Threadworms in Dogs
What are Threadworms (Strongyloides stercoralis)
Threadworms, technically known as Strongyloides stercoralis, are tiny parasites that live inside a dog’s digestive tract. They are picky eaters and thrive in hot, humid, subtropical climates, especially along the Gulf Coast and southeastern United States. Threadworms are spread through the saliva of ticks and the stool of infected animals. Dogs become infected by ingesting threadworm eggs or larvae. Threadworm larvae have a unique ability to penetrate skin, especially in areas with poor sanitation, as in high-density kennels, rescue facilities, pet stores and other areas where feces builds up. Hot temperatures and humidity increase the risk of threadworm transmission. Newborns can get threadworms from their mother’s milk, especially if the bitch becomes infected late in her pregnancy or while she is lactating. Threadworm larvae migrate through the bloodstream and tissues of the throat, windpipe and lungs, ending up in the dog’s small intestine. Despite their small size, threadworms cause severe illness, including diarrhea, tummy aches, weakness, lethargy, dehydration, coughing and skin problems. People can also become infected with threadworms and develop symptoms similar to those of dogs.
Dogs can become infected with threadworms through a number of different routes. Most threadworm eggs and larvae are passed out of infected dogs in their stool (in their “poop”). Other dogs can become infected by licking or eating fertile eggs, or the larvae hatched from them. Infective threadworm larvae are motile, or mobile, meaning that they are capable of moving independently. In the environment, these larvae have a unique ability to penetrate the unbroken skin
Despite their small size, threadworms can cause severe illness in dogs. The symptoms of threadworm infection may include one or more of the following:People can develop these symptoms as well. Young puppies are at great risk of developing threadworm infection due to the possibility that the bugs can be transmitted to the puppies from their mother’s milk. Newborns also have underdeveloped or immature immune systems. Puppies living in crowded conditions are especially vulnerable. Human infants
In most cases, threadworm infections in dogs go undetected, because most infected dogs do not show any observable symptoms of disease or distress. When signs do show up, the diagnosis is made by finding Strongyloides stercoralis larvae in fresh fecal samples that are examined microscopically. A number of different diagnostic techniques are available to check feces for evidence of threadworms at the larval stage. These procedures are not complicated and can be done at most
Threadworms usually can be treated with standard de-wormers on an outpatient basis. Another name for de-wormers is “anthelmintics.” Some medications that reportedly are effective against Strongyloides stercoralis include fenbendazole (Panacur), thiabendazole and ivermectin, among others. Not all of these are labeled for this use. These drugs can have potentially severe side effects. For example, ivermectin is not recommended for use in dogs that have tested positive for heartworm. In addition, many dogs are hyper-sensitive to