Preventing Worms in Dogs, Young and Old

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Puppies should be wormed first at 2–3 weeks. Talk with your veterinarian. (By: psycho-pics)

Here is a summary of the types of worms and symptoms commonly experienced:

  • Roundworms: pot belly, dull coat, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of weight
  • Hookworms: anemia, diarrhea, bloody stools (especially puppies)
  • Tapeworms: “rice” on anal area or in stools, possible diarrhea/vomiting
  • Whipworms: loss of weight, some diarrhea, difficult to detect
  • Threadworms: profuse watery diarrhea, lung infection symptoms (especially puppies)

Preventing Worms in Dogs

The best way to deal with worms, of course, is to make use of worm prevention techniques.

Most worms have a lifecycle that makes it easy to re-infest dogs because only part of that lifecycle is on the dog. Steps you can take to control worms in general:

  • If you have a kennel, do not use dirt. A watertight surface that can be hosed down is best; gravel also works. Remove stools from pens daily.
  • Keep lawns short and water only when necessary. Remove stools from the yard daily.
  • Control fleas, lice, and rodents — all these pests can be intermediate hosts for tapeworms.
  • Don’t let your dog roam, because they may ingest tainted meat. Thoroughly cook any meat you feed to your dog.


Newborn puppies receive immunization against diseases from colostrum contained in their mother’s milk while nursing (assuming the mother was properly vaccinated shortly before the breeding took place).

Initially, during their first 24 hours of life, maternal antigens (passive immunity) are absorbed through the puppies’ intestines, which are very thin during those first few hours. This is why it is so important that puppies nurse from the mother during that critical time.

After the colostrum ceases (a day or so later), the maternal antigens decline steadily.

During this time, puppies cannot build up their own natural immunity because the passive immunity gets in the way. As the passive immunity gradually declines, the pup’s immune system takes over. At this time, the pups should be given their first immunization shots so they can build up their own antibodies against them. However, there is no way to tell when passive immunity is gone.

This is why pups should be given a shot every few weeks (2-3 weeks apart and a series of at least three shots).

It’s Like This …

Picture a plot of antibody level versus time. Maternal antibody is steadily declining. You just don’t know the rate. At some level, say X, protection from parvo is sufficient. Below X, protection may be less than effective against an infection. In general, vaccine antigen cannot stimulate the puppy’s own immune system until the maternal antibody level is below X. Let’s say it is .7*X.

Here’s the rub. The antibody level spends some time dropping from X to .7X. During this time, even if you vaccinated every day, you would (in this theoretical discussion) not be able to stimulate immunity. Yet you are below that level of maternal protection at which infection can be effectively fought off.

Thus the importance of giving several vaccinations at 2-4 week intervals until around 16-18 weeks.

You maximize the chance of catching the puppy’s immune system as soon as it is ready to respond, minimizing the amount of time the puppy may be susceptible to infection.

IMPORTANT: The last shot should be given after 16 weeks of age (4 months) to be sure that the mother’s antibodies have not gotten in the way of the pups building up their own immunity (read the label of the vaccine).

Up until 8 weeks or so, the shots should consist of distemper, measles, and CPI. After that, it should be DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and parvovirus). This is at minimum: You may need to add other vaccinations appropriate to your area, such as lyme, heartworm (actually a preventive medicine), rabies (most places), and so on.

Let Them Mix With Other Dogs?

  • You should keep your puppy away from all strange dogs.
  • But if you know that a particular dog is current on its shots and not carrying disease, then go ahead and let your puppy socialize.

The same holds true for people. Ask them to wash their hands before they play with your puppy. It can’t hurt, and it could save you a great deal of grief. As your puppy gets their shots, you can slowly add more and more exposure to their life. But keep in mind this is an infant who needs gentle care!

Worm Testing

Worms can present a serious problem to a puppy’s health.

There is no good way to prevent puppies from having worms, for a variety of reasons. You should take your puppy in regularly for worm testing. Worms can interfere with the puppy’s growth if left unchecked.

Because it is very common for puppies (even from the best breeder) to have worms from the mother’s dormant worms, you need to take care to have your puppy checked regularly when young.

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