Worms, Worms, and More Worms!

by Ann E. Kenny

updated by Marcia Herman 5/15/10

Parasites can be found in the most beautiful and unexpected places. One can enjoy nature if one takes precautions against parasites with one of the plethora of products available. Dees Family

No not earthworms, but roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and even whipworms! We recently became aware that a number of ex-racers (including our own three dogs) have been diagnosed with the above internal parasites. The greyhound you adopt was wormed when he of she retired, but he or she may be at risk for future infestations of internal parasites. First, your adoption group may not have been able to worm the dog during the appropriate time of the worm’s life cycle. Most worms can be killed only when they are in their adult phase. Second, because the dogs are wormed constantly at the track, the worms they carry may have developed resistance to the worming medication. Finally, your dog may develop worms if he is exposed to them after you bring him home.


How can you tell if your dog has worms? Tapeworms are easy to identify. They are white rice-like segments which appear in the dog’s stool. Take a fresh sample (a tablespoon will do) for testing to your veterinarian and treat him with the appropriate medication. Do not treat him yourself using over-the-counter wormers. They either won’t work effectively of they may poison your greyhound. The cause of tapeworms is simple: fleas. If you have a flea problem, it is possible that your dog either has tapeworms or will develop tapeworms. A dog can get tapeworms only if he or she eats a single flea carrying a tapeworm egg. The cure is simple: get rid of the fleas! Treat the dog, your house and your yard. Keep the grass cut short. Apply a nematode-based lawn treatment product such as Bio Flea Halt. The nematodes eat the flea larvae and other nuisance insects such as crane flies in your lawn. Inside, use only pyrethrin-based insecticides on your dog. Do use a flea product which contains “Precor,” an insect growth regulating ingredient which prevents pre-adult fleas from developing into adult fleas. Have a flea comb handy so that you can regularly check for fleas and go into action to eliminate them if you find even one flea. One flea on the dogs means there are at least 1,000 flea eggs hiding in your carpet and the dog’s bedding! Webmaster’s note in 2010: Sometimes tapeworms will actually “wave” at you in the sample on the ground!  Even then a fecal test sample may be negative. If you see even one of these charming objects, treat for tapes. Simultaneously get rid of a flea infestation on your dog via a Capstar pill; then treat with Frontline, Vectra, Sentinel, and other such products to avoid future infestation. Your dog may well have tapes after an infestation and after a negative fecal test, so it may be best to  treat for that presumptively. Tapes often cause loose stools although the dog may feel fine otherwise.

Roundworms, Hookworms and Whipworms

Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms can be identified only through microscopic examination. What symptoms will the dog have? Puppies with these types of worms will very quickly sicken and die if left untreated. Adult dogs develop resistance to these worms and may not show any obvious symptoms. If you have had your dog for six months to a year and it is still underweight (all ribs showing, hip-bones and backbone showing) despite a voracious appetite, then it would be a good idea to take in a stool sample. These worms attach to the lower intestine and interfere with the dog’s ability to absorb nutrients. They may also cause loose stool or diarrhea. Hookworms actually move around and reattach in different areas of the intestine every several hours. This can cause pain for the dog and some of the symptoms my husband and I have seen in dogs infested with hookworms include an intense desire to eat grass, loud gurgling from the dog’s abdomen, whining and lack of appetite.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Drawing by Michele Carnevale

See a veterinarian for this. Do not try to diagnose or treat any kind of worm yourself. Why? Well, you may be wrong about what the dog’s problem is and you might just poison you dog trying to treat it. Over-the-counter wormers can be highly toxic to greyhounds.

Treating and controlling roundworms, hookworms and whipworms can be a challenge. Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose the worms, depending on where they are in their life cycle. Sometimes it takes three or four treatments before the worms are killed. In some cases these worms can become encysted in the dog’s muscle tissue and infestation can reoccur even years later. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to take a stool sample with you when you take you dog for its annual checkup and shots. Your vet may recommend testing twice a year and placing your dog on preventative medication. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe Panacur.

Probably the single most important thing you can do to protect your dog’s health is to be absolutely diligent about keeping your yard or turn out pen free of “dog doo.” Twice a day would not be too often! If your dog has the above kind of worms, its stool will contain the eggs. These eggs are extremely resistant to environmental conditions and will last for months or even years. Your dog can contract these worms by eating the stools and licking its paws. Additionally, you must be extremely careful about handling “dog doo.” These worms can easily be transmitted to humans causing unpleasant health problems. You must wash you hands thoroughly and you must not allow your children to play in areas where the dogs “do their business.”

Finally, be careful about where you take your dogs and how close you allow them to get to other dogs. If your dog is an incurable sniffer (you know what I mean), keep him away from other dogs. If you take your dog to an area where lots of dogs have been, keep him away from stray piles of stool or find another area to go. You never know what the other dog may have! Always be a good citizen and scoop up after your own dog.

Worms can be treated and managed, but it takes diligence. Leaving your dog untreated is unhealthy for the dog and potentially for you. Once your dog is treated, however, you should notice significant improvement in his or her appearance, appetite and attitude.

CG SP 96. This article was written  before the invention of high-tech flea prevention products. An old-fashioned remedy for fleas and ticks is Adam’s Flea and Tick Spray. It’s still around and is very good — as is the “bones” of this article. As of September 2010, it’s still the favorite flea and tick product of Dr James Radcliffe, the renowned greyhound-general veterinarian from Wheeling, West Virginia.

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