If you’re like 68% of dog owners, your pup has become even more of an emotional companion during the pandemic. You love your pup so you’ve stayed on top of tick and flea medication and are trying to remain diligent in scheduling annual exams with your veterinarian. But even great dog owners may not put much thought into other, less talked about health risks like intestinal parasites and worms which can not only make your pup really sick, but can also infect humans.
A recent study found an uptick in the prevalence of intestinal parasites in dogs across the country, which is a big concern for pet parents. With dog owners reporting they’re 11% more likely to take their dog more places after the pandemic, it’s important to know the risks public places can pose and take necessary steps to keep your dog and family healthy and free of worms.
Something’s wormy: Eye-opening findings
Approximately one in five dogs visiting dog parks are infected with intestinal parasites, according to research conducted by Oklahoma State University, IDEXX and Elanco Animal Health, a global animal health company. The study sampled fecal matter from dogs at dog parks in 30 cities across the U.S. to identify the nationwide prevalence of worms (whipworm, roundworm, hookworm) and intestinal parasites (giardia). Hookworm and whipworm were two of the most prevalent worms identified in the study, occurring most often in young dogs ages 1-3 years.
What this means for dog owners is that of the estimated 76 million pet dogs in the U.S., more than 15 million of them could be unintentionally spreading parasites into the environment on any given day. In recent years, bringing your companion along to public places like restaurants, airports, shopping centers and parks has become the norm. Even now as many dog owners are spending more time with their pups while staying at home, worms can still be unknowingly spread from everyday places like the park down the street. It’s crucial for pet parents to take a proactive approach when it comes to parasite prevention for their furry family members.
Worms 101: Educate yourself about common parasites
Heartworm: Transmitted through mosquito bites, this parasite is present nationwide. According to the American Heartworm Society, the U.S. saw an increase in the average number of heartworm cases per clinic from 2013 to 2016.
Whipworm: Sniffing and rolling around in the grass is natural for dogs, but these traits can also make them vulnerable to contracting whipworm from infected dirt or other dogs’ waste. Whipworm eggs can live in infected spaces for up to 5 years.
Tapeworms: Your dog can contract tapeworms from fleas during self-grooming or from hunting rabbits, rodents, wildlife and livestock.
Hookworm: Hookworm larvae live in the soil and can infect your dog through contact and ingestion, which happens when they roll in the dirt or during their routine self-grooming. Simply walking through an area with hookworm larvae present can be enough to infect your dog.
Roundworm: Dogs can contract roundworm by coming in direct contact with the parasite through contaminated soil or play places. Puppies can also contract roundworms through their mothers prior to birth.
How to help stop the spread of harmful worms
Pet experts agree that a proactive approach is best when it comes to keeping your dog healthy. To prevent your pup and others from contracting and spreading parasites, remember the acronym STOP:
- Stay ahead. Make a year-round, broad-spectrum dewormer part of your monthly care routine.
- Talk to your veterinarian. Ask about fecal exams as part of your dog’s annual checkup and any time they show irregularities in appetite or behavior.
- Ordinary exposure. Understand the risk of worms where you live and play, including your neighborhood dog park.
- Prevent the spread. Pick up after your pup at home and in public every time to help keep the area safe and sanitary.
You want to keep your four-legged family member happy and healthy. One critical part of that is with parasite prevention. Not only will this protect your dog, but other pets in your area. Learn more about the Elanco study and protection of parasites by visiting https://web.elanco.com/bewormready.
TRUE Global Intelligence. Elanco COVID-19 Dog Socialization Survey. 25 June 2020.
Stafford KS, Kollasch TM, Duncan KT, et al. Detection of Gastrointestinal Parasitism at Recreational Canine Sites in the United States (the DoGPaRCS study). Parasites & Vectors. 2020; 275:1-23.