The only thing that creeps me out more than intestinal parasites is the toxic chemicals we often use to treat them.
Don't let flashy marketing campaigns fool you. Synthetic dog dewormers are poisons. They may be effective at killing intestinal worms, but they also do damage to the liver and kidneys. Normal side effects include digestive upset, seizures, and lethargy. If too much of these chemicals are ingested, which can happen in dogs who frequently get parasite infections, organ failure, coma, and death can result.
If you’re here, it’s likely because you already know the dangers of these toxic intestinal parasite treatments. Lucky for you and your furry friend, there are many safe natural dewormers for dogs that are just as effective as these dangerous chemical products.
Before you can help your dog battle intestinal parasites, you need to understand where these pests come from, what they do to the body, and the most common intestinal worm types found in dogs.
Most intestinal worm infections occur when dogs lick or eat infested soil or feces. This can happen when your dog frequents areas where infected dogs or wildlife roam. Even if your dog doesn’t partake in dirt or poop dining, they can get parasites by licking infected dirt from their coat.
External parasites, specifically fleas, can also transmit internal parasites. If your dog licks an infected flea from their fur, they have a high chance of getting tapeworms.
Puppies can also be infected with worms in utero or through their mother’s milk.
Intestinal worms feed either on your dog's blood by attaching themselves to the intestines or on the food your dog eats, depending on the species. Either way, dogs with high parasite loads are at risk of anemia and malnourishment as these parasites steal from them.
Some types of worms will travel out of the gut and into the lungs and throat to complete their life cycle. When this happens, your dog is likely to develop a persistent cough.
The most common symptoms of intestinal worms include:
- Itchy bum/scooting
- Poor appetite or extreme hunger
- Dull coat
- Blood in the stool
- Worms in the stool
- Distended abdomen
Dogs with a high load of intestinal parasites struggle to gain weight despite a normal or increased appetite. Some worm species are visible in fecal matter, while others are not.
Intestinal worms are a subclass of parasitic worms, also known as helminths, that reside primarily in the gut of their host species. In dogs, there are four common types of intestinal worms.
Tapeworms are a type of flatworm that can grow to incredible lengths inside the digestive tract. These worms attach themselves to the walls of the intestine and feed on digested food. Tapeworm infections can happen when your dog ingests infected fleas, fecal matter, and meat.
Hookworms are a type of roundworm that feeds on blood by attaching themselves to the walls of the intestines. These are some of the most common types of worms found in domestic dogs. Dogs get hookworms by ingesting infected soil or eating animals, such as rodents, who are infected.
Whipworms are a type of roundworm that embed themselves in the intestinal wall and feed on blood. They cause excessive irritation and inflammation in the large intestine and cecum. Dogs most often pick up whipworm infections by ingesting soil contaminated with whipworm eggs.
Roundworms, also known as nematodes, are a broad group of intestinal parasites that often infect dogs. In addition to the very common hookworms and whipworms, dogs can also get infected with Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leoninaroundworms. Most roundworm species feed on blood.
Parasitic worm infections are not something you want to let go untreated. Not only can these infections cause discomfort and health problems for your dog, but they are easily spread to other dogs and, in some cases, humans.
Luckily, there are a number of safe, natural remedies for deworming your dog at home. Here are five of the easiest and most effective.
NOTE: We always recommend consulting with a holistic veterinarian before starting any medicinal home remedies. This is especially important when working with pregnant dogs or those with medical conditions.
Ground pumpkin seeds are one of the simplest ways to deworm your dog without chemicals. These raw seeds contain an amino acid called cucurbitin that acts as a natural paralytic in nematodes and other parasitic worms. Not only that, but it has damaging effects on worms' reproductive systems, preventing them from spreading.
Give ¼ tsp of ground raw pumpkin seeds (no salt!) per 10 pounds of body weight twice daily until the worms are gone.
Studies into the use of raw garlic to treat internal parasites in humans and animals have found that it can be more effective than commercial deworming products. The key to its effectiveness is an amino acid called allicin. This potent sulfur compound prevents parasites from breaking down food, essentially starving them to death.
Give ¼ clove of smashed garlic for every 25 pounds of body weight twice daily until the worms are gone.
NOTE: Smash the garlic and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before feeding to allow allicin compounds to form. For giant dogs, do not give more than 1 clove of garlic twice per day.
Black cumin seeds are used by traditional herbalists in India to deworm children and adults. Many studies have found that this spice is highly effective in causing parasitic worm evacuation while helping to reduce gastrointestinal inflammation.
Give ½ tsp of whole seeds for small dogs or 1 tsp for large dogs with food once daily until the worms are gone.
Thyme extract has been successfully used to fight roundworm infections in puppies. Herbalists also recommend fresh herb use in dogs to fight hookworms. The potent compounds in thyme appear to prevent egg production in roundworms while reducing symptoms of ascariasis.
Give 1 tsp of dried thyme per 1 pound of food at each meal until the worms are gone.
Neem is a powerful antiparasitic often used in oil form to treat topical infections. The leaves and extract can also be safely used in dogs to treat roundworm infections. This treatment is common in areas where neem trees grow naturally, including Brazil and the Caribbean.
Give ⅛ tsp of powdered neem bark per 10 pounds of body weight OR 500mg of neem leaf per 40 pounds of body weight twice daily until the worms are gone.
NOTE: Only neem powder and extract can be taken internally. Never give neem oil internally.
The most important natural intestinal worm preventative is a healthy diet. When dogs are fed a quality, biologically appropriate diet, their gut and immune system are more likely to function how they are supposed to.
Raw meat diets help normalize the acidity of the stomach while maintaining a healthy and diverse population of gut flora. These factors, in combination, help repel intestinal parasites when they enter the body, preventing them from attaching to the intestines and from reproducing.
These diets also do far more than traditional commercial diets to support the health of the immune system. Over 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. Feeding it the appropriate diet is imperative for proper function. Dogs who eat high-meat diets with added natural nutrient supplements are much less likely to experience worm infestations than dogs on commercial kibble.
If your dog has preexisting conditions that lower their immunity, is stressed, or is otherwise prone to chronic intestinal parasites, there are some powerful herbs and natural remedies you can use to help protect them from recurrent infections.
Apple cider vinegar helps to prevent parasitic worms in multiple ways.
Raw ACV helps support a healthier gut biome, which translates to a healthier immune system. It helps give your dog the right tools to fight intestinal parasites before they can establish in the gut.
ACV also helps balance gut acidity to achieve a more alkaline environment in which intestinal parasites cannot thrive.
Give ¼ tsp to 1 tsp raw ACV with the mother per day with your dog’s food.
Chamomile extract has been shown to have a moderate antiparasitic effect when used to treat roundworms. But more importantly, it is highly effective at alleviating the oxidative stress, inflammation, and other deleterious effects noted with roundworm infections.
If your dog frequently suffers from roundworm infections or is just getting over one, adding chamomile tea, extract, or powder to their food will help them recover and may prevent future infections.
Give 0.25 to 0.5 ml of chamomile extract (in glycerine) per 20 pounds of body weight twice a day.
Wild wolves, who are constantly exposed to intestinal parasites, frequently eat non-digestible plant matter like grass. Researchers have observed tapeworms and other intestinal worms entangled with plant fibers in wolf stool, suggesting that they eat plants as a means to reduce parasite numbers.
You can emulate this behavior by feeding your dog certain fruits and vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are loaded with fiber that can help scrub the gut of parasites. Some also have extra compounds known to kill or repel worms.
Carrots are full of cellulose that dogs can’t digest. This gives them the ability to scrub the walls of the gut clean and help flush away worms. Adding grated carrots to your dog’s food once a week can help avoid parasite infections.
Pomegranate was used by ancient Egyptians to fight tapeworms and other parasitic infections. It's not well understood which of the many health-supporting compounds in pomegranate are effective against worms, but studies do support its use. Add a few spoonfuls of fresh pomegranate to your dog's dish once a week.
Papain from papaya and bromelain from pineapples are enzymes known to break down protein, including the bodies of intestinal worms. Adding raw pineapple or papaya to your dog’s food can help them maintain a clear digestive tract.
Many herbs have been said to help keep the gut clear of parasites. Research into which ones work best seems to indicate that peppermint, goldenseal, and echinacea are the best choices for helping your dog remain worm-free.
One of the easiest ways to get these helpful herbs into your dog is to make a concentrated tea and add it to their food once or twice a week.
Diatomaceous earth is well known for its ability to kill insects and pests outside the body. In fact, it is a wonderful natural treatment for fleas. Because of this, many people believe DE is also effective in killing internal parasites.
Unfortunately, research does not back this claim. Multiple studies have looked at DE as an alternative for dewormers in livestock and pets and found that it does not have a noticeable effect.
This is likely because the feature that makes DE effective on pests in the outside world is its microscopic razor-sharp edges. When DE comes into contact with moisture, as it would in the body, these edges swell and are no longer deadly to pests.
Yes, black walnut is an effective dewormer for dogs. But, much like wormwood, another natural dewormer, it can be dangerous if used in the wrong amounts or for too long. If you have tried all other natural methods and your dog is still struggling with worms, we recommend talking to a holistic veterinarian about how to properly use black walnut to help them find relief.
Some essential oils can be effective in cleansing the body of parasites. But, much like with black walnut, there are some dangers to having your dog ingest essential oils. If you want to use these highly concentrated oils to help your dog, we recommend talking to your holistic vet first.
There are a lot of effective and safe natural dewormers for dogs that can be used in place of Fenbendazole. One of the easiest to use is ground pumpkin seeds. This method is safe for dogs of all sizes and has been scientifically proven to help eliminate parasitic worms from the intestinal tract.
Intestinal worms are something most dog owners will have to deal with at some point in their lives. Young puppies and senior dogs are at greatest risk of contracting parasites because their immune system is not as strong as an adult dog's. Using our natural deworming suggestions above can help cleanse your puppy or older dog of worms without exposing them to harmful chemicals that will only do more damage to the immune system.
If your adult dog comes down with worms, this is a good sign something isn’t right. It may be a good time to take a hard look at your dog’s diet. If they are on kibble and switching to raw isn’t an option, there are steps you can take to improve their kibble diet. You may also want to consider switching to a commercial raw or freeze-dried diet. These are easier to feed than homemade raw but still have a lot of benefits over traditional dog food.
Of course, if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors or otherwise has a high chance of being exposed to worms, it’s a good idea to take extra steps to help them avoid infections. Our natural parasite preventatives above can do wonders for keeping them parasite-free while supporting their overall health.
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Sara Seitz worked in the pet industry for over a decade. In addition to being a certified dog trainer, Sara gained experience working as the general manager of a dog daycare and boarding facility, as the creator and manager of a pet sitting company, as a groomer, and as a dog behavior evaluator. She also has a bachelors in animal behavior from CSU. Currently, Sara works as a freelance writer specializing in blog, article and content writing.