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8 ways your dog could pick up worms (without you even noticing)

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Intestinal parasites can be a real problem for dogs and their owners, but where do they come from? Find out exactly how dogs get worms in the first place.
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Intestinal worms are parasites that have the potential to cause health problems for dogs, especially puppies. Some can even cause disease in you too, so it's important to know how they are picked up in the first place. So exactly how do dogs get worms?

1. Eating worm eggs e.g. from the soil
Roundworm eggs that pass into the outside environment from the faeces of an infected animal can lay dormant for a year or more. Your dog can accidentally ingest these eggs when he’s rooting around outside, and they can develop into worms inside him.

2. Hunting behaviour
If your dog likes to hunt, he could catch worms from other infected animals, such as rodents or birds, who themselves have eaten worm eggs.

3. Eating slugs and snails:
Lungworm larvae are carried by slugs and snails, and dogs can become infected with lungworm if they accidentally eat infected molluscs. This happens more often than you’d think, as slugs and snails can hide on blades of grass or stick to your pet’s favourite toy; it’s even been shown that lungworm larvae are released into the slime trail of infected molluscs.

4. Grooming
Believe it or not, your dog can contract worms just from trying to keep himself clean. Roundworm eggs can attach themselves to your dog's coat, and if your dog swallows these when grooming, a new roundworm infection may develop. As you’ll see below, swallowing fleas when grooming can be a problem too.

5. From mum
Roundworm, the most common worm affecting pets, can be transmitted from an infected mother to the unborn puppies in her womb, via the placenta. Roundworm can be extremely serious in young puppies and can even be fatal in severe cases.

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6. Nursing
As well as picking up worms from their mum in the womb, an infected dog can also pass roundworms on to her puppies during nursing. This means that puppies that are suckling are at risk of continual exposure to these parasites, and is why puppies need to be wormed regularly while they are suckling.

7. Eating worm larvae
Hookworm larvae can survive in the soil and if swallowed by your dog a hookworm may develop inside him. Not only that but if your dog walks over soil contaminated with hookworm larvae, they can actually burrow into your pet’s skin, usually between his toes, where they can cause severe skin irritation.

8. From fleas
The most common tapeworm in dogs is transmitted by another very common parasite: the flea. Fleas carrying tapeworm larvae can be swallowed through grooming, these larvae then develop into adult tapeworms in the dog’s intestine.

For advice on how to tackle worms in your dog, click here.