It can be quite a nasty shock for pet parents to clean up after their pup only to see wriggly maggots in dog poop. Ew! One of the more unsavory duties of pet parenting is to keep an eye on your dog’s bowel movements. A normal canine bowel movement should be dark brown, well-formed (but not dry or hard), and be passed easily.
The wriggling things in your dog’s poop may be intestinal worms or might in fact be maggots that have been attracted to the feces after it was passed. Keeping a regular check on your pup’s pottying habits leads to early detection of issues such as diarrhea, dietary issues, or even worms in your dog’s poop.
Am I seeing worms, or maggots in dog poop?
Without wanting to delve too deeply into your dog’s poop, it can be tricky to tell what type of creepy crawlies are wriggling around in the feces.
Here are the most likely parasites to be causing problems:
The four main intestinal worms found in dogs are hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. It is possible for your dog to be infected with parasites and not see any in their bowel movements, as usually only the tiny eggs will be passed. Adult worms will usually only be seen in the poop if the worm burden is very high.
Hookworms – these are thin, tiny worms with a hooked mouthpart at one end.
Whipworms – these look like thin pieces of thread, slightly larger at one end than the other.
Roundworms – white or tan-colored, very long worms, which can look like spaghetti.
Tapeworms – the adults aren’t found in the feces, but you may see their egg sacs, which look like grains of rice and can be in the poop itself or stuck around your dog’s back end.
If you don’t clear up your dog’s poop immediately, it can quickly become colonized by small beasties living in the ground outside.
Maggots – these are fly larvae, and are small and very active.
Earthworms - these are medium worms that are brown or pink in color.
Red worms – these are small, red, and wriggly.
How did my dog get worms?
Roundworms can be passed to young puppies through their mother’s milk, or even through the placenta. They are also found in the feces of infected animals - a high level of eggs is common.
Tapeworms are commonly spread by fleas and so if your dog grooms themselves and ingests a flea, they might develop tapeworms. These parasites can also be passed on to your dog if they eat an animal that was infected with tapeworm.
Are worms in dog poop a problem?
The level of harm to your dog’s health if they have worms, depends on their age, size, and general health, as well as the type and number of worms. Some internal parasites can cause problems not only in the stomach and intestines but also in the heart, lungs, and other essential organs.
Seeing signs of worms in dog poop imply a heavy burden of worms internally, which can cause multiple symptoms. These include:
Diarrhea, which may contain blood or mucus
Weight loss and poor condition
Poor appetite, or voracious appetite
Poor growth in puppies
How about maggots in dog poop? Do you need to be concerned? Don’t worry – maggots in dog poop only occur after your dog has passed feces, and can be found in perfectly healthy dogs. It just means that the feces have been lying on the ground for a little while – although maggots can appear very quickly! However, it is worth noting that if you spot any maggots around your dog’s back end, or on any wounds - in which case you should seek veterinary attention immediately.
Can people catch worms from dogs?
Some intestinal worms in dogs are transmissible to humans and can cause severe disease. Roundworms can be a particular concern, as roundworm eggs, if ingested, can migrate all over the body, including to the liver, eyes, and brain. Children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are more at risk. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has more information on the risks of pet parasite transmission to owners.
What do I do if I see signs of worms in dog poop?
If you spot worms in dog poop, it’s a clear sign that your dog requires worming treatment. The best thing to do is to contact your veterinarian who can dispense anti-parasite medication. These drugs come in many different forms, including tablets, liquids, topical applications, and injections. After treatment, you may see dead worms in the dog poop, as they pass out of the body – this is common and nothing to worry about.
If your dog becomes ill from a worm infection, showing signs such as tummy upset, they may need some additional support. This might include a highly digestible diet for a few days until the gut recovers.
If you see maggots in dog poop, no need to worry. You might just want to think about picking up your dog’s poop more frequently.
Can you prevent worms?
Yes, it is recommended to use regular treatments to prevent worms, as they are so common in the environment and can cause significant illness. Your veterinarian can test your dog’s stool regularly to check for signs of worm eggs that may need treatment. If you are unsure about what you need to be doing in regard to parasite prevention, a virtual vet visit may be a good place to start to discuss your pet’s needs.
Worms and Maggots: Summing up
Maggots are commonly found in dog stools, especially in warmer climates.
Worms and their eggs are passed out in the feces, but you may not see them even if your dog is infected
Maggots are fly larvae that are attracted to dog poop once it is already passed
Signs of worms in dogs include an upset tummy, bloating, and weight loss
Your veterinarian can perform a fecal test to check for the presence of worm eggs
Regular prevention is recommended, and prompt treatment, if any worms are found, is essential
If your dog is feeling ill, always seek veterinary advice.