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Canine roundworm: symptoms, cause, treatment and prevention

Canine roundworm is an intestinal parasite. It is very important to treat the infested animal because it may weaken its immune system. In addition, roundworms are responsible for toxocariasis in humans. The dog does not necessarily show any particular symptoms when these worms are present in its intestine, but other signs can alert. In any case, it is essential to treat your pet and take certain precautions to prevent infection.

What is roundworm?

The canine roundworm (Toxocara canis) belonging to the Ascaridae family (ascarids) is a pearly white intestinal parasite. It is the roundworm or nematode worm that is most frequently found in canids. As an adult, it has a diameter of 2 mm but is still up to 18 cm long.

Dogs infested by roundworms: the cause

Each worm can lay up to 200,000 eggs in a 24-hour period. They are then excreted in the dog's feces. Invisible to the naked eye, the eggs harbor larvae that develop within a few weeks. At the end of this period of time, the eggs become infectious for the puppy who ingests them in different ways, namely
  • By eating contaminated soil,
  • By ingesting feces (coprophagia),
  • By licking its fur,
  • By sucking its mother because her milk contains roundworm larvae.
During the gestation period, the bitch also contaminates her puppies because the transmission is done via the placenta.

The vast majority of puppies are infested with these nematode worms and in general, adult dogs are immune.

What causes roundworm infection?

A puppy infected with roundworms has no particular symptoms, except for a slight drop in energy or a more marked decline in general condition. However, in puppies and the most vulnerable dogs, we can notice :
  • A cough if the roundworm migrates into the animal's lungs,
  • Vomiting,
  • Diarrhea,
  • A change in the appearance of the coat which becomes dry and bristly in some places (we talk about a pricked coat).
On the other hand, it is in the animal's excrement and/or vomit that the presence of these worms can be detected.

The main problem for the puppy infested by roundworms is that its immune system is gradually weakened, which exposes the animal more and more to all kinds of infections. Finally, some infected puppies may be stunted in their growth.

Ascaris in dogs : what treatment ?

The treatment is based on the deworming of the dog. But not all dewormers can eliminate roundworms. It is really necessary to consult the veterinarian at the slightest doubt so that the puppy or the dog benefits from a specific deworming. The treatment usually lasts several weeks because roundworms are not easy to eliminate.

At the same time, the veterinarian must also treat the problems that result from this nematode contamination. Auscultation is therefore necessary and can be completed by complementary examinations.

Please note that all dogs and cats in the household must be dewormed against roundworms.

How to prevent roundworm infection?

It is imperative to practice exemplary hygiene when owning a dog (or a cat because roundworms (Toxocara cati) also frequently infect small felines). It is essential to limit the risk of infection for family members.
  • Every place where the dog does its business is inevitably contaminated with roundworm eggs. But these eggs are resistant to disinfectants. It is therefore essential to remove dog poop every day from the lawn, the sandbox and the kennel and not to throw it in the recycling bins.
  • Clean every area of the house frequented by the dog several times a week, as well as the dog's bed, blanket, toys, etc.
  • Wash your hands with a suitable disinfectant after removing animal excrements, gardening, cleaning the litter boxes or the kennel and make sure that children always have clean and short nails.
  • If a sandbox has been created in the garden for children, the dog (or cat) must be kept out of it. Ideally, the animal should be taught not to go there, but the area can also be covered when the children are not playing.
At the same time, the adult dog should be dewormed four times a year. Puppies from the age of 2 weeks should be dewormed even more frequently, as should nursing bitches and breeding bitches, and the same applies to cats, cats and kittens. In order not to forget anything, it is recommended to keep the health booklet of each animal up to date.

The contamination by roundworms is a subject not to be neglected because the transmission to the human being is a real danger which affects even more the children when, for example, they carry to the mouth their soiled hands. These worms can be extremely dangerous in humans.