Sadly, puppies and kittens are often born with worms already inside them, because they get the worms from their mothers. And if they don't get the worms before they are born, they can get them through their mom's milk. This is why puppies and kittens usually have to be de-wormed several times while they are still young.
Roundworms are the most common kind of worm for dogs to have. You can get them by eating a small animal such as a mouse that has worms, or by eating poop with roundworm larvae in it. Or you can be born with roundworms, like I already said.
When the roundworms get to be adults, they like to live in your intestines. The worms can be 6 or 7 inches long, and they look sort of like spaghetti. Sometimes they come out in your poop or you can puke them up, but mostly they just hang out in your small intestines and eat the tissue and fluids there. If you have too many roundworms, they can make you lose weight, have hair that looks dull, and get a pot belly. If the worms get into your lungs, they can make you cough. Puppies can actually die from having too many roundworms, but older dogs don't usually die from having them.
People can get roundworms if they have dirt or poop on their hands that has larvae in it. This happens more often with children than with adults because children like to play in the dirt, and they might forget to wash their hands before they stick them in their mouths. In humans, the roundworm larvae don't turn into adult worms, but the larvae get into several parts of the body and make them inflamed, which doesn't feel very good.
Hookworms are really nasty because the larvae can bore right into your body through your skin, which makes an itchy place where they went in. The adult worms have teeth that are like hooks, and they grab onto the inside of your guts, where they sit around eating your blood and tissues. This makes you feel yucky, and you also have diarrhea with blood in it, and then you get anemic because you don't have enough red blood cells.
These worms are easy to get, and they are especially bad for puppies and kittens because they gobble up your blood and protein, so you feel tired and you don't grow very much. And if you don't get any medicine to kill the worms, you can get congestive heart failure and die.
|Hookworm larvae migration. Ewwww!|
The last icky worm I'm going to talk about today is the whipworm. These worms got their name because they are shaped kind of like whips. If you have whipworms in your yard, it's really hard to get rid of them because their eggs lie around for a long time, maybe for years, and even cold weather doesn't kill them.
A dog can get whipworms by eating some dirt or poop that has eggs in it. Then the eggs hatch in the large intestine, and the larvae grow up to be adult worms. Whipworms use their mouths like little spears to cut the inside of your intestine and eat the blood and yummy fluids.
If you get a lot of whipworms, they can make you very sick. You can get anemic and dehydrated, and you can also have bloody diarrhea. Plus you might lose weight because you don't feel like eating. Whipworms only make small numbers of eggs, and they don't make them regularly, so sometimes the vet has to look at your poop several times before being sure that you have these worms. That is why if a dog has diarrhea all the time, he is usually treated for whipworms, even if it's not proven that he really has them.
Well, that's more than enough about this yucky subject. The main things that you should learn from what I said are to keep your yard cleaned up so there isn't a lot of poop lying around. And if you are playing in the dirt, you should always wash your hands really well before you put your hands in your mouth.