Roundworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

What exactly are roundworms?

  • Roundworms are incredibly common parasites. Almost all dogs have roundworms at any time in their lives–most frequently in puppyhood.
  • Toxocara canis causes more severe disease and may be transmitted to humans.

Adult roundworms reside in the dog’s intestinal tract, where they feed on partly digested food. The worms can lead to malnourishment, which is particularly of concern in a little puppy. Younger dogs are especially vulnerable to roundworms because their immune systems are not completely mature yet and they are not able to fight off the adult worms as efficiently as an adult dog may.

How puppies get roundworms

  • In their own mother. It is very common for puppies to be born with roundworms, as the larvae are often transmitted from the mother just before birth or through nursing.

Here is how this happens: The canine roundworm has unfortunately evolved an extremely effective method to propagate itself. If a puppy has ever had roundworms, a number of twisted (“encysted”) creatures can stay in body tissues, even if the puppy was treated as well as the mature rats eradicated.

These encysted roundworm larvae can remain dormant for the remainder of the puppy’s own life–unless the dog is a female and becomes pregnant, at which time the larvae reactivate and are then passed to her dogs. So in spite of an extremely healthful, well-cared-for mother dog and puppies, the puppies should routinely be treated for roundworms (see below), starting at a really young age. Owners of pregnant dogs ought to ask their veterinarian about safe deworming treatment of the dam during pregnancy that could reduce transmission to the dogs.

Larvae that have been reactivated during the female’s pregnancy may also remain within her own body and make her sick.

Encysted roundworms may also progress to the mature form and lead to sickness in male and female adult dogs that have certain underlying health conditions.

While playing outside, dogs and dogs can pick up roundworm eggs that got into the soil from the stools of infected puppies.

  • From the surroundings. Dogs and dogs can become infected with roundworms by inadvertently ingesting eggs from the environment–the eggs could be found in soil or on plants or other objects.
  • From eating contaminated animals. Roundworm eggs may also be carried by small animals like rodents, earthworms, birds, and a few insects. These animals aren’t exactly the roundworm’s regular host, therefore in these species the egg never matures–but if a dog eats an infected animal, the egg could activate and develop into a roundworm once inside the puppy.​​

Symptoms of roundworms

Though it’s possible for a puppy to get roundworms and not show any symptoms, there are certain indications that can accompany a case of roundworms.

  • Malnourishment. Roundworms reside in the intestines, depriving the pup or dog of nutrients from his food–hence symptoms of a thick roundworm disease can include indications of malnutrition like fatigue, weight reduction, and stunted growth.
  • Potbellied look. When an instance of roundworms is untreated, the parasites may multiply quickly in the intestines and develop to the point where the presence of numerous adult worms provides the pup a potbellied appearance.
  • Coughing. Roundworm larvae can migrate into the lungs and cause coughing and other respiratory symptoms, sometimes even serious conditions like pneumonia.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea. Roundworms can cause gastrointestinal upsets such as nausea and nausea. Diarrhea can vary from mild to severe.
  • Worms vomited up or observable in stools.

When a dog has roundworms, the owner might see one or more of those worms in your dog’s vomit or feces. If this occurs, call your vet as soon as possible, describe what you watched, and also make an appointment to bring your dog or puppy in for treatment very soon.

(If you see small, rice-size worms in your dog’s feces, rather than roundworms these may be a frequent parasite known as tapeworms that are carried by fleas.


  • Your vet is able to look at a fecal sample from your puppy or dog on a prepared slide under a microscope and check for the presence of roundworm eggs. A fecal exam like this will generally be part of a puppy’s first veterinarian visit.
  • If a roundworm infestation is mild, the fecal sample may not incorporate any eggs. Since roundworms are incredibly common in dogs, experts recommend the presence of roundworms be presumed in young puppies and to treat routinely every few weeks.

Can individuals get roundworms from dogs?

The roundworms that affect dogs do not complete their full life cycle in people. But, they can still make humans very ill. Substantial health problems can result if a individual accidentally ingests the eggs of canine roundworms, such if a child gets dirt in her mouth. In humans the eggs can turn into larvae which become encysted in a variety of organs of the body, which can sometimes cause significant illness.

Because of the probability of transmission to people, it is advised that dogs get treatment and preventative for roundworm and dog stools in yards, parks, playgrounds, and other outdoor areas have been picked up and eliminated right away. It’s ideal to keep kids from playing ground known to be polluted with dog feces, and also to be sure that children’s hands are washed frequently if they are playing outside where dogs might have been.

Roundworm prevention and treatment

  • Your vet can provide an excellent dewormer that can safely and efficiently eliminate the worms.
  • Your vet can supply a monthly heartworm medication for your dog that will also incorporate ingredients to prevent and control roundworms on a continuous basis.

Make sure you talk with your vet for specialist advice on roundworms and any issues you might have regarding the health and well-being of your puppy or dog.

Note: This guide is intended to help tell you about roundworms in puppies and isn’t supposed to take the place of a veterinary investigation or appointment. If you think that your dog might have roundworms or any parasite, then contact your vet immediately to set up an appointment for an evaluation and to make sure that your pet receives the most secure and best treatment.

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