When and how often should I worm my dog?
When and how often to worm a pet dog is a question many owners ask. Veterinary surgeon Iain Booth, from Vet UK, gives us the lowdown
This is a deceptive question: the simple answer is every three months as a routine treatment for adult dogs whereas puppies should be treated from two weeks old, every two weeks until they are 12 weeks old, after which they can be treated as an adult dog.
Your dog should be treated regardless of whether there are any symptoms as they can pick up worms through their environment at any time.
Roundworms and hookworms are picked up directly from the ground when your dog is snuffling about; similarly whipworms are picked up by your dog ingesting eggs that have been shed by other dogs.
Tapeworms are quite different, the most common way your dog can pick one up is by eating a flea whilst grooming (the flea can contain the immature worm) or by eating a mouse that has eaten a tapeworm egg. It is therefore important to treat your dog for fleas at the same time as you worm.
Worms eggs are expelled in the faeces and can cause irritation around the bottom, which can lead to unpleasant behaviours such as your dog scooting its bottom along on the floor. A heavy worm burden can cause your dog vomiting or having diarrhoea looking under nourished or becoming thin with a dull coat and lacking energy.
In the UK the most common roundworm is Toxacara canis. This roundworm can affect humans, most often children as they play in an infected area; the roundworm larva migrates through the body and can cause blindness. Whipworms and hookworms are much less common in the UK than tapeworm and roundworm.
Worming the dog
You don't have to go to your vet to have your dog wormed. Good quality wormers can be bought from many places including on the web, which is often much cheaper. But then I would say that!
However, reputable web sites should also offer information about using the product and most often have a link to the data sheet for the product to help you decide which product is best for your situation.
The data sheet is factual information about the product, which states exactly which worms the products is effective against and how long it acts for, it also shares dosing information so that you can work out how much you need to buy.
It will also give you information such as whether it is suitable for pregnant animals. Reputable web sites will also have a vet and SQPs on site who can answer any queries you may have. You may also find some local chemists and pet shops who have SQPs on site and are licensed to sell pharmaceutical quality wormers.
Drontal is one of the best known wormers in the UK and will effectively control roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm, however there are now a number of alternatives which are considerably cheaper and every bit as effective.
Plerion wormer is a combination of Pyrantel, Praziquantel and Oxtetel which gives effective treatment for Hookworms, Whipworms, Tapeworms and Ascarids (roundworms) in a single dose. Cestem Flavoured Tablet contains febantel, pyrantel and praziquantel with liver flavouring and also controls roundworms (Ascarids), hookworms, whipworms and Tapeworms.
Prevention is better than cure
Worms are impossible to prevent. However, by treating your dog regularly you will reduce the number of worm eggs or infective segments in the environment and prevent your pet from becoming seriously ill. You will also reduce the risk of roundworm infection in people. It doesn't have to be an arduous task that takes up time.
Iain Booth is a veterinary surgeon and founder of Vet UK, a leading online retailer of veterinary medicines and pet supplies