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Caring for a litter or puppies produced from your own dog can be highly rewarding, but there is also a lot of responsibility involved in ensuring that the puppies grow and develop properly, and reach all of their appropriate developmental markers at the right time.
Raising a healthy litter starts with a healthy dam (and sire), and so before you breed from your dog, you should ensure that both parents are in good health, have undergone all of the appropriate pre-breeding health tests, and that the dam is generally fit enough to carry, deliver and raise a litter – and that she has been treated for potential problems prior to mating, such as worms and fleas.
If your dam has worms when she is pregnant, nursing or raising a litter, the chances are that the pups will have worms too – and a large number of pups actually contract worms from their dam before they are even born.
Dealing with parasites like fleas and worms is a challenge in very young puppies, because most products designed for dogs are unsuitable for use on very young pups – but having a flea or worm infestation can have a significant impact on the pup’s health and development, as well as increasing the risk of problems later in life, like fleabite sensitivity.
In this article, we will look at how and why a puppy might be born with worms, how to prevent this from happening, and how to eradicate worms in a young litter safely and successfully. Read on to learn more.
Puppies can indeed, and very often are born with worms, but this can only occur if the dam herself has worms. When the pups are still in utero, worm larvae can pass from the dam’s intestine to the pups, which means that they can become infested with worms that the dam has before they are even born.
Even if the pups are born worm-free, the larvae of intestinal worms like hookworms and roundworms can again be passed on from the dam to her pups through milk via nursing, and even after the pups are weaned, just one pup or the dam alone can soon spread worms across the whole litter.
Often, a dog’s worm infestation needs to be very large before it becomes evident to the dog’s owners, and so it can be hard to tell if pups in a litter have worms. One good rule to bear in mind is that if the dam or just one puppy has visible signs of worms, you should assume that the rest of the family does too, and always treat them together.
Wormers don’t offer after-treatment protection to dogs in the same way that flea treatments do – they only eradicate the worms that are present at the time, which means that a dog might pick up worms again within just a few days of treatment. Also, in the case of severe infestations, one dose or treatment of wormer might not be enough to eradicate it, and so multiple treatments may be required to achieve success.
Because a litter of pups produces a lot of poop as well as of course the dam’s own bowel movements, you may be able to spot the physical presence of worms in the stools, so it is wise to familiarise yourself with the appearance of different types of common intestinal worms that affect dogs, and keep an eye out.
However, you may not always be able to spot worms, and so it is also important to understand the systemic effects that worms can have on puppies, and be on the lookout for these too.
A pup that has a heavy worm infestation is likely to be frailer than an unaffected pup, and may develop and grow more slowly. They are likely to have a voracious appetite but fail to gain as much weight as they should for each milestone, and may be prone to vomiting or regurgitation too.
Perhaps the most obvious and common sign of worm infestations in puppies is a bloated, rounded or pot-bellied appearance to the stomach of the pups, which is one of the classical signs of worm infestation, but may not be present in every affected dog.
If you are concerned that a litter may have worms or if they don’t seem to be thriving or developing as they should, ask your vet to check them out.
Worm infestations in litters should be sorted out as soon as possible, but you shouldn’t simply give a standard adult wormer or over-the-counter product to juvenile dogs.
Talk to your vet about the most appropriate product to use for young pups and the right dosage, and take their advice on when and how to worm the pups, which may require multiple treatments at staggered intervals to fully eradicate an infestation and ensure that your pups have the best possible start to life.
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