Why Give Your Dog Nasty, Harmful Chemicals When Your Dog May Not Even Have Worms? What Are The Natural Ways To Treat And Prevent Worms?
More and more people are learning that the chemicals used in all kinds of medication for pest control – from fleas and ticks to worms – are really bad for our dogs, and they’re looking for natural alternatives. The old-school advice was to deworm your dog every 3 months, but that is unnecessary. Why give your dog harsh drugs for a health problem they may not even have? Let’s look at how to get rid of worms in a dog without going to the vet.
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HOW DO DOGS GET WORMS?
Sadly, there are lots of ways that dogs can become infected with worms:
BY EATING SOMETHING INFECTED WITH WORMS OR WORM EGGS
This can be from eating other animals’ poop, soil, or infected meat. It could be from eating a mouse or rat that has worms.
Discourage your dog from eating other dogs’ poop and make sure that she doesn’t eat rodents or birds. Given that some people put down rat poison to kill rodents, it’s never a good idea to allow your dog to eat rats and mice.
BY FLEAS AND MOSQUITOES
As fleas or mosquitoes feed on an infected dog, the worm eggs can then be passed on to the next dog that the mosquito or flea feeds on.
In addition to infection through eating hookworm eggs, hookworms can be caught when your dog comes into contact with their larva, usually through the skin of the paws.
TYPES OF WORMS THAT DOGS CAN GET
Heartworms. Heartworm can be passed on by mosquitoes that bite an infected dog, and then continue to feed on other dogs, thereby infecting them. They multiply in a dog’s heart and can cause damage to various organs. Left untreated, heartworms can kill. We don’t have a heartworm problem here in the UK, thankfully.
Tapeworm. Tapeworm are flat and long. When bits of them break off, they can look like little pieces of rice in dog poop and around the dog’s anus. Tapeworm can be passed on to an uninfected dog via ingestion. This could be when a dog eats meat from an infected animal, or from fleas. If an infected flea is on a dog, and the dog licks the flea off, she will become infected.
If you raw feed your dog, or if you give her raw meat sometimes, it is better to freeze the meat first. Freezing it for 2 weeks will kill any worms present in the meat.
Roundworm. Roundworm look like spaghetti strands, and can even reach 20cm in length. Yuk! They live in the dog’s bowels and their eggs are passed into the poop. A dog can get roundworm by eating faeces, rodents or birds that are infected. Roundworms are not dangerous to adult dogs, but they can seriously affect a puppy’s health.
Hookworm. Hookworm are very tiny, and can’t be seen by the naked eye. A dog can become infected by eating infected faeces or food. Puppies can also be get hookworm through infected milk from their mother. Additionally, hookworm can infect a dog through skin contact. Once in the body, they use the ‘hook’ to attach themselves to the intestines.
Hookworms are thirsty blood suckers that can cause anemia in dogs, and they are especially dangerous in puppies.
Whipworm. Whipworm are like tiny bits of thread, with one end thicker than the other. They are also very tiny, so not visible to the naked eye. Like hookworms, they also feed on blood. Their eggs can be found in faeces, soil, food, water and animal meat.
Coccidia. Technically this parasite is not a worm, but it is tested for in the worm count test. Coccidia live in the intestines and can cause diarrhea.
Giardia. Like coccidia, this parasite is not a worm either. It also lives in the intestines and can cause diarrhea.
Lungworm. Lungworms live in the pulmonary artery and right ventricle of a dog’s heart. Proper diagnosis can be difficult, and even if eggs are not found, this doesn’t mean that a dog isn’t infected. The standard worm count test does not test for lungworm (see example below).
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DOG HAS WORMS?
Many pet parents are still routinely giving their dogs nasty deworming medication, but it simply isn’t necessary to do this unless your dog actually has worms. So how do you know if your dog has worms?
SIGNS MY DOG HAS WORMS
Often, there are no obvious symptoms that your dog has worms. However, sometimes, dogs with worms can show symptoms like these:
- Scooting. You might see your dog ‘scooting’ – dragging her bum along the ground. Whilst this could be due to anal gland problems, it might also be irritation from worm eggs as they pass through her bottom.
- Scratching or rubbing her bottom
- Bloated stomach
- Constant hunger and / or weight loss. You dog might lose weight and be hungry all the time.
- Visible worms or eggs. You might see actual worms or eggs, either in your dog’s poop, in vomit, in diarrhoea, or even around her bottom.
- Diarrhea, especially with blood present, and vomiting
However, just because you can’t see any visible worms does not mean your dog doesn’t have worms. The only way to be sure, is by doing a simple test.
WORM COUNT FECAL TESTS FOR DOGS
To find out whether your dog does actually have worms, a worm count test needs to be done. It involves sending a sample of your dog’s poop to be analysed.
This is an inexpensive test which many vets offer. Indeed, in many cases, a fecal test costs less than chemical worming meds.
If your vet doesn’t offer this service, don’t worry – there are lots of lab testing companies that do offer it and they provide a quick turnaround on the results.
WHAT DOES THE TEST INVOLVE?
Your vet, or the lab testing company, will provide you with a sealable bag or sample pot. You pop a small amount of fresh poop (like a full teaspoon size) into the bag or pot, seal it up and send it off. Couldn’t be simpler!
Here are the details from the last worm count test I had done for my dog. I bought the test online and the lab test company posted me the testing kit, which arrived the next day.
The testing kit contained a sealable bag, instructions, disposable gloves, disposable teaspoon, information sheet to be completed with my dog’s details and postage-paid return envelope.
I put the poop in the bag and sealed it up. I completed the form, put the form and the bag into the postage-paid envelope and sent it back to the lab. A couple of days later, they emailed me with the results. Super quick and easy.
WORM COUNT FECAL TESTS RESULTS
This is a screenshot of my dog’s latest worm count test results:
As you can see, she got the all-clear: no worm problem here!
Ideally, you should carry out a worm count every 6 months – I do mine in the spring and repeat in the autumn. If the results show that my dog has worms, I would then take further action.
However, I haven’t given my dog a chemical dewormer for a long time, so how am I treating my dog for worms without going to the vet? There are a variety of methods that can be used to help your dog stay safe and healthy from worms, which we will look at shortly.
MY DOG HAS WORMS, WHAT CAN I DO?
First however, what if you have a worm count test done and the results show that your dog has worms, what can you do? Of course, one option is to ask your vet for deworming drugs, and this may be the only option for dogs with a dangerously high worm count.
WHY I DON’T GIVE MY DOG WORMING MEDS
However, deworming drugs can cause very nasty side effects, ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and liver damage. Long-term health problems have been reported in some dogs, and sadly, even death in others.
If your dog doesn’t have worms, or has a low worm count, why avoid risking her health by giving her chemical dewormers? There are effective, natural methods for controlling and preventing worms in your dog.
WHAT CAN I DO TO STOP MY DOG GETTING WORMS?
First, don’t think that using a chemical deworming product stops your dog getting worms. It doesn’t. It is not a preventative treatment. It simply kills any worms present in your dog’s body and so lowers the worm burden. This prevents the worm load from increasing any further.
Regular deworming control and monitoring is essential for your dog’s health, but that doesn’t mean your only option is to use chemical wormers, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you need to routinely give deworming meds every 3 months.
In addition, make sure you pick up and dispose of your dog’s faeces as soon as possible.
Fleas and ticks. Keep your dog flea free – I haven’t used chemical flea treatments for years now and my dog is flea-free. There are lots of natural ways to keep your dog safe from fleas and ticks.
DOG DEWORMER HOME REMEDIES
There are several home remedies for worms in dogs. However, it’s still important to do regular worm count tests (every 6 months) to check whether your dog does indeed have worms or not.
Certain types of food are useful at helping to prevent worms. These food work in different ways to help control worms naturally.
Some foods do destroy parasites, some affect reproduction cycles and inhibit the growth of worms, others create an environment in your dog’s body that worms dislike enough that they flush themselves out of your dog’s body, and some food helps remove worms as it passes through your dog’s body.
The starting point for managing worms naturally is to make sure that your dog has a strong immune system, something that can be achieved with a good quality diet.
A RAW FOOD DIET
According to DNM, dogs on a kibble diet are more likely to have worm problems that raw fed dogs because worms thrive on the starch and sugar in kibble.
Lots of raw feeders report that their dogs haven’t suffered from worms since starting on a raw food diet – this is not a guarantee, of course, but anecdotal evidence supports it.
My dog is on a raw food diet, and it may be that this, combined with other foodstuffs that we will look at below, that help keep her well protected.
I used to prepare a DIY raw food diet for her, but in the end, I chose to buy her food ready minced (ground). This was not only more convenient, it also saved me a lot of time and freezer space. I tried various different raw food companies, and once I found a company I liked, I stuck with them.
If you are in the UK, I highly recommend Bella & Duke 100% natural raw dog food.
They have several options suitable for dogs of all ages. They also have options for dogs with specific dietary or health requirements, such as a range for older dogs, low fat blends for dogs with pancreatitis, etc.
Use this code to get it with a 50% DISCOUNT:
GROUND PUMPKIN SEEDS
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best defences against worms. They contain cucurbitin, an amino acid that lowers both egg count and adult worm population in gastrointestinal worms.
I prefer to grind the pumpkin seeds, rather than feed them whole. The easiest way to do this is in a coffee grinder or fine food processor.
The dosage is ¼ tsp per 10 lbs (4.5kgs) of body weight, given daily. If you know your dog has worms, feed pumpkin seeds until there are no more worms. The only way to know this is to do another worm count test.
I regularly give my dog ground pumpkin seeds, rotating pumpkin seeds with other natural supplements. Although her recent worm count showed she is worm free, I will continue to give her ground pumpkin seeds from time to time in her food, to keep her worm free.
Pumpkin seeds are also nutritious and good for a dog’s health, offering benefits such as high levels of antioxidants, magnesium and fibre.
BLACK CUMIN SEED
The prophet Mohammed is credited with saying, “This black cumin is healing for all diseases except death.”
It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of illnesses, but it is especially useful for us pet parents in the fight against intestinal worms in our dogs.
Research shows that black cumin seeds (also known as Nigella Sativa) can affect all stages of the life of certain parasites in the gut, from inhibiting egg laying to killing adult worms.
The dosage is ½ tsp to 1 tsp daily in food. Mix it in well as it has a bitter taste that your dog might not like! If you use black seed oil instead, half the dose as it is more potent than the seeds.
Like pumpkin seeds, black cumin seeds also offer additional health benefits to your dog, being packed with antioxidants.
Garlic often appears on lists of food that dogs shouldn’t eat. However, in moderate amounts, garlic is not only safe for dogs, but it also brings a whole host of health benefits.
One of these is its effect on parasite development. It doesn’t stop worms producing eggs, but it prevents the eggs of certain parasites from developing into larvae.
The following dosage can be given twice a day. Chop the garlic up fine – don’t feed big lumps of garlic.
Small dogs = ¼ clove
Medium dogs = ½ clove
Large dogs = ¾ clove
Giant breeds = 1 clove
Note: garlic shouldn’t be given to pregnant dogs, lactating dogs, or dogs that are on blood thinning meds.
FOOD THAT MAKES YOUR DOG’S GUT LESS ATTRACTIVE TO WORMS
FRUIT AND VEG
Raw, grated vegetables like carrots, cucumber, squash, fennel and beet help to keep down the worm count as they make the intestines less welcoming to worms. Chopped carrots also gently scrape the sides of the intestines as they pass through your dog’s gut, helping to slew away with them any worms.
The same is true of fruit like pineapple, papaya and pomegranate.
The dosage is 1 tsp per 10 lbs (4.5kg) of body weight in your dog’s food each day, up to twice a day. I always toss leftover bits and peel of these veggies into my dog’s dinner.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar is good for your dog in many ways, not least because its alkalinity makes the intestines less welcoming for parasites.
Add ¼ to 1 tsp of ACV to your dog’s water or food each day. I add it to my dog’s food as I found that she didn’t want to drink the water with ACV in it, but every dog is different.
If you can, buy ACV ‘with the mother’ – it comes with extra goodness.
FOOD THAT HELPS ELIMINATE PARASITES FROM YOUR DOG’S GUT
Furry rabbit ears and other fur covered food stuffs, including feathers, help to act as a natural wormer and eliminate parasites from the intestinal tract. I give my dog furry rabbits ears once a week – as well as being anti-parasitic, they also give her extra fibre and help keep her digestive tract clean.
Rather than assume your dog has worms and give her nasty chemical meds, it’s much better to have a fecal test done instead. A drug-free approach to deworming your dog naturally is entirely possible.
As always, this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but rather, to help you make informed decisions to improve your dog’s health and wellbeing. Please, always seek your vet’s opinion, especially in the case of your dog being ill.
Bastidas, G.J. 1969. Effect of ingested garlic on Necator americanus and Ancylostoma caninum. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 18(6):920-923