How Often to Deworm a Puppy? Your Guide to Puppy Deworming

by | Health, Puppies

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Deworming is an essential part of raising a healthy and happy puppy. Worms can significantly impact a puppy’s overall health and well-being, potentially causing serious problems if left untreated. Puppies are especially vulnerable to worms due to their developing immune systems, so deworming them regularly during their first few months is essential. Doing so can help your puppy grow¬†strong, healthy, and free of harmful parasites. Read the below guide to learn how often to deworm a puppy and how best to go about it.

Close up view of a roundworm from a dog

Different Types of Worms in Puppies

Several types of worms can affect puppies, each with its own set of symptoms and potential complications. The most common worms in puppies include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Each type of worm requires a different approach to treatment, making it crucial for pet owners (learn about pet insurance) to be aware of the various parasites that can impact their new furry family member. The following sections will discuss these worms and the appropriate deworming methods to keep your puppy healthy and thriving.

Identifying Worms in Puppies

Roundworms

Roundworms are the most common type of worm found in puppies. They are long, spaghetti-like worms that can grow up to several inches long. Puppies can become infected with roundworms through their mother’s milk, ingesting contaminated soil, or consuming infected rodents. Signs of roundworm infection in puppies include a pot-bellied appearance, vomiting, diarrhea, and a dull coat.

Hookworms

Hookworms are small, thin worms that attach to the lining of a puppy’s intestines and feed on blood. Puppies can become infected with hookworms through their mother’s milk, ingesting contaminated soil, or through skin penetration. Symptoms of hookworm infection include anemia, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss. Severe hookworm infections can be life-threatening, particularly for young puppies.

Whipworms

Whipworms are uncommon in puppies but can still cause problems if left untreated. These worms are shaped like whips, with a thick anterior end and a long, thin posterior end. Puppies can become infected with whipworms by ingesting contaminated soil or feces. Symptoms of whipworm infection may include diarrhea, weight loss, and dehydration. In severe cases, whipworms can cause bloody diarrhea and inflammation of the large intestine.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are flat, segmented worms that can grow up to several feet long. Puppies can become infected with tapeworms by ingesting infected fleas or consuming infected rodents. Tapeworms do not usually cause severe symptoms but can lead to weight loss, diarrhea, and irritation around the anus. You may also see tapeworm segments resembling small, flat, rice-like particles in your puppy’s feces or around its rear end.

Heartworms

Heartworms are not intestinal worms like the others mentioned, but they are serious parasites that can affect puppies. Heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites, primarily affecting the heart and lungs. Symptoms of heartworm infection may not be apparent until the disease has progressed, but they can include coughing, fatigue, and weight loss. Preventing heartworm infection through heartworm preventatives is crucial, as treating an existing infection can be expensive and risky.

Symptoms of Worm Infestation in Puppies

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Many worm infestations in puppies can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. These may include:

  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • A pot-bellied appearance
  • Worms or worm segments visible in the feces or around the anus

Respiratory Symptoms

Some worms, particularly heartworms, can cause respiratory symptoms in puppies. These may include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Exercise intolerance

General Symptoms

In addition to the gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms, puppies with worm infestations may also exhibit some general symptoms, such as:

  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Dull or rough coat
  • Anemia (pale gums)
  • Stunted growth
  • Skin irritation or itching (especially around the anus)

When to Consult a Veterinarian

If you suspect your puppy may have a worm infestation, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Other health issues can cause many of the symptoms listed above, so a proper diagnosis is essential. Your veterinarian will likely perform a fecal examination to determine the type of worms present and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Even if your puppy does not exhibit any symptoms, it’s still a good idea to have them checked for worms regularly during their first few months. Most veterinarians recommend routine deworming treatments for puppies, beginning at around 2-3 weeks and continuing every 2-4 weeks until the puppy reaches 12 weeks old. After that, deworming should be done at least every three months or as your veterinarian recommends.

French white poodle and veterinarian at the clinic for a poodle health issues checkup

The Deworming Process

Types of Deworming Medications

Several types of deworming medications are available to treat worm infestations in puppies. These medications, known as anthelmintics, are generally classified into three main categories:

  • Broad-spectrum dewormers: These medications are effective against multiple types of worms, including roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Common broad-spectrum dewormers include fenbendazole (e.g., Panacur), pyrantel pamoate (e.g., Strongid), and milbemycin oxime (e.g., Interceptor). Available on Chewy
  • Tapeworm-specific dewormers: These medications are designed to treat tapeworm infections and are ineffective against other worms. Common tapeworm-specific dewormers include praziquantel (e.g., Droncit) and epsiprantel (e.g., Cestex). Available at Chewy
  • Heartworm preventatives: While not technically dewormers, heartworm preventatives are essential for protecting puppies from heartworm infections. These medications are typically administered monthly and are available in various forms, such as oral tablets, topical solutions, and injectable products. Common heartworm preventatives include ivermectin (e.g., Heartgard), selamectin (e.g., Revolution), and moxidectin (e.g., ProHeart). Available at Chewy

It’s important to consult your veterinarian for recommendations on the most suitable deworming medication for your puppy based on their age, weight, and the specific types of worms they may be exposed to.

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How Deworming Medications Work

Deworming medications target the parasites’ nervous system, digestive system, or other essential functions, ultimately leading to their death. The dead worms are typically expelled from the puppy’s body through feces.

Following your veterinarian’s instructions regarding the appropriate dosage and frequency of deworming medications is important. Underdosing or not administering the medication frequently can result in incomplete treatment and continued worm infestation. In some cases, multiple treatments may be necessary to eliminate all the worms, particularly if the puppy is exposed to a high-risk environment or if the worms are in different stages of their life cycle. Regular fecal examinations by your veterinarian can help ensure your puppy remains worm-free after treatment.

How Often to Deworm a Puppy

Age-based Deworming Schedule

  • Newborn puppies: It’s generally recommended to begin deworming puppies at 2-3 weeks of age. They can become infected with worms through their mother’s milk or from the environment shortly after birth.
  • 2-4 months old: Puppies in this age range should be dewormed every 2-4 weeks. This is when puppies are most susceptible to worm infections due to their developing immune systems.
  • 4-6 months old: During this stage, puppies should be dewormed every three months. As their immune systems continue to develop, they become less susceptible to worm infections, but it’s still important to maintain a regular deworming schedule.
  • 6-12 months old: Puppies should continue to be dewormed every three months until they reach one year of age. After that, the deworming schedule can transition to an adult dog schedule, typically every 3-6 months, depending on the factors listed below.

Factors Influencing the Deworming Frequency

Geographical location: The prevalence of certain worms can vary depending on the region you live in. More frequent deworming may be necessary for areas with a high prevalence of worms.

  • Lifestyle and environment: Dogs that spend much time outdoors, particularly in areas with other dogs or wildlife, are at a higher risk of worm exposure. Dogs frequently visiting dog parks, doggy daycare, or boarding facilities may also require more frequent deworming.
  • Prevalence of worms in the area: If there is a known worm problem, it’s vital to be proactive and deworm your puppy more frequently to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Breed susceptibility: Some dog breeds may be more susceptible to certain worm infections. For example, certain breeds with deep chest cavities, like Greyhounds and Great Danes, may be more prone to lungworm infections. In such cases, more frequent deworming may be necessary to ensure the puppy’s health.

It’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate deworming schedule for your puppy based on its specific needs and risk factors. Regular check-ups and fecal examinations can help ensure your puppy remains healthy and worm-free.

Preventing Worm Infestations

Regular Checkups and Fecal Tests

One of the best ways to prevent worm infestations in your puppy is to schedule regular veterinary checkups and fecal tests. These examinations can help detect the presence of worms early, allowing for prompt treatment and minimizing the risk of complications. It’s generally recommended to have your puppy’s feces tested at least twice during their first year of life and then once or twice a year after that.

Maintaining a Clean Environment

Keeping your puppy’s living environment clean is essential for preventing worm infestations. Regularly clean and sanitize your puppy’s bedding, toys, and feeding areas to minimize the risk of contamination. If your puppy spends time outdoors, ensure that the yard is well-maintained and free of debris or standing water, which can attract pests and contribute to spreading parasites.

Proper Disposal of Feces

Prompt and proper disposal of your puppy’s feces can help prevent the spread of worms in the environment. Always pick up after your puppy when you’re out on walks, and regularly clean up waste in your yard to minimize the risk of infection. A dedicated poop bag or scooper can help make the task more sanitary and efficient.

Preventative Medications

In addition to regular deworming treatments, other preventative medications are available to help protect your puppy from worm infestations. For example, heartworm preventatives (available at Chewy) can help protect your puppy from potentially life-threatening heartworm infections. In contrast, flea and tick preventatives (available at Chewy) can help prevent the spread of tapeworms and other parasites. Consult your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate preventative medications for your puppy based on its specific needs and risk factors.

Following these preventative measures and working closely with your veterinarian can help ensure your puppy remains healthy, happy, and worm-free.

Lemon and other herbs to be used for natural remedies for dog deworming

Natural Deworming Remedies

Pros and Cons of Natural Remedies

Natural deworming remedies are often seen as a more holistic approach to treating worm infestations in puppies. Some pet owners prefer these methods as they can be less harsh on a puppy’s system and may have fewer side effects than conventional medications. However, it’s important to note that the efficacy of natural remedies can vary, and not all natural deworming agents have been scientifically proven to be effective. In some cases, relying solely on natural remedies could result in incomplete treatment, leading to ongoing worm infestations and potential health complications.

Common Natural Deworming Agents

Some natural deworming agents that pet owners have used include:

  • Diatomaceous earth: This natural powder is made from the crushed shells of diatoms, microscopic algae with sharp, abrasive edges. Diatomaceous earth is thought to work by damaging the outer layer of worms, causing them to dehydrate and die. However, its effectiveness in treating worm infestations in puppies remains unclear.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Rich in a compound called cucurbitacin, pumpkin seeds are believed to help paralyze and expel worms from the digestive tract. While pumpkin seeds are generally safe for puppies, their effectiveness as a deworming agent is still debated.
  • Wormwood: Wormwood is an herb used for centuries to treat various parasitic infections, including worms. However, wormwood can be toxic in large doses, and its safety and efficacy in puppies have not been well-established.
  • Garlic: Some pet owners believe adding small amounts of garlic to a puppy’s diet can help repel worms and support overall immune function. However, garlic can be toxic to dogs in large quantities, and scientific evidence does not support its effectiveness as a deworming agent.

When to Choose Natural Remedies

If you’re considering using natural deworming remedies for your puppy, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian first. While some natural agents may be safe and potentially beneficial, others could be ineffective or harmful to your puppy. Your veterinarian can help you determine the most appropriate action based on your puppy’s needs and risk factors. They may recommend using natural remedies with conventional deworming medications for the best possible outcome.

Deworming Pregnant and Nursing Dogs

Why It’s Important

Deworming pregnant and nursing dogs is crucial for the mother’s and puppies’ health. Worm infestations can negatively impact the mother’s health, making it difficult to care for her puppies properly. Additionally, some types of worms, such as roundworms and hookworms, can be transmitted from the mother to her puppies through the placenta or her milk. By deworming the mother, you can help prevent the transmission of worms to her puppies, reducing their risk of infection and promoting their overall health.

Deworming Schedule for Pregnant and Nursing Dogs

The deworming schedule for pregnant and nursing dogs may vary based on the mother’s specific needs and your veterinarian’s recommendations. However, a general guideline is as follows:

  • Before pregnancy: Ideally, all adult dogs should be on a regular deworming schedule, typically every 3-6 months, depending on their risk factors. If you plan to breed your dog, ensure she is up-to-date on her deworming treatments before becoming pregnant.
  • During pregnancy: Consult your veterinarian about the appropriate deworming schedule for your pregnant dog. Some veterinarians may recommend continuing the regular deworming schedule throughout pregnancy. In contrast, others may suggest administering a deworming treatment around the 40th day of pregnancy to help minimize the risk of transmitting worms to the puppies.
  • After whelping: It’s essential to deworm the mother shortly after giving birth, as this is when the risk of transmitting worms to her puppies is highest. Your veterinarian may recommend administering a deworming treatment within a few days of whelping, followed by additional treatments every 2-4 weeks while the mother is nursing.

By following a proper deworming schedule for pregnant and nursing dogs, you can help ensure the health and well-being of both the mother and her puppies. Always consult your veterinarian for the most appropriate deworming schedule based on your dog’s and her puppies’ specific needs.

Deworming Adult Dogs

Deworming Frequency for Adult Dogs

The deworming frequency for adult dogs can vary depending on their lifestyle, environment, and the prevalence of worms in the area. Generally, it is recommended to deworm adult dogs every 3-6 months. However, dogs that spend much time outdoors, participate in activities like hunting or tracking, or are exposed to environments with a high risk of worm infestation, such as dog parks or boarding facilities, may require more frequent deworming.

It’s important to consult your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate deworming schedule for your adult dog based on their specific needs and risk factors.

Risks and Side Effects of Deworming

Potential Side Effects of Deworming Medications

Although deworming medications are generally safe and effective, there is always a possibility that your dog may experience side effects. These side effects can vary depending on the type of medication used and the individual dog’s sensitivity. Some potential side effects of deworming medications include:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite are among the most common side effects of deworming medications. These symptoms are generally mild and temporary, resolving within a day or two of administering the medication.
  • Lethargy: Some dogs may become more tired or less active after receiving a deworming treatment. This side effect is usually short-lived and resolves within a day or two.
  • Allergic reactions: In rare cases, dogs may be allergic to a deworming medication. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include hives, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, or sudden collapse. If you suspect your dog is allergic to a deworming medication, immediately contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic.
  • Drug interactions: Deworming medications can sometimes interact with other medications your dog is taking, leading to side effects or reduced effectiveness. Always inform your veterinarian of any medications, supplements, or over-the-counter products your dog uses before administering a deworming treatment.

How to Minimize Risks and Side Effects

To minimize the risks and side effects associated with deworming treatments, consider the following:

  1. Consult with your veterinarian: Always consult with your veterinarian before administering a deworming treatment to your dog. Your veterinarian can help you determine the most appropriate medication and dosage based on your dog’s needs, age, weight, and overall health.
  2. Follow the recommended dosage: It’s crucial to administer the correct dosage of deworming medication based on your dog’s weight and the manufacturer’s instructions. Overdosing can increase the risk of side effects, while underdosing may result in incomplete treatment.
  3. Observe your dog closely: After administering a deworming medication, watch your dog closely for any signs of side effects or adverse reactions. If you notice any concerning symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  4. Maintain a regular deworming schedule: Following a regular deworming schedule based on your veterinarian’s recommendations can help prevent worm infestations and reduce the need for more aggressive treatments.

By following these guidelines and working closely with your veterinarian, you can help minimize the risks and side effects of deworming treatments, ensuring your dog remains healthy and worm-free.

pretty veterinary nurse holding dog in animal hospital for owner with dog accident insurance

Final Thoughts on How Often to Deworm a Puppy

Deworming is an essential aspect of maintaining your puppy’s health and well-being. By understanding the different types of worms, their symptoms, and appropriate deworming schedules, you can help prevent worm infestations and ensure your dog remains healthy throughout their life. Always consult your veterinarian for the most appropriate deworming treatments and schedules based on your dog’s specific needs and risk factors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can humans get worms from puppies?

Yes, humans can contract certain types of worms from puppies, such as roundworms and hookworms. To minimize the risk of transmission, practice good hygiene, such as washing your hands after handling your puppy, and maintain a regular deworming schedule for your dog.

Can worms be fatal to puppies?

In some cases, severe worm infestations can be fatal to puppies. Heavy infestations can cause anemia, intestinal blockages, or damage to vital organs. Prompt detection and treatment are crucial for preventing severe complications and ensuring the health of your puppy.

Are over-the-counter deworming medications safe?

While some over-the-counter deworming medications may be effective, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian before administering them to your puppy. Your veterinarian can help you determine the most appropriate treatment and dosage based on your dog’s needs, age, and weight.

How can I tell if my puppy needs deworming?

Common signs of worm infestations in puppies include diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, a pot-bellied appearance, and general lethargy. However, not all puppies with worms will show symptoms. Regular check-ups and fecal examinations with your veterinarian can help ensure your puppy remains worm-free.

Can I deworm my puppy at home?

While some deworming medications can be administered at home, it’s important to consult your veterinarian first. Your veterinarian can help you determine the most appropriate treatment, dosage, and deworming schedule based on your puppy’s specific needs and risk factors. Additionally, some worm infestations may require prescription medications or professional intervention.