Dogs can pick up a number of parasites and pests, including roundworms. While roundworms can cause more serious problems, they also have a few textbook symptoms that make it easy to tell if your dog has them.
Plus, there are ways to treat and prevent roundworms in dogs with natural remedies. Before we get into that, let’s look at what roundworms are and what they mean for your dog.
What Are Roundworms In Dogs?
Roundworms are parasites that live and grow in dogs’ intestines. They’re sometimes called ascaridoid nematodes and there are various types of roundworms, all in the Toxocara family of parasites. Roundworms (along with hookworms) are the most common type of parasitic worm in dogs.
Even though they’re small, roundworms can pose risks like infections and permanent intestinal damage if they’re left untreated.
The most important roundworm is Toxocara canis, because its larvae can infect humans. Also infections in young puppies can sometimes be fatal.
How Long Are Roundworms?
Roundworms look like strands of spaghetti, with a cream-colored, round body that can be up to several inches long.
Life Cycle Of Roundworms
Roundworms lay eggs in the environment and in the intestines of host animals. Eggs in the environment can be eaten by rodents and other animals known as “secondary hosts.” These can become carriers and a possible source of worms for your dog.
However, your dog doesn’t have to eat these secondary hosts to get roundworms. Dogs can also eat roundworm eggs in soil or feces.
The eggs then “activate” and hatch inside the intestines, where the worms grow and live. The adult worms will lay eggs inside the intestine, so an infected dog will pass the eggs through its feces.
Dogs will usually develop immunity to roundworms with age. However, young dogs are more susceptible, and roundworms can pass from an infected mother to her puppies through milk or placenta.
Symptoms Of Roundworms In Dogs
How can you tell if your dog is dealing with these pesky parasites? Luckily there are a few tell-tale signs of roundworms.
1. White Specks In Dog Poop
Eggs laid by adult roundworms in the intestines are passed in the feces, where they sometimes show up as white specks in poop.
2. Digestive Problems
Roundworm infestations can cause diarrhea (often with mucus), vomiting, and other digestive problems. You may even be able to see some adult worms in your dog’s vomit or stool.
3. Protruding Stomach
A bulging belly can be another symptom of roundworms in dogs. As the worms grow inside your dog’s belly, they can cause bloating and inflammation, giving your dog a pot-bellied appearance.
Roundworm larvae can sometimes attack the lungs, causing a hacking cough. This is a serious symptom, as it can lead to other dangerous respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.
Roundworms feast on undigested food in your dog’s intestines, so a dog with a serious infestation can often become malnourished, even if he’s eating plenty of food. Signs of malnourishment include weakness, lethargy, fatigue, weight loss, and stunted growth. If you notice these things even though your dog appears to be eating a lot, he could have a roundworm infection.
How To Confirm Roundworms In Dogs
If you’re not sure whether or not your dog has roundworms, your vet can use a microscope to identify eggs in your dog’s stool sample, or do a specific fecal test known as an antigen test. This can help detect the presence of roundworms even if your dog has a very low number of eggs in his stool.
Treatment For Roundworms In Dogs
If they’re treated promptly, most dogs will recover from roundworm infections. Even if you see your vet to confirm a roundworm diagnosis, you can often treat roundworms in dogs at home.
Home Remedies For Roundworms
Certain foods and herbs can be used to help kill worms naturally. Just remember to start slowly if your dog isn’t used to eating these foods.
Even if your dog doesn’t have roundworms, these remedies are great for prevention. They’re natural detoxifiers and can be used to gently cleanse the intestines, with no side effects.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a useful and natural dewormer for dog. ACV creates a more alkaline digestive system, which worms don’t like. To treat worms with apple cider vinegar, give ¼ to 1 tsp per day in your dog’s water or food.
Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth may help naturally reduce the number of roundworms in your dog. To feed this natural detoxifier, give small dogs 1 tsp per day and dogs over 55 lbs up to 1 Tbsp per day. DE’s texture is like dust, and if inhaled it can irritate the lungs, so be careful while serving and make sure you mix the diatomaceous earth thoroughly into your dog’s food. Do not use DE for pregnant or lactating dogs.
Black Cumin Seed
Black cumin seed is a very safe and natural roundworm treatment option. If possible, try to buy whole black cumin seeds. You can use black seed oil if you have to, but remember to cut the dose in half. To feed black cumin seed, give your dog ½ tsp to 1 tsp of seeds daily in his food. If he doesn’t like the taste you can heat the seeds in a pan to make them less bitter.
Veterinary Treatments For Roundworms
It’s generally best to avoid pharmaceutical dewormers for your dog. But sometimes foods and natural treatments alone may not be enough. In the case of stubborn or severe infections, you may have to ask your holistic vet to help you find safe, effective deworming solutions.
Tip: If you do have to use pharmaceutical drugs to get rid of roundworms, be sure to give your dog soil-based probiotics or Saccharomyces boulardii to repair gut damage from the medication. You can give them while you’re giving the drugs and don’t have to wait until you’re done with the meds.
These can still include natural treatments like black walnut or wormwood. These are potent remedies that are best used with a vet’s guidance, because they can be toxic if used incorrectly.
Puppies and pregnant dogs face extra risks from roundworms, so it’s definitely worth speaking to your vet if you have a puppy or pregnant dog on your hands.