Parasites in Puppies & Adults


The most common internal parasites for puppies are roundworms, hookworms, coccidia, and tapeworms.

Roundworms look like spagetti and can cause a puppy to have a “pot belly.” Most puppies have roundworms at some point. Roundworm eggs can be passed from mothers to babies through nursing. The life cycle of roundworms is two weeks. Roundworm eggs are larger than other parasite eggs, and are quite distinctive. Because of this, they are easy to detect in a “floatation” fecal check.

Hookworms are much smaller than roundworms, and are not usually seen, but they’re more dangerous than roundworms. The hookworm attaches to the intestinal lining and can cause internal bleeding as it moves from place to place. They can also migrate into the lungs. A puppy infested with hookworms will appear thin, and have a dry, unhealthy looking coat. Puppies can be born with hookworms, and can die within 10 days if they and their mother are not properly treated.

Coccidia is not a worm. It is a microscopic internal parasite (protozoan) common in warm, humid climates. Most southern breeders have a problem with it because of the heat, humidity, and mild winters – nothing dies. Coccidia can be stress-related. A puppy may have a negative fecal check result from a vet, appear perfectly fine, but show evidence of coccidia as soon as he goes to a new home. Albon, the prescription medication for coccidia, doesn’t actually kill it. It washes the puppy’s digestive tract, taking the coccidia with it. From what I’ve read, it’s the puppy’s own immune system that eventually will kill any remaining coccidia. A young puppy’s immune system is not fully developed, so it takes time for the puppy and it’s immune system to mature. My vet says most adult dogs have coccidia, but they also have the antibodies to fight and control it. A puppy with coccidia that is not well cared for and not treated with Albon will eventually develop watery diarrhea and can dehydrate. This is when coccidia can become a serious condition – the coccidia replicates unchecked, and the puppy can become very ill.

Tapeworms Puppies get tapeworms from fleas. A young flea will eat tape worm eggs, and puppies get tape worms if they swallow a flea. The tapeworm is segmented and flat, so what you will see are small, flat, cream colored pieces less than a half inch long. The most common place to see them is around a dog or cat’s behind. These moving pieces contain tapeworm eggs. When they’re dry, they look similar to uncooked rice. Tapeworms can cause a loose stool.
Puppies can also get giardia. This parasite is less common, and more difficult to diagnose. It would probably not be detected by a vet using the normal “floatation” method of fecal screening. It causes periodic diarrhea and loss of appetite; a puppy with severe giardia is likely to be thin. There is a vaccine for giardia manufactured by Fort Dodge.

The prescription medications (from your vet)
• Round worms: Strongid T (pyrantel pamoate) – yellow liquid given once, and then 2 weeks later. In a stubborn case, treat 3-5 days in a row, and then repeat the same in 2 weeks. If you have a litter of puppies, the first worming should be at 2 weeks of age, repeated every two weeks until 8 weeks of age. The mother should be treated at the same time.
or Panacur (10% Fenbendazole) – white liquid that tastes terrible. Dose 1cc per 5 pounds for 3 consecutive days, and repeat process in 2 weeks. The benefit of Panacur is that it usually works in a situation where Strongid T has been ineffectual. It also comes in granular form, to be mixed with food.

• Hook worms: Strongid T (pyrantel pamoate) – yellow liquid given once, and then 3 weeks later. In a severe case, treat 3 days in a row, and then repeat in 3 weeks. Drontel is another medication prescribed for hookworms. It comes in pill form, and is also used to treat tapeworms.
or Panacur (10% Fenbendazole) – same directions as above, except repeat treatment in 3 weeks, rather than 2 weeks.

• Tape worms: Droncit, Drontel, or Centex - serrated tablet given once, repeat if tapeworms reappear.

• Coccidia: Albon – darker yellow liquid given for 10-21 days. Double dose the first day of treatment. Also comes in pill form.

• Giardia: Metronidazole - most common in pill form but can be gotten in liquid form by special order. Give once daily by weight for 10 days, twice daily (divided dose) in severe cases. Panacur has actually been found to be more effective in treating giardia.

Even a healthy appearing puppy can have some form of parasite. When you get a new puppy, it’s always a good idea to have a fecal exam done by your vet, even if the puppy just had one by the my vet. When they puppies are shown and sold they have had a clear check from the vet, but as I mentioned, going to a new home can be stressful. That’s when parasites are more evident, and easier for a vet to detect.