Can I Treat My Dog's Worms Myself?

Dog at Vet

Q. I’m pretty sure our dog has worms. I’ve seen wormers at the pet store, and I’m sure they’re cheaper than getting the same from the veterinarian, especially since he always insists that we bring the dog in and pay for an exam too. Is there any real reason why we just can’t give our dog the pet store wormer?

A. You need a veterinarian’s help in diagnosing not only if your dog does indeed have intestinal worms but also exactly what kind of parasites they are. Without that knowledge, it’s impossible to choose the correct medication to treat the pests. The over-the-counter wormers purchased through pet supply retailers typically treat roundworms, which are found in most puppies but are usually not effective on the range of other parasites that older dogs can have. For those, you’ll most likely need medication from your veterinarian.

While a puppy or dog with a heavy infestation of roundworms may have feces with enough of these spaghetti-like parasites to be visible to the naked eye, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms can be present with little to no noticeable signs. These parasites are more than a health issue for your pet. They can also present health risks to people, particularly your family.

Regular wellness exams will typically include a fecal test that will determine what, if any, intestinal parasites your dog has. Your veterinarian can then prescribe an effective medication designed to treat the exact parasites your dog has — and chances are, it'll be one that you won't be able to get without that script. If you think your dog has worms now, don’t wait for that wellness checkup — go in now. I realize you’re trying to avoid the expense, but taking a risk with your pet’s health and your own isn’t recommended, and could cost you more in the long run.


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