This section provides information on roundworms and tapeworms.

What is a roundworm?

Roundworms are worms that live in the gut of dogs, feeding off partially-digested food. They can be up to 10 cm long and appear white in colour. They are most common in puppies where they are passed from the mother through the placenta before birth or, after birth through the milk.  Adult dogs can also become infected by ingesting eggs that may be passed in the faeces of infected dogs.

How do I tell if my dog is infected?

Large infestations of roundworms may cause a characteristic pot-bellied appearance in puppies and in extreme cases may actually block the intestine and cause death. They may also experience diarrhoea and vomiting, in which roundworms may be visible.  If left untreated, infestations may also cause retardation of growth.

Symptoms are rarely seen in adults who seldom have major infestations of roundworms.

The most accurate way of detecting roundworms is to visit your vet who will analyse a faecal sample from your dog for the presence of eggs.

How do we treat roundworms?

All guide dog-breeding bitches and puppies are treated for roundworm before they are placed in homes with puppy walkers.  Guide Dogs recommends that adult working dogs, guide dogs in training and our breeding dogs are treated regularly with safe and effective wormers.

Can roundworms infect people?

Roundworms can infect people. In children in particular, roundworm larvae migrating around the body may settle in the eye and cause blindness. Proper worm control is essential to minimise the number of worms in the environment and is very important as a public health measure.

What are tapeworms?

Tapeworms live in the gut of dogs and may reach up to 20 cm in length. The worm attaches itself to the wall of the intestines by its head, which has hooks and suckers. The worms are made up of flat segments, which are white in colour. Each segment is packed full of eggs which break off and are passed with the dog's faeces.

One of the most common ways for your dog to become infected with tapeworms is through fleas. During their growth and development, flea larvae will swallow tapeworm?s eggs and become infected. In its adult form, the flea will feed from the blood of a dog by biting. On reaction to a bite or during grooming, the dog may lick or chew the area and swallow the flea.  As the flea is digested inside the dog, the tapeworm hatches and anchors itself to the intestine of the dog.

How do I tell if my dog is infected?

Small numbers of tapeworms are not particularly harmful to your dog and will not usually cause illness. Large infestations may however, cause weight loss and general poor health.

Infected dogs will pass the tapeworm segments within the faeces.  These appear like grains of rice in the faeces and may be seen on the skin around the anus.  Your dog may also show signs of anal irritation by dragging its bottom across the floor. This usually occurs as a result of the worm segments being shed.  Occasionally, a worm may enter the stomach of the dog causing irritation.  This may make the dog vomit and an adult worm may be visible in the vomit.

How do I treat tapeworms?

Modern worming tablets are very effective in treating tapeworms. It is, however, very important to control your dogs fleas in order to prevent re-infection.

Guide dogs are treated regularly for tapeworms.  We also regularly treat our dogs for fleas.  Random faecal samples are also taken from guide dogs to check our worm control measures are adequate.

Where can I go for further information?

For guide dog owners: Should you have any further queries regarding vaccinations or any other aspects of your dogs health, please contact the Dog Care and Welfare Advisor.

For pet owners: Please contact your local veterinary surgeon.