Does your pup love jumping in the mud and puddles or vigorously digging holes and gobbling up some worms? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Worm-eating is quite common among dogs and is not the nastiest thing that canines can eat.
Still, if you want to find out more about how eating worms can affect your furbaby or what are the possible reasons why your pet loves eating them in the first place, then read on.
We have included the answer to the question can dogs eat worms and some tips for training your pup to prevent future worm ingestion.
Why Does My Dog Eat Worms?
While eating earthworms is not the worst thing your pup can ingest, it is neither healthy nor recommended. This is why we recommend you try to identify why your furbaby likes eating worms and then take action to prevent further incidents.
Here are some of the most common causes of dogs eating worms:
Boredom or Curiosity
When a pup is bored, it can engage in all types of unwanted behavior, from incessant barking, digging, chewing, and even worm eating.
Young puppies and more active dogs are especially prone to be bored if they do not get sufficient physical and mental stimulation.
Plus, canines are naturally curious and may be interested in tasting the wiggly earthworms they find in a puddle or when digging.
So, if you find that your furry friend is nibbling on a worm, it may be of pure curiosity or boredom.
To ensure that a dog stays entertained, provide it with sufficient walks, playtime, and games and activities that help stimulate its mind.
Puppies explore the world with the help of their mouths. Thankfully, the curiosity that makes young puppies try to taste and eat anything that moves will start decreasing as they grow older.
Pica is the name of an actual disorder or condition which causes dogs and sometimes humans to crave and eat non-food items. Pica is the Latin name for the magpie, a bird known to try to eat just about anything.
So, if your four-legged companion likes eating worms or other natural, biological or manmade items with little or no nutritional value, it may have pica.
Some of the common things dogs with this condition like eating include dirt, fabric, clay, worms, and others.
Pica is common among dogs with a nutritional deficiency or starved. Electrolyte imbalances may also cause it.
You should speak with your vet if you suspect your dog has pica. The veterinarian can perform tests to determine whether your pet suffers from electrolyte imbalances or certain nutrient deficiencies.
If no medical reason is found, then this worm-eating habit may be behavioral. Nervous and anxious dogs are prone to eating non-food things. Trainers and animal behaviorists can address such behavioral issues.
The Natural Instinct for Scavenging
Canines are scavengers by nature, so craving worms is not such a surprising habit. Plus, dogs are also hunters by nature, so going after something which is wiggling and moving is instinctual too.
The wolves used to hunt and scavenge before they became domesticated by humans.
So, even if you feed your furry companion the best and most nutritious dog food, it may still display some instinctual behavior, including ingesting worms.
Because of nutritional deficiencies, dogs may crave and eat worms and other organic matter such as grass and earth.
Earthworms are often called “wriggling superfoods” because they are packed with protein, amino acids, iron, copper, zinc, and manganese.
Young puppies are especially prone to seeking more proteins once they are weaned from their mother.
Thankfully, your veterinarian can easily determine whether your furry friend has a deficiency of particular nutrients by performing blood tests and other medical examinations.
It Loves the Taste of Worms
Another straightforward explanation for your dog’s worm eating is that it may simply enjoy the worm’s taste and texture.
We humans and dogs find different foods and things appetizing. So even though your pup’s interest in grub may gross you out, it may truly love and enjoy the taste of worms.
But while canines have more acidic guts than their dog parents and can handle eating weirder things than us, it is still not recommended to allow or encourage such behavior because of the risk of parasite infections.
Is Eating Worms Bad for Canines?
If your furbaby happens to ingest a single worm from time to time, then there is minimal risk for any repercussions for its health. But if your dog adores digging in your garden and gobbling up the creepy crawlies daily, this can lead to more serious adverse effects on its health.
While worms are beneficial for aerating the soil in your garden, they are not as good for pups.
Some of the milder side effects of consuming worms can be stomach upsets like diarrhea and vomiting. But in other cases, the consequences can be more severe and lead to parasite infections and even kidney damage and failure.
The danger of dogs ingesting worms is that the creepy crawlers can be carrying roundworms or other parasite eggs. This can lead to your dog getting infected, and such parasites can be dangerous for dog parents and other humans too.
You can ensure that your furbaby stays healthy and parasite-free by strictly following the worming schedule recommended by your vet.
Can Ingesting Earthworms Harm My Pup?
While earthworms are not toxic or dangerous for dogs, these creepy crawlers can be carriers of particular parasite eggs. So, ingesting them can cause a roundworm infestation of your dog’s bladder or ureter. There are no immediate symptoms of such an infection, apart from an increased need to urinate and urine inconsistency. It is treated with veterinary antiparasitic medications.
But the more significant danger for dogs eating earthworms comes from the potential infestation with Dioctophyma Renal. This parasite, unlike the roundworms, can be very hazardous. This giant kidney worm can lead to kidney damage and failure in some dogs.
The Dioctophyma Renal parasite, once ingested via the earthworm, will travel through the liver and then to the right kidney of your pup. It can infest the kidney and start destroying its tissue and blocking it.
Unfortunately, there is no antiparasitic drug for this specific parasite. The only possible treatment is the surgical removal of the infected kidney.
Some other dangers of eating earthworms come from the risk of other types of infections and infestations from various bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens from the soil and the worm.
Plus, while earthworms thrive happily in natural fertilizers and compost, these substances can cause stomach upsets in some canines.
Why Does My Young Puppy Keep Eating Worms?
Puppies are adorable and fun and are also very curious. So being fascinated by a wriggling worm and trying to catch and eat it is only natural for young puppies.
But your puppy will most likely engage in such behavior with just about any moving or non-moving thing it sees too.
In rarer cases, a puppy may ingest worms due to a need for more protein. Young puppies need a lot of protein after they are weaned from their mothers and start growing.
Interestingly, worms are often called “wriggling superfoods.” This is because they are so rich in proteins, copper, iron, as well as other essential minerals and nutrients.
Can Worms Give My Dog Worms?
Yes, worms can carry roundworm eggs that can infect your pup’s bladder or ureter. And some earthworms may be carriers of the more hazardous Giant Kidney Worms, which can damage and destroy their kidneys.
While roundworms are easy to treat with deworming and antiparasitic medications, giant kidney worms cannot be treated with drugs. The only possible treatment is the removal of the dog’s infected kidney.
So, even though these occasions are not so common, it is best to try to prevent your furbaby from eating worms of any kind to stay on the safe side.
Are Dogs Able To Smell Worms?
Dogs have about 40 times more powerful senses of smell than humans. While we have about 6 million receptors for odors in our noses, dogs have about 300 million of these olfactory receptors.
So, canines have a much stronger and better-developed sense of smell than us.
This means that it is highly likely that your furry friend is able to smell a worm even if it is hidden in the grass or under the ground.
You may see this if your pup likes exploring and sniffing around your garden and then suddenly stops and begins digging intensively in search of the worm.
How to Stop Earthworm-Eating in Dogs
The first and most obvious way to prevent your pup from finding and eating earthworms is to not let it outside without being observed closely.
You can instead keep your pet entertained indoors with some interactive toys and games.
You may want to keep your pup leashed when you are outdoors on walks, especially in areas where there are many worms.
Keep your furry friend entertained, physically and mentally active, and stimulated by playing games with it or choosing other activities and toys that will keep it busy instead of searching for worms.
The other way is to train your dog by using positive reinforcement. Use some of your pup’s favorite treats for training, and teach it the “leave it” command. Once your furbaby realizes that it will receive a delicious treat every time it doesn’t gobble up the worm, it will learn to obey the “leave it” command.
One trick many dog parents swear by is spraying the pup’s mouth with doggie mouthwash before it leaves the house for a walk or playing in the garden. The mouthwash will make the earthworms taste unpalatable for the dog and hopefully help break this potentially harmful habit.
If your dog has pica causing the worm-eating, then speak to your vet. Some of the causes of pica can be determined via tests for electrolyte imbalance or nutrient deficiency. If any underlying physical reasons are overruled, your veterinarian may refer you to an animal behaviorist or trainer to address the behavioral issue causing the worm-eating.
Even though earthworms are not poisonous to your dog, eating a lot of them on a regular basis will increase the risk of a parasite infestation. While roundworms can be treated relatively easily, the rarer dangerous giant kidney roundworms can cause severe damage and even death in some cases.
Also, earthworms can be carriers of other pathogens, bacteria, parasites, and fertilizers which can harm your pup.
This is why it is recommended that you prevent any type of worm-eating behavior.
Use Positive Reinforcement to Keep the Dog Away From Worms
If there are no underlying deficiencies, imbalances, or other obvious reasons for your dog eating worms, then you should try training it to stay away from them altogether.
The best and most efficient way to do this is through positive reinforcement. This requires patience and consistency, but the results are excellent.
Use delicious treats such as small pieces of cheese or another favorite food for your pup as incentives.
Every time you see your furry friend digging or grabbing a worm in its mouth, tug its leash gently and say “leave it” or “no.”
If the dog obeys the command, reward it with a treat and praise. Do this every time, and do not be tempted to punish your dog if it disobeys the command.
Your pet will eventually learn to obey your commands if you are consistent with the training. This will help curb inappropriate behavior such as worm-eating.
Follow Your Dog’s Deworming Schedule Meticulously
To prevent infestations and keep your furry companion free of parasites, strictly follow its deworming schedule.
Young puppies are dewormed more often. Adult canines over the age of two need to be dewormed several times a year.
Even if your pet does not eat worms, it is still at risk of a parasite infestation from licking or other things outdoors.
Some parasites are not as dangerous, but others, such as tapeworms, hookworms, coccidia, heartworms, and others, can cause severe damage to the health. They can also be difficult and expensive to treat and can even lead to death.
Keeping your pup worm-free will protect yourself and other family members because many harmful parasites such as roundworms can easily be transferred to humans.
So, speak to your vet for the best deworming protocol and schedule for your furry friend and make sure it gets its