Dogs are naturally curious creatures and natural-born hunters. Whether we are in the confines of our backyard or running around the open with our humans, we all love to explore new things. And you can’t really properly explore something unless you’re sniffing, licking, and eating, well, everything. These activities are a big part of how we interact with the world, which you already know if you have a dog.
But that exploration and curiosity and our instinct to hunt small animals can lead to us getting sick if we’re not careful. With all the licking and eating and sniffing that we do, it isn’t hard to see why it is easy for us to get worms. The thought of it is enough to make anyone’s skin crawl, but it is surprisingly common. Thankfully, there are worming medications that are highly effective in both treating and preventing worms, with Pyrantel pamoate being one of the most widely used.
What is Pyrantel?
As mentioned, Pyrantel is the most commonly used deworming medication. You will find it in many worming tablets brands, and it treats roundworm and hookworm. Roundworm and hookworm are intestinal parasites that are easy to contract. Roundworm is more common, and we dogs pick it up easily through contaminated soil, infected animals, and feces. Puppies can also get these worms directly from their mothers, which we’ll get into a little bit later.
Pyrantel is a medication given orally and works by paralyzing the worms in the intestinal tract, causing them to lose their grip and making it easier for the dog to expel from their system.
Pyrantel is so widely used because of its effectiveness, often eliminating the intestinal worms after only a single dose. This result may not always be the case, though. More severe cases of worms may need further applications.
Roundworms can be quite large sometimes, so large that you can often see them in your dog’s still. That said, both roundworm and hookworm eggs are microscopic and difficult to spot. So, sometimes, there will be no visible sign of the worm that would indicate that your dog may be infected (unlike tapeworms that are large and often easy to spot in droppings).
If you suspect that your pup might have worms, have them examined by a vet. They may then perform a fecal floatation test, a test where the vet puts a fecal sample in a container with a solution that encourages the eggs to float. The floating material is examined to determine what type of worm your dog is infected with. It is important to know exactly what kind of worm it is as Pyrantel by itself is not effective in killing whipworm, tapeworm, or other intestinal parasites. While Pyrantel can be given on its own to kill specific worms, it is often used together with other worm medications to cover a wider range and is more often than not a key ingredient in the medication that your dog is currently receiving as worm prevention.
Types of Worms Pyrantel is Used to Treat
Roundworms are pretty common. Although any dog can get them, puppies are at particular risk. Because puppies are so small, they can quickly become malnourished and get sick from a roundworm infection.
Puppies are also at risk because they can get roundworms from their mother. There are two ways this happens. The worms can be passed from the mother through the placenta when the puppy is in utero. They can also pass through breastmilk when the puppy is breastfeeding. What is interesting is the mother doesn’t even have to have an active infection for this to happen. Dormant roundworm larvae can live in the mother’s body and reactivate when the mother is pregnant.
Your dog can also get roundworms from the environment, either by ingesting infected stool or by eating small rodents that are infected.
Symptoms of roundworm are very subtle in the early stages. Because they feed off the nutrients your pet needs, puppies often show signs sooner than adult dogs. You may notice that your puppy isn’t growing well.
In both puppies and adult dogs, you may notice poor conditioning, a distended abdomen, vomiting, mucousy diarrhea, or coughing. Your dog’s coat may not be as shiny as usual. Your vet may also mention that your dog is experiencing masses in the kidneys, fluid in the abdomen, or a fatty liver.
Roundworms are visible in the stool, but just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s really important to see your vet. Your pet can have a roundworm infection even if they have a normal-looking stool.
Another common intestinal parasite is hookworms. They get their name from their hook-like mouths. If that sounds uncomfortable, it is. These worms use their hook mouths to attach to your dog’s small intestine and suck their blood.
An adult hookworm lives in the small intestine and releases eggs, which are excreted in your dog’s feces. They spread when another dog ingests the infected stool, but hookworms can also contaminate the soil. Your dog can pick them up by walking in the wrong spot and then licking their paws. Nursing mothers can also pass hookworms onto their puppies through breastfeeding.
Hookworms are more common in warmer climates since, a lot of the time, they hide out in the soil and cold weather isn’t suitable for them. They’re very small and you can’t often see them with the naked eye.
Symptoms of hookworms vary slightly from puppy to adult dogs.
Puppies may look generally unhealthy, and their fur may look dull. They may have pale mucous membranes and be unable to gain weight. You may notice that your puppy appears weak, coughs, or has blood in its stool. Remember, any infection is serious for a puppy. Because they’re so small, they can very quickly dehydrate or become malnourished.
Adult dogs are likely to lose interest in eating which leads to weight loss. You may also notice blood in the stool and general weakness and malaise.
Larvae may also migrate to the lungs, which can cause breathing problems and even pneumonia. The risk for this is higher in puppies, and it’s a bit more dangerous for them if it does happen.
Hookworm larvae can also get into your dog’s skin, which leads to itching and general discomfort. You may notice irritation and itching between their toes.
While Pyrantel is used in many over-the-counter deworming medications, we recommend using Pyrantel that is prescribed by a vet. Using a prescription is the best way to ensure that your dog will receive the most effective dose based on both weight and breed. Pyrantel is commonly in medications used for worming puppies early in their life. These medications are administered by the vet every two weeks for twelve weeks in most puppies and then given once every three months for the rest of their lives as adults. If used as a treatment instead of prevention, a single dose of Pyrantel is enough to rid your pup of any mature worms. A second dose is usually given to clear out any developed worms that might have come from eggs left behind after the first treatment. As is often the case, you should not consider one or two doses the rule as dogs that are very heavily infected may need further treatment. You can also give Pyrantel to nursing dogs a couple of weeks after giving birth to reduce the risk of passing worms onto the puppies. While most worming medications are not suited for dogs who already have pre-existing medical conditions or are sick at the time the worming medication needs to be administered, most vets consider Pyrantel safe, and they will prescribe it to already sick dogs that also need to be dewormed.
Side Effects of Pyrantel
Pyrantel is a popular treatment for worms not just because it is inexpensive and easy to administer, but also because it is not harsh on a dog’s stomach, even young puppies. Most dogs will have no side effects from the medication at all. However, that depends on the dog, and just because side effects aren’t common doesn’t mean that they will not occur. In most cases, the side effects are minor and can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. Some of these symptoms may occur not as a reaction to the medicine itself.
You might remember that Pyrantel works by paralyzing the worms in the GI tract. So, once the worms are paralyzed, they have to come out. Some of the side effects of the medication are a way for your dog to expel worms. There have also been cases of more serious reactions to the medications. These are very rare, and this medication is generally very safe. But, if your dog exhibits unusal symptoms, like heavy panting, swelling, hives, and pale gums, take them to the vet immediately. These symptoms may be an indication that your dog is having an allergic reaction or has even possibly overdosed.
Other Considerations When it Comes to Pyrantel
Early in your puppy’s life, Pyrantel is given orally by their vet. After the initial treatment, though, it will probably be given to you by the vet to administer yourself. Be sure to follow the directions as it is possible for your dog to overdose on Pyrantel.
Your vet should go over all the specifics with you as far as dosing and when you should give the medication. Generally, though, it is best to give the medication with food to help reduce any side effects that may occur. Pyrantel should be kept in its original container and stored at room temperature to keep it from spoiling. It should also go without saying that you should keep this and all medications out of reach of children. Pet. medication doesn’t always come in a childproof container and can be very easy for them to access. Better to be safe than sorry.
It’s an unfortunate fact that, at one point or another, worms are going to be a part of a dog’s life. Don’t feel too bad about it if and when it happens to your dog. If your pet likes to explore, then it’s practically inevitable that they will eventually get worms. The important thing is to stay calm and make sure you seek out the proper treatment. Look for any signs that your dog is not quite acting like themselves, and go see your veterinarian as soon as you can.
For the most part, dogs get worms when we are young. Not only are we very curious creatures, but our immune system is not quite strong enough to be able to fight parasites off on our own when we’re puppies.
=But just because it’s more common in younger dogs doesn’t mean it can’t occur at any point in our life. That is why it’s extremely important to continue deworming medication throughout our entire life. Pyrantel plays a big part in that deworming regiment, and while it’s not effective on all types of worms or parasites, it is often a part of that worming medication, mixed with others to provide us the best protection from these nasty parasites possible.