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Worms in Dog Poop

husky getting exam at a vet office

You probably want to give your dog some privacy when they do their business, but being observant can actually help you identify certain health issues. If your dog has contracted worms, spotting the worms in dog poop allows you to get your pet prompt medical care to quickly remove the parasites. 

If you see small, white worms in dog poop, schedule a trip to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Once your dog’s prescribed treatment is complete, you can begin a preventive care regimen. Treatment for worms is a part of any comprehensive Dog Health and Wellness plan—especially for animals who spend a lot of time outdoors. 

Read on to learn more about how to recognize a tapeworm or other parasite in your dog's poop and what to do when you identify it. 

How dogs get worms 

Worms can enter your dog’s body in several ways. Thankfully, most of these transmission methods can be avoided or at least mitigated with treatment. Your pet may get worms from:

  • Eating infected poop Coprophagia can be gross, but some dogs will eat other dogs' stool. If your dog ingests poop that has worm eggs or larva, they will get sick themselves. 
  • Eating wild game Worms and other parasites canquickly make a home in dead animals. If your pet gets their teeth into a prey animal in the wild, they can become infected with worms. 
  • Their mothers If a mama dog is sick with certain worms when she gives birth, the puppies can be born with a worm infection  or acquire it through the milk
  • Fleas Dogs who have fleas may develop tapeworms by eating an infected flea while grooming or itching

Transmission from environmental exposure is also possible, as worm eggs and larva can be found in dirt, water, grass and other areas. Keeping a careful eye on your dog when you're out on a walk can help keep them protected. Flea prevention medication can also help reduce the risk of contracting worms. 

Signs of worms in dogs' poop

It is actually rare to  spot worms in your pet's feces, but they can nevertheless be infected even without seeing any signs. The primary exception to this is seeing segments of tapeworms in dog poop, which can be spotted fairly easily in your pet's poop, often appearing like a long grain of white rice. 

In addition to looking for worms or worm eggs in dog poop, you should keep your eyes open for other symptoms that your dog is suffering from a parasite. These can include diarrhea, blood in their stool, abdominal discomfort and weight loss.

Common types of worms in poop

There are a few common types of parasitic worms that typically infect dogs, and some can be more harmful than others.

If your dog has worms, they are likely infected with one of the following:

  • Roundworms These are some of the most common long worms in dog poop that pet parents are likely to find. Unfortunately, it is very common for mothers to pass these parasites on to their puppies. Other common carriers include rats and birds. If your pet carries a dead bird in their mouth, preventive roundworm treatment might be appropriate. 
  • Tapeworms If you see flat, white worms in dog poop or anything that looks like grains of rice on the poop or around your dog’s rear, they are probably tapeworms. These common parasites are usually acquired by ingesting infected fleas or eating an animal who has fleas. Dogs with tapeworms often scoot their butts along the carpet to get relief. 
  • Hookworms These intestinal parasites can be quite severe. They ingest a lot of blood when they attach to your dog's intestines—sometimes proving fatal. A mother may transmit hookworms through breast milk, but dogs can also acquire these worms by consuming larvae. 
  • Whipworms Dogs can get whipworms from soil, water, stool or eating infected animals. You may not notice many symptoms with this type of infestation, but inflammation and diarrhea are possible. In rare cases, whipworms can cause anemia. 

What do you do if your dog has worms in their poop?

Call your vet right away if you spot flat, white worms in dog poop. Tapeworms can make your pet very sick if left to thrive in your pet's GI tract. Between weight loss and skin issues, dogs with worms will see a deterioration in their overall health. Deworming is a fundamental part of veterinary services, and your dog's vet will know what to do. 

Worm treatments

Dog wormers can be administered orally or via injection. In either case, your veterinarian may request a stool sample so they can examine the worms in the dog poop. All worms don't respond the same to all medication. 

Once your vet determines the appropriate medication, they may administer the first dose in the office. Shots and oral deworming medication are typically given a few weeks apart. Normally, the first dose kills the current worms and the second kills any remaining worms before they can reproduce.

As your dog expels the dead worms, it's normal to spot eliminated white worms in dog poop or vomit. This process is part of the worms leaving your dog's GI tract. While it may be alarming, it's an expected and normal part of effective deworming.

Dog Dewormers

How serious are worms in dog poop?

 If you spot worms in dog poop, you're bound to be concerned. Consult your vet right away—parasites won't resolve naturally or respond to any over-the-counter treatments. Worms could make your dog vomit, lose weight, become anemic and feel generally unwell if left untreated. Roundworms, hookworms and certain tapeworms can also be zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to cause infection in humans.

The good news is that most dogs will respond positively to commonly used dewormers. They may experiencea short period of vomiting and lethargy, but your dog should fully recover and the worms will be dead. 

Can I prevent worms in my dog?

Using preventive measures to protect pets—and humans—from worm infection is a part of responsible pet parenting and should limit signs of worms in dog poop. You can find year-round heartworm medication that also includes preventive deworming and anti-flea medication at a dog pharmacy. Many flea treatments are topical or delivered via a chew treat, making them reasonably easy to administer. It's recommended to start flea and worm treatments when your dog is a puppy.  Your vet will likely recommend multiple rounds of deworming medications along with your puppy’s vaccine regimen to ensure any worm infections are treated. Your pet’s stool should also be checked by your veterinarian at least once or twice a year. With periodic preventive care, you may be able to stave off worm infestations altogether.

Flea & Tick Preventives

Reviewed by Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM

As Petco’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Miller is the lead veterinary subject matter expert, overseeing the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare, growth in pet services and much more. Dr. Miller leads Petco’s medical team, supporting over 200 full-service hospitals and mobile vaccination clinics operating in over 1,000 Petco Pet Care Centers nationwide