This article was updated on July 15th, 2023
Intestinal worms are an unsightly yet common problem in dogs and cats worldwide. Worms can make an adult dog sick, but can often be serious – even life-threatening – for puppies since they have a weaker, immature immune system. Seeing worms in your dog’s vomit can be unnerving, but it’s an issue that we often face as veterinarians. Knowing about intestinal parasites, how to recognize them, and how to prevent them is an essential part of your dog’s care.
If your dog has worms, you will likely see them in your dog’s stool as they pass out of the intestines (read our article: Worms in Dog Poop). If the worm or its immature larval stage has migrated into our tissues, your dog may also cough or vomit up worms.
What type of worms are found in a dog’s vomit?
Dogs have four common intestinal worm parasites: roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm. Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite to see in vomit. On occasion, adult tapeworms detach from the intestinal wall and migrate to the stomach, where they can then be vomited up. You will rarely see hookworms or whipworms in vomit, although all of these worms can cause upset stomach and vomiting.
What worms in vomit look like in dogs [with pictures]
Since most worms seen in dog vomit are roundworms, the color is usually white, light brown, or pale yellow. If you see something black or red, it likely is NOT an intestinal parasite. More than likely, what you see in the vomit is something your dog ate, like a stick or toy. It’s still worth collecting the sample to show to your veterinarian, though (At a minimum, remember to take a picture).
How long are the typical worms seen in the dog’s vomit? They are typically white, thick roundworms that vary between 4-6 inches long. Less commonly, dogs can vomit tapeworms, which can be up to 11 inches.
Below is a picture of Toxocara canis, a species of roundworm that can infect people and dogs:
Is it worms, or is it something else in my dog’s vomit?
While it seems like it should be obvious whether it is a worm in your dog’s vomit or not, it isn’t always so clear. Once something has been vomited up, it never seems quite as evident what it was in the first place!
Sometimes dogs will vomit pieces of toys, cloth, or sticks and string that may look like worms. Remember, most intestinal parasites are an off-white, yellow, or very light brown color. If you see something darker, take another look – it may be something else! If you have any doubts, take a picture or, even better, put the object in a bag or container and show it to your veterinarian.
When should you call the vet?
Seeing a worm in your dog’s stool or vomit can be worrying. It is best to take your dog to the vet if:
- your dog is lethargic,
- your dog is not eating,
- your dog vomited numerous worms.
If your dog is still eating and drinking normally and has a good energy level, monitor your dog and make an appointment with your vet in the next few days.
Typical Symptoms in Dogs with Intestinal Parasites
It’s important that you monitor for the following signs in your dog:
- Diarrhea or soft stool
- Dull coat
- Poor growth, especially in puppies
- Potbelly appearance
- Scooting, especially with tapeworms
- Weight loss
Below are pictures of worms in dog’s stools. Keep reading to find out more about veterinarian treatments available to help your dog.
Veterinarian Treatment and Costs
The primary treatment for intestinal parasites is a deworming product. These can be pills, liquids, or injectables. The specific medication will depend on the type of parasite your dog has – not every dewormer covers every kind of worm. For example, praziquantel treats tapeworms, but it will not get rid of roundworms.
Dewormers may not cure your dog of the worms with one treatment. Some medications kill adult worms but not any larval or immature stages. Because of intestinal parasites’ unique life cycles, you may need to repeat treatments every 3-4 weeks.
Treatment costs for intestinal parasites are typically inexpensive, with the medicine costing between $20 and $50. Remember that your dog may need multiple rounds of treatment and repeat fecal tests to ensure the worms and their eggs are gone.
How to prevent worms in dog vomit in the future
Don’t wait until you see worms in your dog’s vomit to take action. The best way to make sure your dog doesn’t vomit worms is to prevent them in the first place. Routine deworming at least once a year is recommended.
Talk to your veterinarian about doing a fecal test and deworming at your dog’s yearly checkup. Your vet can also tell you about a variety of preventative dewormers. Many oral heartworm medications now help prevent a variety of intestinal parasites as well.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Hygiene – both for you, your family, and your dog – is also extremely important. Make sure to clean up the yard and any feces as quickly as possible to minimize any worms or infective eggs being left on the ground. Try not to let pets use the bathroom in areas that small children play in since they are more at risk for contracting intestinal parasites.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the chances of getting worms from your dog?
- Roundworm: The roundworm Toxocara canis can be passed to people that accidentally ingest eggs in infested soil or feces.
- Tapeworm: The most common tapeworm in dogs, Dipylidium spp., does not infect humans; less common tapeworm species, Echinococcus, can infect humans but are rare in the United States.
- Whipworm: The whipworm is unique to dogs and cats, and they do not infect humans.
- Hookworms: Immature stages can cross through human skin (often when stepped on in infected environments). The immature larvae do not develop into adult worms but can cause organ damage.
Can worms cause a dog to vomit?
Finding a worm in your dog’s vomit is rare, but it is still possible. It is far more likely that you will see worms in your dog’s stool. Since puppies and young dogs are more likely to be sick from intestinal parasites, they may be more likely to have associated vomiting.
Do worms in dogs cause them to be in pain?
Worms can cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain if they are in the intestines in high enough numbers. Tapeworms can also cause discomfort and scooting due to the rice-like proglottid segments that pass through the rectum and get stuck in the fur around the dog’s anus.
WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]
How long will a dog throw up worms? Will it go away on its own?
If your dog is vomiting worms, it likely will not go away on its own. A worm in vomit means your dog likely has a high worm burden (or large numbers). They can vomit from an upset stomach but can also vomit due to obstruction by many worms.
How did my dog get worms?
Your dog can get worms in various ways; transmission depends on the type of worm.
Roundworms – ingesting or sniffing eggs off the ground or eating infected rodents, birds, and earthworms. Larvae can cross the placenta, infect unborn puppies, and pass through the mother’s milk to new puppies.
Tapeworms – ingesting a tapeworm-infected flea. Once the dog’s intestines digest the tapeworm-infected flea, the tapeworm egg hatches and attaches to the intestinal wall. It can then grow and pass on its proglottid segments in the dog’s feces.
Whipworms – A dog is infected by eating mature eggs found in the environment. The egg then hatches and matures in the dog’s intestinal tract.
Hookworms – Dogs get hookworms by ingesting hookworm larvae in the environment, licking larvae off their paws, and through the mother’s milk and placenta.