It's a common misconception that young puppies don't have worms because they have not yet been exposed to contaminated environments. But as gross as it sounds, most puppies are born with worms. Veterinarians recommend deworming puppies every two weeks until they are 8 weeks old to kill all worms. After that, they can receive monthly dewormings until they reach 6 months of age, then every three months through adulthood. Find the best puppy deworming schedule for your little one, and talk to your veterinarian for guidance.
Puppy Deworming Schedule
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) guidelines recommend puppies be dewormed as young as 2 weeks old. They should receive a dewormer every two weeks until they reach 8 weeks old. Once your pup reaches 8 weeks old, they should be ready to start a monthly parasite control product, such as Heartgard, Trifexis, or Intercepter Plus, which most veterinarians will prescribe at this stage of development. These medications will deworm them regularly into adulthood. Ideally, all puppies should be dewormed at the following ages:
- 2 weeks old
- 4 weeks old
- 6 weeks old
- 8 weeks old
- 3 months old
- 4 months old
- 5 months old
- 6 months old
- 9 months old
- 1 year old
If you adopt or buy an older puppy and you're not sure if they were dewormed at these intervals, just ask the breeder or shelter. Most breeders follow these guidelines and rescues deworm at two-week intervals, as well. Your veterinarian can help you create a personalized schedule if you're unsure.
If you don't plan to put your dog on a year-round parasite control product, CAPC recommends monthly dewormings until the puppy reaches 6 months old, then administering a dewormer every three months thereafter. A monthly preventative is preferable for most pups, but if you can't keep your pup on the optimal schedule, this alternative may work for your pup.
Why Do You Need to Keep Deworming Your Pup?
Unfortunately, puppy deworming isn't a one-and-done deal. They must go through multiple treatments for a few reasons, the first being that most deworming medications only kill adult worms. Any immature worm larvae in your puppy will survive a first and even a second deworming, depending on the length of the worm's life cycle. Worm reinfection is also very common in puppies. They're always licking their bottoms, trying to eat poop, and can even get some types of worms from their mother through nursing.
Deworming isn't just important for the health of your puppy; it will also keep your family safe. Common puppy worms, such as roundworms and hookworms, are zoonotic, meaning they can infect humans. However, instead of infecting a person's intestines, these worms migrate to other organs, such as the lungs, eyes, and under a person's skin. There's no reason to let your puppy become or stay infected, both for their health and your family's health.
Look for These Symptoms of Worms in Puppies
The reason most veterinarians recommend blanket guidelines for deworming is that it can be difficult to tell if a puppy is even infected. If you're looking for signs your puppy has worms, you may be out of luck. Many puppies won't show any symptoms despite having a belly filled with parasites. However, as the worms grow, you may notice the following:
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Soft stool or diarrhea
- Blood in feces
- Low energy
- Weight loss
- Low appetite
- Ravenous appetite
- Dull fur
How to Find the Safest Dewormer for Puppies
Veterinarians tend to agree that pyrantel (sold under brand names including Strongid and Nemex) is the safest dewormer for young puppies. It's safe for puppies as young as 2 weeks old and typically comes in a flavored liquid that they'll eat right up. Pyrantel kills both roundworms and hookworms, which are the most common types that affect puppies.
Other ingredients that your vet might prescribe for deworming your puppy include fenbendazole (brand names include Safe-Guard and Panacur), which should only be used in puppies over 6 weeks old, and milbemycin (brand names include Intercepter and MILBEHART), which can be given to puppies over the age of 4 weeks. All medications are dosed based on a puppy's current weight. Always follow your veterinarian's dosing guidelines and don't be afraid to ask if you have any questions.
Pumpkin: A Natural Dewormer for Puppies?
There is some evidence that pumpkin seeds can contribute to parasite control in animals thanks to a compound called cucurbitacin, which may help eliminate worms. However, you should not feed pumpkin seeds to a young puppy because the fibrous seeds can be difficult for them to digest. These seeds can even cause a blockage in their intestines. Avoid offering a puppy any solid food until they're at least 6 weeks old. Try grinding the seeds to sprinkle over their meal and only feed in moderation to prevent any digestive upset.
However, even if you give your pup a natural remedy for worm infections, most veterinarians are still likely to recommend placing your puppy on a monthly deworming medication. You're probably better off following your veterinarian's guidelines to keep your puppy safe.
What to Expect After Your Puppy's First Deworming
If you've just given your puppy their first deworming treatment, you should know what to expect, and, unfortunately, it's not always pleasant. You may see dead worms that look like long spaghetti or short strings in your puppy's feces a few days after their dewormer. Your puppy may even vomit worms.
Don't be alarmed if this happens; it's actually a positive thing because it means the deworming medication is working. Just be sure to use gloves and safely dispose of the worms. If you don't notice any worms in their stool, that's OK, too. Either way, monitor your puppy and report anything unusual to your vet.
Deworming a Puppy at Home
It's also best to weigh your puppy right before deworming to get their most recent weight. Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your puppy any type of dewormer to confirm it's safe and you're not at risk of over-dosing them. With a safe product and the right deworming schedule, your new puppy can grow into a healthy and vibrant dog.