A roundworm infection is a widespread parasitic disease and is well known, especially in cats and dogs. Other animals which are able to become infected with roundworm are foxes although rodents can act as carriers. Different types of roundworm affect different animals. Cases with very seriously infected puppies may result in fatalities, that is to say death can occur.
Roundworm in Dogs
Roundworms are internal parasites; two types of which dogs can become infected by. These are known as Toxascaris leonina and Toxocara canis. The life cycles of these two types of roundworm differ. The roundworm, upon entering the dog, resides and reproduces in the small intestine of the animal. Thousands of eggs may be produced a day. Roundworms appear to have a smooth surface.
Dogs of all ages may become infected although puppies are more susceptible to the more severe effects of the signs and symptoms presented. Small rodents, such as mice, are able to act as transport hosts. Ingestion of the parasite often leads to transmission of roundworm but T. canis can also be transferred in the uterus from the mother to her unborn puppy.
The signs and symptoms of a roundworm infection include a pot bellied appearance, vomiting and diarrhoea, and coughing. The roundworm parasite can infect humans and this can lead to serious consequences of the liver, lungs and even the brain. T. canis is a zoonotic parasite which means it is transferrable to humans.
Transmission of Roundworm infections
The most common method of transmission appears to be following the ingestion of the roundworm’s eggs and they can remain in the dogs tissues for as long as a few years. These eggs may be found in the environment that is to say in soil or even in contaminated faeces. Small rodents infected with roundworm can also transfer the disease if they are ingested by the dog.
T. canis is also able to be transferred from mothers to puppies via lactation and suckling. The lungs of their unborn puppies through the uterus can also be a form of infection. Outside of the host, roundworms are able to survive in the environment for as long as a couple of weeks.
Signs and Symptoms of a Roundworm Infection in Dogs
The most well known symptom of many intestinal worms is the emergence of what is called a “pot belly”. Vomiting and diarrhoea are presented more often than not, especially in puppies whose immune systems are not as well developed as their older counter parts. Worms may sometimes be present in the vomit and faeces. The affected dogs will lose weight and shows signs of a lack of appetite.
Obstruction within the dog’s intestine is possible and known to be a more severe symptom following an infection of roundworm. A secondary bacterial infection following the disease caused by roundworms, such as pneumonia, can prove to be fatal.
Treatment for Roundworm
Fortunately, there is generally a treatment for dogs infected with the roundworm parasite, even for puppies. Veterinarians provide a vast number of wormers which can destroy roundworms effectively, usually when given in two doses between a short period of time, usually around one month. In multi-dog households or kennels, a specific treatment plan may be required which will generally involve mass worming.
Prevention of Roundworm
To prevent dogs from becoming infected is an important part of general pet health care. Due to the resistant nature of the eggs outside of the host, dogs should not be allowed to ingest faecal matter or mud and this is true to prevent against many diseases. Faeces should be picked up as soon as possible and contaminated surfaces cleaned with bleach solutions.
Worming infected dogs in two doses to destroy both the adult and the larvae roundworms prevents other dogs from being infected, or even the affected dog from re-infection. In addition, young puppies can be de-wormed to reduce any possibility of infection. Regular booster wormers are also required.
Diagnosis of Roundworm
The clinical signs initially provide a positive diagnosis for an internal parasitic infection. Faecal samples are taken and the worms identified using a microscope.
Prognosis of Roundworm
Following treatment, the prognosis for animals infected with roundworm is generally good provided there are no complications. Complications include a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia. This can cause serious effects and even death.