Roundworms Impede Digestion While Drawing Away Nutrients Necessary
For Good Health
two main kinds of roundworms affecting canines are Toxascaris
leonina and Toxocara canis, sometimes refered to as 'ascarids'.
Both worms have a round cross-section and hence the name. T. leonina
adults are from 3 - 4 inches in length while the T. canis can
grow to 7 inches.
Although similar they have different life cycles. Once a dog
has ingested T. leonina eggs, from contaminated soil or feces
for example, they hatch and the lavae develop into mature adults
in the walls and lumen (cavity where nutrients are absorbed) of
the small intestine. Adult females produce eggs that are passed
in the feces and the next cycle begins.
On the other hand T. canis round worms have a more complex life
cycle. They start off the same way by being ingested and making
their way into the intestines. Once there they migrate into other
tissues of the body where they encyst and can lay dormant sometimes
for years. This usually occurs in older dogs.
In other cases, as is often seen in puppies, the larvae move
into the respiratory system where they are coughed up. The larvae
then are swallowed back down into the intestines where they then
develop as usual into adults. From this point the life cycle is
the same, the females lay eggs and they are passed in the feces.
The method T. canis roundworms use to encyst themselves in the
muscle tissue makes them more resilient. A fetal puppy can be
infected by T. canis larvae that make their way through the uterus
and placenta resulting in in-utero transmission. There is, however,
some controversy about this method of transmission. Alternately,
after a puppy is born it can be infected through its mother's
milk as the larvae can infect the mammary glands.
This is why many puppies are infected at birth or soon thereafter.
This is also why it is important to have puppies dewormed and
to follow the schedule outlined by your veterinarian.
Round worms in the intestines do damage and impede proper digestion
while drawing nutrients away that are necessary for good health.
As the infestation becomes more serious symptoms will begin to
Initially, as the larvae migrate through the respiratory system
coughing will occur. At this stage there is the potential for
pnuemonia to develop.
Eventually the dog will start to lose weight and their coat will
lose its sheen. Their bellies can appear bloated and they will
suffer from diarrhea or constipation. This may also be accompanied
by vomiting and anemia. In more extreme cases the roundworms can
cause an obstruction of the intestines.
There are several medications available for deworming. To deal
with roundworms they generally have to be taken more than once.
This is because they only kill adult worms. After a period of
a few weeks, once larvae that were in the system at the time of
the first treatment have had time to become adults they can be
killed by the second treatment. Your vet can advise you about
the best treatment and schedule.
Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM
Dr. Andrew Jones
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