Intestinal worms are not only gross, they can be harmful to your dog … so you need to get rid of them as fast as possible. But, you’re going to want to do this without conventional deworming drugs since they can be very harsh. They also come with some nasty side effects.
Luckily, one of the safest and most effective ways to treat worms in dogs is with everyday foods or herbs. I asked holistic vet Patricia Jordan DVM and canine herbalist Rita Hogan about their favorite remedies.
But before I get to those, you need to know which type of worm your dog has …
How Do Dogs Get Worms?
Different worms infect dogs in different ways. Some worms come from soil, feces, raw meat or fleas that your dog eats. Other worms infect your dog through insect bites or skin contact. Puppies can even get worms from their mother before they’re born or while nursing.
I’ll talk more about how your dog gets each type of worm in just a minute. First let’s look at some of the signs of worms in dogs.
Symptoms Of Worms In Dogs
The symptoms that your dog experiences when he has worms can depend on the worm infecting him. But some common signs of worms in dogs include:
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Dull coat
- Mucus covered stools
- Bloody stool
How To Diagnose Worms In Dogs
If you suspect your dog has worms you may need a fecal test. This is because you can’t see most worms with your own eyes. I’ll talk about this in more detail in the next section. Instead, your vet will examine your dog’s stool for eggs under a microscope.
If you need to get a fecal test to confirm a diagnosis of worms, Dr Jordan says the best time to test is during a full moon. This is when parasites shed their eggs the most.
Types Of Worms In Dogs
These are the most common types of worms dogs get.
You can see roundworms in your dog’s poop. They’ll look a lot like spaghetti and can be 1 to 7 inches long. Your dog may look pot-bellied and he may feel lethargic. Sometimes roundworms can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and weight loss. Roundworms live in the small intestine. Your dog can pick up the microscopic eggs from the environment or by eating infected animals like birds or rodents.
Roundworms don’t cause health issues in adults, but pregnant dogs can pass them on to their puppies. And in puppies, roundworms can cause malnutrition and growth problems from vomiting and diarrhea.
Whole tapeworms are flat and about 6 inches long. Usually you’ll see the broken-off segments of white worms in your dog’s poop that look like grains of rice. Tapeworms live in the intestines. Your dog can get them by licking fleas off his body. If your dog has fleas, watch out for tapeworms in his stool.
Your dog can also get tapeworms from eating meat from animals like rabbits, cattle, pigs or deer that might have tapeworms. If you feed your dog raw meat, freeze the meat for 10 days to kill the tapeworms.
Hookworms are about ⅛ to ¾ inch long and have a hook that attaches to the intestinal lining. They suck blood and can cause anemia in your dog, so they’re especially dangerous for small puppies. Your dog can pick up hookworm through his mouth or through the skin on his pads from larvae in the soil.
Diarrhea and vomiting are the usual signs of hookworms in your dog. Like roundworms, pregnant dogs can pass hookworms on to puppies. But in this case, it’s through the milk during nursing. This can lead to anemia (not enough healthy blood cells), weakness, lethargy and pale gums.
Whipworms are about 2 inches long and tapered at one end, like a whip. They attach to the mucous membranes in the cecum and colon and feed on your dog’s blood. You won’t be able to see them, unless your dog passes them in a clump in his stool.
Signs of whipworms include diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss. Your dog can pick up whipworms by swallowing the eggs in soil, water or other places that may contain dog feces.
Heartworms infect dogs through mosquito bites. They grow in your dog’s heart and can cause lung problems, heart failure and damage to other organs. If left untreated, they can be life-threatening.
Because this post is about intestinal worms, I won’t be talking about heartworms today. But the good news is that heartworms are preventable!
Intestinal Parasites That Aren’t Really Worms
There are two other intestinal parasites that aren’t actually worms: giardia and coccidia. Both of these parasites live in your dog’s intestine.
Adult dogs don’t always show symptoms but these parasites can cause diarrhea. If left untreated, severe diarrhea can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and death in puppies.
Worm Medicine For Dogs: Why You Shouldn’t Use It
Conventional vets will most likely prescribe antiparasitic drugs if your dog has worms. And many will suggest worm preventatives to help reduce the risk of your dog getting worms. Breeders and vets also routinely deworm puppies.
But deworming medicines, also known as worming meds, can cause long-term problems. (Not to mention puppies shouldn’t need regular deworming if they’re healthy.)
Antiparasitics work by poisoning the worms … but they aren’t selective. So these drugs can also kill the beneficial organisms that live in your dog’s gut. This can affect important functions like digestion, the way your dog absorbs nutrients and the immune system.
And this is on top of the many other known side effects these drugs can cause …
- Loss of appetite
- Liver damage
How To Get Rid Of Worms In Dogs
Starting out with a healthy diet helps build a strong immune system. A whole foods, raw meat based diet is the best option to help keep your dog worm-free. Dogs who eat kibble are much more susceptible to worms than raw fed dogs because parasites love the starch and sugars in kibble.
But whatever you’re feeding, there are many foods and herbs you can use to help kill all types of worms in your dog. Start slowly with all these remedies if your dog isn’t used to eating them, and work up to the recommended dose.
1. Fermented Vegetables
Fermented foods are some of the best ways to build a healthy digestive system. That helps expel worms by boosting your dog’s immune system. Almost 90% of the immune system is in the gut.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
One of the safest and most effective ways to treat worms is with pumpkin seeds. That’s because pumpkin seeds contain an amino acid called cucurbitin. Cucurbitin paralyzes and eliminates the worms from the digestive tract.
When feeding your dog pumpkin seeds, use raw organic seeds. Don’t give your dog the salted seeds … these are not safe for your dog.
Grind seeds and give ¼ tsp per 10 lbs of weight once or twice a day until the parasites are gone. Pumpkin seeds are safe for pregnant dogs.
3. Black Cumin Seed
People have called black cumin seed “the cure for everything except death.” It’s very safe and can work for most worms. If possible, try to buy whole seeds. In a pinch you can use black seed oil but be sure to halve the dose.
Give your dog ½ tsp to 1 tsp daily in his food. If your dog doesn’t like the taste you can heat the seeds to get rid of the bitter taste.
4. Grated Fruits And Vegetables
You can add certain fruit and veggies to your dog’s food to help get rid of worms. They’ll make your dog’s digestive tract less welcoming. Good choices include carrots, cucumber, watercress, greens, squash, and fennel.
Pineapple is also a good choice. It’s full of bromelain, an enzyme that digests proteins. It can also boost your dog’s immune system to help him fight off the worms. Papaya also contains an enzyme, called papain, that can help combat worms.
Pomegranate is useful for fighting off tapeworms. This is because compounds in pomegranate help expel worms from the digestive tract.
Add at least 1 tsp of any of these fruits and veggies per 10 lbs of body weight to your dog’s meals twice a day.
5. Vegetable Juice
Mix fresh carrot, beet, and cucumber juices into your dog’s food. This will help make his intestines less attractive to worms.
Give 1 tsp per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight per day.
Garlic is safe to give your dog in moderate amounts and can be a good way to fight worms. In fact, a 2008 study shows that garlic can be as effective as conventional dewormers.
Use chopped raw organic garlic and let the garlic sit for 10 to 15 minutes before giving it to your dog. This will help release the beneficial compounds that fight off the worms. Then you can give your dog the following amount …
Small dogs … up to ¼ clove twice a day
Medium dogs … up to ½ clove twice a day
Large dogs … up to ¾ clove twice a day
Giant breeds … up to 1 clove twice a day
Caution: Don’t use garlic as a worm remedy for pregnant or lactating dogs, or if your dog is on blood thinners.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar has many benefits, one of which is helping deworm dogs. It creates a more alkaline digestive system that’s less attractive to parasites.
Use raw, organic, unfiltered vinegar and give ¼ to 1 tsp per day in your dog’s water or food.
Thyme is especially useful for hookworms. In their book Herbs For Pets, herbalists Greg Tilford and Mary Wulff recommend that you use fresh or dried herbs. Add 1 tsp per pound of food.
Caution: Do not use thyme essential oil on your dog as it can be toxic. You shouldn’t use thyme in any form for pregnant or lactating dogs.
You can also use parsley to expel worms. Cook fresh parsley down and strain out the solids, then freeze it into ice cubes.
Give one cube daily.
10. Bone Broth
Bone broth helps promote digestive health, which helps the immune system kill worms. It’s especially effective around the full moon.
Add a few tablespoons to your dog’s food or feed as a separate snack. You can also add some aloe juice for an extra boost.
RELATED: How to make bone broth …
11. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
You can use food-grade diatomaceous earth to reduce the number of worms in your dog. But it may not be helpful if your dog has tapeworms.
Small dogs … 1 tsp per day
Dogs over 55 lbs … up to 1 tbsp per day
Caution: Make sure you mix the diatomaceous earth into your dog’s food very well. If your dog inhales it, it can irritate his lungs. Do not use DE for pregnant or lactating dogs.
You can use chamomile to both prevent and expel roundworms and whipworms. This herb works more slowly but also helps reduce inflammation caused by the worms.
Use chamomile as a glycerin tincture for worms. Give 0.25 to 0.5 ml per 20 pounds of body weight, twice daily. Some dogs may be allergic to chamomile so check for sensitivity before using it. To do this, apply a small amount of the tincture to your dog’s skin.
Chamomile’s cousin, pineapple weed, is even more effective when it comes to expelling worms.
Caution: If your dog is pregnant or lactating, you shouldn’t use these herbs.
13. Olive Leaf
Olive leaf extract contains oleuropein, which can help expel parasites from your dog’s intestines. Look for an extract with 12% oleuropein or higher and give it for 8 weeks …
Small dogs … 300 mg twice daily
Medium dogs … 500 mg twice daily
Large and giant dogs … 1000 mg twice daily
14. Neem Leaf
Neem leaf is also useful for flushing out parasites from your dog’s intestines, but it’s not good for tapeworms.
Small dogs … 150 mg per day
Medium dogs … 250 mg per day
Large dogs … 500 mg per day
15. Oregon Grape
Oregon grape is anti-parasitic, antibiotic and liver tonic.
Give your dog 12 drops of Oregon grape tincture per 20 pounds of body weight. You’ll also want to give milk thistle when using Oregon grape. That’s because Oregon grape can be harsh on the liver and milk thistle will help protect it. Give ¼ tsp of milk thistle tincture per 20 pounds of body weight.
Caution: Oregon grape isn’t safe for pregnant or lactating dogs. Don’t use it for dogs with liver disease.
16. Black Walnut
Black walnut is safer than conventional dewormers but can be toxic to your dog if it isn’t used properly. That’s why you should only use it if the above options don’t work. Always ask for guidance from your holistic vet on using black walnut for your dog..
It’s also important to understand that black walnut does not address the underlying cause of the worms. It will simply kill and expel the worms.
If other options don’t work, there’s a good chance that your dog’s immune system is the problem.
Like black walnut, wormwood can be hard on your dog’s body but it’s effective for all types of worms. If you have exhausted all other options and want to try this herb, you should do so with the guidance of a holistic vet. This herb can irritate your dog’s liver and kidney.
Caution: You should never give wormwood to dogs who have seizures, kidney problems or liver disease.
Anti-worm Food Supplement
You can also mix remedies to use as a general worming solution. Herbs For Pets recommends this combination for worms in dogs.
2 parts unsalted, raw pumpkin seeds
1 part garlic powder
1 part fennel seeds
1 part yucca root
Mix the ingredients together. You can grind the pumpkin seed or leave them whole. Add 1 tsp per pound of food daily. Tilford and Wulff recommend you feed this mixture for 5 days then take 2 days off. Continue until your dog no longer has worms.
Caution: Don’t use this mixture for pregnant or lactating dogs.
Prevent Worms In Dogs
To help prevent worms, you want to boost your dog’s immunes system. If your dog has a healthy immune system he should be able to expel any worms on his own, without you ever knowing he had them.
Some of the best ways to promote a healthy immune system is to feed your dog whole raw foods. You also want to avoid unnecessary drugs and vaccines, which suppress your dog’s immune system.
Another helpful tool is probiotics. If you help maintain the balance of good bacteria in your dog’s gut with probiotics … you can help bolster your dog’s digestive and immune health.
Look for supplements that contain both probiotics and prebiotics. The probiotics provide beneficial bacteria that will colonize your dog’s gut to boost his health. And the prebiotics will help make the probiotics more effective by feeding the bacteria.
And finally, keep your yard free of poop. This will help you and your pets avoid intestinal worms.
Can Humans Get Worms From Dogs?
Yes, humans can get some types of worms from dogs. These include roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms. The odds of this happening are quite low but children and pregnant women are at greater risk.
To reduce the risk of getting roundworms or hookworms, kids should not play where animals poop. You should also avoid walking barefoot in these areas. And be sure to wear gloves if you come into contact with contaminated soil or feces.
Humans can get tapeworms from eating contaminated meat or a contaminated flea. Since the chances are low that you’ll eat a flea, contracting a tapeworm from your dog is very unlikely. There’s more concern for children who may accidentally swallow a flea while playing.
Worms In Dogs
Food is the best place to start treating your dog for worms. These foods are all gentle, natural ways to help get rid of your dog’s intestinal worms. And they’re a whole lot safer than giving your dog conventional deworming medication.
Ayaz E, Türel I, Gül A, Yilmaz O. Evaluation of the anthelmentic activity of garlic (Allium sativum) in mice naturally infected with Aspiculuris tetraptera. Recent Patents on Anti-infective Drug Discovery. 2008 Jun;3(2):149-52.