Treatment for roundworms involves supportive care, administration of de-worming medications, appropriate follow-up and prevention of future infection with a regular de-worming protocol. A number of anti-parasitic drugs are available to treat parasites in dogs. Medical and common names that owners may recognize for some of these medications include Interceptor, Sentinel, Milbemycin, Selamectin, Pyrantel, Revolution, Drontal, Nemex, Heartguard, Ivermectin, Fenbendazole, Panacur, Dichlorvos, Task Tabs, Happy Jack and Filaribits. There are others, as well. Some of these are heartworm preventatives that a dog may already be receiving. De-worming recommendations are made by veterinary professionals not only for the health of the animals involved, but also to reduce the risk of human infection by managing the parasite burden in the environment.
De-wormers, or anti-parasitic medicines, are called “anthelmintics.” Unfortunately, most anthelmintics will not eliminate all of the sequestered larval or encysted forms of roundworms, especially in fetuses that become infected inside the uterus after day 40 of the mother’s pregnancy. Roundworm larvae can migrate widely throughout infected dogs. They often become encapsulated, or sequestered, in skeletal muscle and the tissue of the lungs, kidneys and other organs. Most effective roundworm treatment protocols involve giving a series of doses over a matter of weeks, to increase the chances of killing all adults and migrating larvae as they mature. Current veterinary recommendations are that puppies should be de-wormed at least 3 or 4 times, starting at about 3 weeks of age and continuing at two-week intervals thereafter. Adults usually are given one or two treatments, depending on the medication used and the preferred protocol suggested by the dog’s veterinarian. Daily treatments may be recommended as well, depending upon the type of anthelmintic medication used.
Puppies that are severely debilitated by roundworm infestation may require in-patient supportive care, including intravenous fluids and appropriate nutritional support, while anti-parasitic drugs are administered. Puppies that are suffering from pneumonia caused by migration of parasites into their lungs may develop a severe reaction to parasiticidal drugs, because the bodies of dead roundworms can accumulate in their lungs and bloodstream. If this happens, steroids may be recommended to help manage the inflammatory response. Depending upon the situation, the veterinarian may also suggest that pregnant females be treated with de-wormers from about the 40th day of pregnancy until a week or so after whelping, to improve their puppies’ chances of being born ascarid-free.
If a dog is diagnosed with roundworms, all potentially contaminated areas should be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly. Consider using a high-pressure water washer along with a mixture of bleach and water. While this will not kill roundworm eggs, it can help to loosen them up from environmental surfaces, especially in kennels or other high-traffic areas. This is particularly important for owners who have young puppies and/or children. All fecal material should be removed from yards, dog runs and kennel areas as soon as possible. Infected dogs’ blankets and bedding should be washed in hot water with a detergent that contains bleach.
The prognosis for dogs with roundworms is usually very good, as long as their infection is treated appropriately. Owners who are considering breeding their bitch should discuss with their veterinarian how best to ensure that she is properly treated for roundworm infection before and during her pregnancy. Owners of new puppies should discuss appropriate de-worming protocols with the breeder and with their puppy’s veterinarian. They should start (or hopefully continue) a sound de-worming regimen.