmitted to dogs.

Contaminated food/water

Dogs can also contract worms through contaminated food or water, though this is more common in strays and dogs allowed to forage without supervision. Worm eggs can be shed into food and/or water through contact with infected animals, or infected people who haven’t washed their hands, and will begin their lifecycle when ingested by dogs.

Signs and symptoms of a potential worm infestation

Signs of worms in dogs

Though most of these symptoms can potentially be attributed to other health concerns, they can also be signs of worms in dogs and warrant a vet check. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Scooting bottom along floor
  • Increased hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Malnutrition/nutrient deficiencies 
  • Dehydration
  • Swollen belly
  • Cough (roundworm/hookworm)
  • Pneumonia (severe roundworm)

Recognizing early symptoms is ideal

You’ll likely notice the signs of worms in dogs at some point, even if they’re quite subtle at first. Catching a worm infestation in its early stages allows your dog to expel their parasitic load before potentially serious damage is done. This way, they can return to their healthy, happy selves sooner than later, without any lasting effects or long-term treatments required.

Additionally, certain worm species can cause severe respiratory issues and even intestinal blockages in dogs. These are medical emergencies and are the result of a long-term worm infestation. 

I recommend routinely testing for worms using faecal egg count, every 6 months or whenever you suspect worms maybe present. We at ProDog use Feclab, and this testing is very economical, reliable, and efficient with quick results.  Why use chemicals, which potentially harm your dog, to treat something that probably isn’t there ? Natural dog worming prevention methods and faecal worm counts will identify early signs of worms in dogs and help to prevent these extreme cases from occurring, reducing unnecessary suffering for infected dogs.

Puppies can contract worms in utero or through mum’s milk.

Advantages of natural worm prevention/treatment

How natural dog worming remedies can help

While chemical dog wormers use harsh agents to eliminate worms, natural dog worming remedies (like all natural remedies) are designed to work with the body’s built-in defences. Essentially, they help to build up dogs’ immunity and aid the body in defending itself against whatever may be invading it, rather than creating a toxic environment which can also affect the dog [3]. 

Whilst natural remedies make the internal environment inhospitable to worms, they do so without disrupting dogs’ normal body functions, and can even contribute to improved functioning in areas that might be lacking. This allows them to dispel their parasitic load without causing any negative side effects that they might otherwise experience.  

Natural remedies effects on overall health

Aside from being helpful for dispelling worms in dogs, natural remedies can also be useful in other areas. Thanks to their immune-boosting properties, dogs can receive various health benefits as a result of a more balanced immune response [4]. Results will likely depend on the individual dog and any pre-existing health issues, though an optimally functioning immune system is ideal for the health of all dogs.

Health-promoting, natural dog wormers are a great example of this, and I recommend these to customers over any pharmaceutical dog worming tablets. In 20 years of dog ownership, and 5 dogs, I have only ever had one dog test positive for hookworm, and I’ve never used routine chemical wormers, having always opted for natural prevention.

ProDog’s Repel comes with my highest recommendation; its blend of all-natural ingredients includes kelp, neem leaf, pumpkin seed, garlic, and lemon balm which work in synergy to deter ticks, fleas, worms, and mites. This blend also boosts dogs’ immunity, aids balance within the gut, and helps to cultivate an internal environment that worms can no longer inhabit.

Prevent ticks, fleas, worms, and mites the healthy way

The importance of accurate testing

It’s common practice to treat dogs and puppies with pharmaceutical dog wormers on a regular basis, regardless of whether or not worms are actually present. This is a preventative measure that makes sense in some respects, though it’s often done without considering any potential negative health effects. As I stated earlier, the side effects of pharmaceutical dog worming tablets/treatments can be detrimental to dogs’ health, especially in young puppies before their immunity is fully established, dogs with health issues, older dogs or those with a compromised detox or immune system. 

Tests for worms in dogs, such as Feclab testing as mentioned above, provide valuable insight into whether dogs in fact have any worms that require treating [5]. Not only can these tests verify or rule out a potential worm infestation, but they can identify the type/types of worms and/or eggs present, as well as the current stage of the infestation. This way, treatment can be customised to the individual situation, determining if there’s an early infestation or an advanced one and which type of response is warranted. 

Promoting optimal health and robust immunity

Optimal health, strong immunity, and occurrence of parasites

As I mentioned earlier, natural dog worming remedies can also contribute to dogs’ overall health. However, maintaining optimal health is the best prevention method above all. Keeping dogs healthy in general allows their immune systems to maintain optimal function and their various biological systems to follow suit. This makes a less attractive host for worms, and parasites in general.

Benefits of raw feeding for parasite resistance

Species-appropriate raw feeding is my number one recommendation to any dog owner who wants to help their canine companion achieve optimal health. The essential nutrients that dogs need to thrive are naturally present in these foods; it’s the diet dogs have chosen for thousands of years for a reason. 

Dogs’ gut health, immune function, muscles, tissues, joints, etc. all benefit from raw feeding, creating an internal environment that is strong and balanced, able to defend itself against parasites much more effectively. ProDog’s raw meals come in a wide variety of options, so every dog and/or puppy can find something they love, whilst you get to witness their health improve in multiple ways. 

Worms in dogs: A natural approach to prevention and treatment

Though it’s simpler to pop into your vet for a worm preventive, it’s not necessarily the best idea. Pharmaceutical worming treatments involve more risks than benefits, and there are safer, more natural ways to keep your dog healthy and parasite-free.

Through appropriate nutrition, natural prevention/treatment methods, and a generally healthy lifestyle, dogs are capable of fighting off parasites like worms. However, it’s also crucial to keep an eye out for symptoms and supervise your dog around potential contact with worms.

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Worms in dogs FAQs

What are natural remedies for deworming dogs?

Natural products are available to prevent worms, such as ProDog’s Repel  natural parasite prevention for dogs. It includes kelp, neem leaf, lemon balm, pumpkin seed and garlic, which work together to deter ticks, fleas, mites and worms.   

However, if you think your dog already has worms you should consult your vet for advice.

How can I prevent worms in my dog naturally?

The best way to prevent worms in dogs naturally is to promote overall health through species-appropriate nutrition and an active lifestyle. This encourages balanced gut health and proper immune function, allowing dogs to defend themselves against parasites more effectively. 

In addition, incorporating a blend of very specific natural ingredients into your dog’s diet, such as those in ProDog’s Repel supplement, can provide preventative nutritional support which helps to maintain a healthy internal environment that is inhospitable for worms to survive.

Are there vet-approved natural dewormers for dogs?

Holistic veterinarians will likely be more open to recommending natural dog dewormers. This is because conventional vets are educated in pharmaceutical therapies and trained to prescribe these for various canine ailments. However, ProDog’s Repel, which is a natural parasite prevention supplement, comes highly recommended by the vets we work with, such as Dr Katie Woodley.

How can I effectively and safely deworm my dog using natural methods?

If you think your dog already has a worm infestation you should consult your vet for advice. Natural methods are available as preventative measures, helping to support the body’s natural defences against parasite infestations. 

ProDog’s Repel is a natural supplement designed to deter the most common parasites that affect dogs (ticks, fleas, mites and worms). Incorporating this into your dog’s diet, along with feeding a biologically-appropriate, raw diet will help to maintain natural immunity and overall health.

What are the signs of intestinal worms in dogs?

Signs of worms in dogs can vary, though common symptoms include swollen belly, dehydration, and increased appetite. Consult the “Signs of worms in dogs” section in the article above for a complete list.

Is there a natural way to prevent heartworm in dogs?

Heartworm is contracted through mosquitoes, which are typically found in warmer climates. Though there are a few species in the UK, cases of heartworm are extremely  rare in the UK. A natural dietary supplement, such as ProDog’s Repel, combined with a species appropriate, natural or raw dog food diet will also support parasite prevention.

What are the dangers of using monthly pharmaceutical dewormers for dogs?

Monthly pharmaceutical dewormers are created with toxic chemicals and can wreak havoc on a dog’s gut health, among other things [1]. The section titled “Health dangers of monthly pharmaceutical dewormers” in the above article explains this in further detail.

Can I boost my dog’s immune system to prevent parasites?

Absolutely, and we encourage this as your primary method of parasite prevention. Dogs’ immune systems are naturally designed to protect them from invasive organisms, and when functioning optimally, they do this quite effectively. Feeding species-appropriate, natural or raw dog food, and utilising natural parasite prevention supplements like ProDog Repel, help dogs’ immune systems to respond appropriately. 

References

  1. Salman, M., Abbas, R., Mehmood, K., Hussain, R., Shah, S., Faheem, M., Zaheer, T., Abbas, A., Morales, B., Aneva, I., Martinez, J. Mar 2022. Assessment of Avermectins-Induced Toxicity in Animals. Pharmaceuticals;, 15(3):332. Doi: 10.3390/ph15030332
  2. Roddie, G., Stafford, P., Holland, C., Wolfe, A. Mar 2008. Contamination of dog hair with eggs of Toxocara canis. Veterinary Parasitology;, 152(1-2):85-93. Doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2007.12.008
  3. Dr. Conor Brady, Dogs First. Worm Treatment in Dogs: Choose Natural Over Chemical. Accessed Feb 2024.
  4. Satyaraj, E., Reynolds, A., Pelker, R., Labuda, J., Zhang, P., Sun, P. Jun 2013. Supplementation of diets with bovine colostrum influences immune function in dogs. British Journal of Nutrition;, 110(12):2216-2221. Doi: 10.1017/S000711451300175X
  5. Feclab Laboratories. Worm Counts. Accessed Feb 2024

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2 comments

Sophie Bonner

Hi there, I’m all for the natural approach to worming, ticks and fleas and do with my adult dogs (sorry until now not your brand but I am just about to try!) however I have a litter of 7 puppies who “should” be due their first pharmaceutical wormer and I really don’t want to. What do you suggest for puppies?

Alison Frost

As worms are pretty prevalent in puppies, we would advise taking advice from an holistic vet

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