This photo is from a Children's Book called Four Little Puppies. The creator and Photographer is Harry Whittier Frees. In the early 1900's he dressed up puppies and kittens in clothes made by his mother, and told a story about them. The clothes were designed to help hold the puppies in their poses. A very early William Wegman! I didn't have the heart (stomach) to show roundworms.
Parasites, Pot Bellies, and Roundworms
I’ve got more than a few “stop along the side of the road for a dog” stories. In this one I’m traveling north towards Charlottesville one late summer afternoon when I spot a small puppy. Route 29 is four-lanes with a wide median strip, a puppy flattener highway if there ever was one. I pull over and he runs straight to me. He’s one of those back roads Virginia pups I’ve seen so often; runty, the color of plowed fields, his slick fur worn off where mange won the battle. Long ears reveal hound parentage and his bloated belly is round and hard as a basketball. Where did he come from? A nearby driveway gave me a clue.
The house at the end of the lane peeled grayish white paint; the front yard filled with tires, cans, trash, rotten wood, and car parts. From under the porch my road pup’s siblings, looking like him in all the wrong ways, ran out to great us. No humans in sight, I leave the pup and jump back into my car, feeling guilty I hadn’t instead taken him to the shelter.
One of the things the pup certainly had was roundworms; his thin frame exaggerated his bloated belly. How do puppies get roundworms, Toxocara canis? The most common way is through the mother. Larvae roundworms lie dormant in the tissues and during pregnancy the dam’s hormones trigger the larvae out of their insidious slumber to migrate through the placenta to the unborn puppies. They can also travel through the mother’s milk. Adult dogs become infected by ingesting eggs from another animal’s contaminated feces. Symptoms, along with that telltale belly in extreme cases, are diarrhea and vomiting.
Once roundworms have infected their host they travel to the stomach, invade the stomach wall, and then migrate in the blood to the liver. Continuing their little tour of our dogs, they then progress to the trachea, are coughed up and re-swallowed. All this to ultimately live in the small intestine, where as adults, they can produce more than 100,000 eggs per day. Your vet can easily diagnose roundworm with a fecal sample.
My little roadside pup, or any litter suspected of roundworms, should have been wormed no later than 3 weeks of age and every two weeks after that; one dose at 3, 5, and 7 weeks. The wormer only kills adult roundworms, so it’s necessary to continue worming to kill larvae that later mature into adults. The dam should also be wormed at the same time to prevent re-infestation and lower the worm load for any future litters. It is also important to diligently remove feces in the yard so that no additional re-infestation can occur.
Pyrantel Pamoate can be purchased without a prescription--is inexpensive, and because it is more concentrated, it takes less quantity to worm. I routinely begin worming my own pups at three weeks. If you use pyrantel pamoate, worm 1 ml per 10 pounds body weight, (this is more than the recommended dosage on the label). For example, if your puppy is 4 pounds, you give .4 ml dose. It also kills hookworms. I’ve always found it to be completely safe with no side effects.
Nemex and Strongid T are brand names for pyrantel pamoate. They are, however, lower strength, and requires a larger quantity to worm. It’s easier and cheaper to use the generic. Heartworm preventatives can also kill adult hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms, but since the larvae live in the tissue of the pregnant bitch, it won’t work until the worms are adults, and obviously won’t kill the roundworms in the puppies if you are giving heartworm preventative to the dam.