Dog Health 101: Identifying Intestinal Worms & Heartworm

If your dog has suddenly lost interest in eating, seems mopey, or doesn’t want to go for a walk or play, it’s difficult to know what’s up. Wouldn’t it be great if our four-legged friends could communicate with us and say, or ?
Unfortunately, their non-verbal communication can keep us guessing, and the best way to find out is by going to the vet and getting answers. Many dog owners are hesitant to go to the vet right away because the cost of an office visit can be overwhelming, particularly when a pup is just having a bad day.
There are certain symptoms like loss of appetite, decreased energy, changes in stool, and a cough, that should always warrant a visit or at least a phone call. If these particular symptoms last more than a few days, they could indicate a serious and potentially life-threatening issue like intestinal worms or heartworm.
Read about the ways to identifying intestinal worms and heartworm and some simple ways to prevent your dog from getting the pesky parasites.

What is an Intestinal Worm?

Intestinal worms, also known as intestinal parasites, are commonly found in puppies but may be found in older dogs as well. Unlike other parasites that invade a dog externally, like ticks or fleas, intestinal worms are harder to detect and may only be detected once the problem has become bigger.
Some of the most common intestinal worms, found in dogs, include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. When puppies have an intestinal parasite, they most likely got it from their mother via nursing or in utero. Older dogs can pick up the larvae of an intestinal worm in a variety of ways from sniffing around in the dirt or coming across and snacking on a carcass.

Identifying an Intestinal Worm

Typically, intestinal parasites cannot be detected by the human eye. In fact, the only time you will see an intestinal parasite is if has become a worm and you notice it exiting your dog’s or it’s present in his or her feces. Doctors can detect an intestinal parasite during the early stages, so it’s important to pay attention to any changes in your dog’s health and always bring a stool sample to the vet when they request one.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Does your dog scoot his or her bottom across the floor or on the grass? Has he or she developed a cough or intestinal issues like loose stools or vomiting? All of these are often telltale signs and symptoms of an intestinal worm, but it’s also important to remember that your dog may not exhibit any of the common signs.
Keeping up with regular checkups, calling your vet whenever your dog seems unwell and giving your dog a parasite preventive are some of the best things you can do, as you can’t keep your dog from being a dog (and sometimes that means doing gross things).

What is Heartworm?

Like intestinal worms, heartworm disease is a result of an internal parasite and rather than taking over and living in the intestinal tract of a dog; worms live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. Heartworm disease can often be life-threatening for dogs because of where the worms reside and multiply, resulting in permanent damage and serious heart and lung conditions.
Although dogs are a natural host for heartworms the initial host is a mosquito. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, the life cycle of a heartworm begins and can live up to five years in a dog. Typically, the longer that heartworms are left undetected and untreated, the more serious the health conditions.

Read more  Everything You Need to Know About Worms in Dog Poop

Identifying Heartworm Disease

Heartworms, like intestinal parasites, can’t be detected just by looking at your dog. The only way that heartworm disease is accurately detected is through a blood test. If heartworms are detected, your vet may order further tests or an ultrasound to get a closer look to see how your dog’s vital organs have been affected.
Heartworm disease has little to no early detections; therefore, it’s important to have your dog tested annually (or when recommended by your vet).

Signs and Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

Has your dog stopped looking forward to his daily walks or has a persistent cough? When your dog exhibits signs and symptoms of heartworm disease, it’s important to get your pup to the vet right away as he or she may have an advanced case of heartworm disease.
Once diagnosed, heartworm disease can be overwhelming and scary. Treatments can be expensive and sometimes ineffective, depending on the existing damage and the overall health of your dog. Since the disease can be so destructive, it’s important, easy, and relatively inexpensive to keep up with preventative measures like monthly pills and yearly testing.

Prevention and Maintaining Health

Parasites are very problematic, but with proper prevention they can be something you only hear about rather than have to experience with your dog. In addition to keeping up with preventative medications, it’s important to maintain your dog’s good health. A healthier dog is less likely to fall ill, and if he or she does have a minor setback, he or she will most likely bounce back more quickly.
Good nutrition, regular exercise, and supplements are all good ways to keep your dog healthy. Wapiti Labs’ Mobility and Strength products contain Elk Velvet Antler and natural herb extracts to help keep your dog’s entire body and maintain good health.
Although intestinal worms and heartworm disease are prevalent in dogs of all ages, you can keep your dog healthier and safer by simply knowing how to identify the parasites and any signs or symptoms that may indicate a health problem that needs a vet’s immediate attention. Keeping a close eye on your dog’s health will not only keep him or her healthier overall, but he or she is more likely to be happier and live a nice long life with you.

— Update: 09-02-2023 — found an additional article Everything You Need to Know About Worms in Dog Poop from the website for the keyword do dogs poop out heartworms.

It’s probably not at the top of the list of things you want to do today, but take a good look at your dog’s fecal matter the next time they do their “business.” If you see worms in dog poop, see your vet immediately. This likely means your pooch is suffering from an infestation.

Now, there are many types of worms, such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and dangerous heartworms. Knowing what type of worm your dog may have – and knowing what to do about it – can go a long way toward protecting your dog’s health. You can also learn about dog poop color and what it means.

How Might Dogs Get Worms In The First Place?

Dogs can become infected with worms in many different ways. They can get them from fleas, from sniffing other dogs’ feces, and even from their mother while they’re still in the womb. The method of infestation will depend on the types of worms they have.

Here are some examples:

Roundworms – Dogs typically get roundworms from sniffing or even licking infected feces. However, they can also get them before they leave their mother’s womb.

Hookworms – A hookworm infection occurs in much the same way as roundworms. Dogs either eat the larvae, or they get them from drinking their mother’s milk.

Tapeworms – A tapeworm infestation takes place after a dog eats fleas that have ingested tapeworm eggs. The tapeworm larvae then grow in the dog’s intestines.

Heartworms – Mosquitos are the main source of heartworms. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, that leads to the development of this dangerous type of parasite.1

Worms In Fecal Matter

If you see any signs of worms in dog feces, take your pet to the vet for a thorough examination. The vet will determine the best course of action depending on the kinds of worms your dog may have, including treatment with wormer medication.

Read more  Transition Time: When to Switch Puppies to Adult Dog Food

Now, there are several types of worms, and each has distinguishing characteristics. For example, roundworms, which are quite common in dogs, usually have a white or cream color. They also look a little bit like strands of spaghetti.2 Tapeworms are similar in appearance to tiny grains of rice.3

Other Possible Signs Of Worms

As it turns out, there are several other ways pet owners can tell if their companions may have an issue with canine worms. If you notice any of the following, take your dog to the vet. In some instances, worms can lead to a serious disease.

  • Stunted Growth

Worm infections can happen at any age. If you have a puppy that doesn’t seem to be growing normally, that could be an indication of a worm problem. The reason it’s happening is that the worms are taking nutrients the puppy needs.4

  • Lethargy

Do dogs poop out heartwormsLethargy, whether it affects adult dogs or young puppies, is obviously never a good sign. In some instances, worm infections are to blame. If your pet suddenly loses interest in eating, taking walks, or playing, get them to the vet and see if your dog has worms.5

  • Scooting

This is one of the more common tip-offs when it comes to parasites in dogs. A dog who scoots their bottom along the ground may have a tapeworm infection. The reason the scooting happens is that the tapeworm problem causes severe itching.6

  • Intestinal Problems

Worm infections can often cause intestinal issues. Pet owners may notice problems such as diarrhea or vomiting. Worm infections can also lead to a lack of eating and sudden weight loss.7

Potbelly in young puppies – If a puppy has a larger belly than normal, or has a dull coat, that could be a sign of a canine worm infection.8

  • Trouble Breathing

One of the more troubling symptoms of worms is difficulty breathing. There can be many reasons for this, of course, but it could be due to a roundworm infestation. The cause is typically an accumulation of roundworm larvae in the dog’s chest and lungs.9

  • Blood in Dog Feces

Blood in the stool could mean a hookworm infection due to an abundance of hookworm larvae in the intestinal tract.10 In some instances, however, it could also mean whipworms.11

Roundworms, Tapeworm, Hookworms — How To Recognize Types Of Worms Infestation

When you think of parasites in dogs, fleas probably come to mind first. Fleas are definitely a nuisance, and they can also lead to disease. But worms can be even worse than fleas because they can lead to severe – and potentially even fatal – problems.

When it comes to worms that can affect your canine companion, these are a few of the more common types.


Roundworms are among the most common kinds of worms that cause canine problems. They tend to affect puppies more than adult dogs. A puppy can get roundworms through their mother’s milk. Sometimes, though, a puppy will have roundworms before they are even born.12

Do dogs poop out heartwormsRoundworms cause a disease known as toxocariasis. It’s caused by a type of roundworm known as Toxocara canis. This roundworm infection in dogs can be passed to cats or even humans.

Now, there are several things you can do to help protect your health if your dog has roundworms.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after petting your dog.
  • Dispose of dog feces as soon as possible.
  • Keep the area around pet beds clean.

Taking these steps could help keep your pet from being exposed to worm eggs.13


The tapeworm will usually get into a dog’s system through either fleas or lice. A tapeworm infestation can often lead to weight loss. The reason is that dog tapeworms grow in the large intestine, robbing nutrients that your pet needs in order to remain at a normal weight.14


Whipworms usually live in a dog’s intestines, causing inflammation and other intestinal problems. However, whipworms can be hard to diagnose because they don’t lay as many eggs as other kinds of worms. Your veterinarian may ask you to bring in a fecal sample in order to diagnose the issue.15


This type of worm is more prevalent in young puppies. Like roundworms, hookworm larvae can get into a puppy’s system before birth. A hookworm infection will typically occur during the first four weeks of a pup’s life.

Read more  Everything You Need To Know About Ticks On Dog Ears

Hookworms are extremely dangerous because they feed on blood. This can lead to a potentially fatal case of anemia.16

The hookworm can also cause disease in humans known as larva migrans. This occurs when hookworm eggs from dog or cat feces burrow into the skin, leading to a skin rash that is usually red or brown in color and itches a great deal.17

If you see signs your dog may have a worm infestation, get to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will perform an examination and determine the right course of treatment and medication.

Heartworm Disease

As troublesome as roundworms, hookworms, and other types of worms can be, the most dangerous kind of parasite in dogs is the heartworm. Heartworm disease can be deadly, affecting not only the heart but the liver and kidneys as well.18

The good news, however, is that heartworms can be prevented. Take your dog to the vet each year to get checked for heartworms, and make sure they are on a heartworm preventative medication.

Heartworm Disease

Most people associate heartworm disease with dogs, but they can also affect other animals, including coyotes, foxes, ferrets, and cats. If there are coyotes in your neighborhood, dogs in the area may be at a higher risk of developing heartworms.19

Do dogs poop out heartwormsA heartworm infestation is one of the worst kinds of worm infections. It can cause severe damage to a dog’s heart, arteries, and lungs. These worms can grow as big as a foot in length, and there could be hundreds of them in a dog’s heart.

When an infected mosquito bites a dog, it deposits heartworm larvae into the skin. It typically takes about two weeks for those larvae to form. Heartworms take about six months to fully develop, and they can live for an average of 5-7 years.20

Possible Heartworm Disease Symptoms

In order for heartworm treatment to succeed, it will be critically important for dog owners to be able to spot the signs of a problem. While it can be difficult to see any symptoms in the early stages, there are some indications that will present themselves.

If the dog has a mild cough that happens regularly, that’s a potential indication of an issue.

Dog owners might notice their pet doesn’t want to play as often.

Your pet might not be eating as often, or as much as normal.

Now, there are certain instances where a dog will start showing heartworm symptoms seemingly out of nowhere. If, for example, your dog starts to breathe heavily, or has coffee-colored urine, that is an emergency situation usually associated with a heartworm infestation. Immediate treatment is needed.21

Dealing With A Heartworm Diagnosis

A heartworm diagnosis is one of the worst pieces of news pet owners can receive. At the same time, however, it doesn’t automatically mean a death sentence. Treatment for this problem can be successful.

During heartworm treatment, your vet may recommend that your dog stay as quiet as possible. This could be challenging if you have a normally active pet, but it’s extremely important. When a dog with heartworms exercises, that can speed the damage done to the heart and lungs.22

Tips For Avoiding Worm Infestations

If you’re dealing with a worm infection in your dog, whether it’s heartworms, roundworms, a tapeworm infection, or anything else, have your dog examined by your vet right away.  There are many types of vaccinations that can help protect your pet from ever having to deal with the symptoms of worms.

Another thing you can do to protect your dog’s health is to make sure their immune system is as strong as possible. Giving your pet quality foods can help strengthen your dog’s immune system and reduce the chances of developing a disease caused by worms.23

Learn More:
Finding Mucus in Dog Poop – Should You Be Concerned?
Stomach Aches in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies
Dog Vomit Cheat Sheet: Different Colors & What They Mean



Recommended For You

About the Author: Tung Chi