Help! My Dog Ate A Worm

My dog ate a worm
Photo by Chelsea Nesvig on Flickr

Dogs and young puppies eat the strangest and most disgusting things, don’t they?

And so, what should you do if your dog eats a worm?

Try not to vomit with disgust?!

Personally, the sight of an earthworm turns my stomach and so on the few occasions that my dogs have eaten a few has got me very cross, very quickly.

Realistically, if your dog has eats a few earthworms now and again, the chances of them becoming ill as a result are very slim.

After all, an earthworm is just muscle. They don’t have a skeleton (like we do) or any hard exoskeleton (like many insects.)

And muscle is just another form of protein, isn’t it?!

Your dog has nothing to fear from the worm itself but I will talk later about some of the horrible company that worms keep.

But for now, I want to look at why a dog might want to eat a worm in the first place?

What you will learn from this article:

  1. Why do dogs eat earthworms?
  2. Why might worms be toxic/ poisonous for dogs to eat?
  3. How can I stop my dog from eating worms?
  4. Why does my dog roll on worms?
  5. Are wax worms or slow worms poisonous for dogs?
  6. Can a dog poop out a worm?

Why do dogs eat earthworms?

Many dogs are opportunistic scavengers.

They will eat a wide variety of food items and other edible objects, whenever they get the chance. 

Some dogs have a medical condition called Pica, which is used for dogs who routinely eat non food items- such as their owner’s underwear or socks.

Some dogs with pica eat these items because their diet is so poor that they will eat anything to “top it up”. 

Other dogs with pica eat boxer shorts because they can’t bear to be left alone by their owners.

Snacking on earthworms, doesn’t mean that your dog has pica although you could use it to check just how good their diet is.

And now that I have discussed in a little more detail why dogs might eat earthworms, it is time to look at whether a side of worms now and again, is 100% safe. 

Why might worms be toxic/ poisonous for dogs to eat?

Worms aren’t not poisonous or toxic to your dog in and of themselves.

Eating a worm will not kill a dog in the same way that eating too many cherry stones will or eating peanut butter with xylitol will. 

But the danger from earthworms comes from parasites that they might be carrying around in them or on them. 

And there seems to be three particular parasites that are most dangerous.

The first is the giant kidney worm, the embryos of which are ingested by earthworms.

If the dog eats the worm, these embryos will grow into worms which can be up to 40 com long and are life threatening because they could stop your dog’s kidney from working. 

The second is Capillaria plica and this worm will eventually end up in your dog’s kidneys or bladder. 

An infection by these worms isn’t life threatening and there are very few symptoms although your dog might have some blood in their urine or have less control of their bladder. 

The third is roundworm. And puppies are particularly susceptible to getting roundworm from their mothers. 

If your dog has an infestation of any of these worms, it will require a trip to the vet in order to go on a course of deworming tablets.

How can I stop my dog from eating worms?

Having learned all that we have about worms, stopping your dog from eating seems like a very wise move.

And I think that this needs to be tackled on two fronts.

Firstly, check that your dog’s diet is adequate and is giving your dog all the nutrients it needs.

Then, once you have done that you need to implement some worm training! 

And the best type of training is to praise the behaviour that you want (which is for your dog to not eat worms) and use a stern verbal command to tell them off if they start to eat worms!

And because it involves eating, it can be quite a challenge.

And it means that you will need to be very close to your dog, ready to jump in at any moment.

The ideal is that if your dog starts to eat any worms, they will stop when they hear a short sharp “no!” from you.

But in the early stages that is unlikely to work because to them it is food and it is so delicious. 

If you are close to them you can just grab their collar if they won’t respond to a “no” command. 

Another technique to use is distraction.

When they duck their head down ready to start eating a worm, distract them with their favourite chew toy or throw a ball for them. 

To be successful, any training needs to be repeated countless times. It takes lots of practice and patience. 

Why does my dog roll on worms?

Now this is a strange one and something that I haven’t come across before.

Scientists aren’t quite sure why dogs roll on and in all kinds of unpleasant things.

Some think it harks back to when they would be out hunting for food and they needed to mask their own scents.

Other researchers believe that it is because dogs are attracted to strong smells, much as we are to perfume or aftershave…

But none of this explains why dogs roll on worms..

One of my dogs rolls on any stick that I throw for her and she does this to claim the stick as her own.

So could this explain why a dog might roll on a worm? To claim this “food” for themselves?

Or do they roll on them to flatten them out, to make them easier to eat?!

Or is it that they aren’t deliberately rolling on the worm at all.

It is just that the worms happened to be by a pile of horse poop or fox poop.

And that was the main reason for the dog wanting to roll!

Are wax worms or slow worms poisonous for dogs?

The slow worm is a native species of Europe and Africa. I don’t think that it exists in the US. 

Like earthworms, slow worms are not toxic to dogs but they do carry internal parasites, two of which are neoxysomatium brevicaudatum and entomelas entomelas.But I can’t find anything about these parasites at all- let alone if they pose a risk to a dog that has eaten a slow worm.

One interesting feature of a slow worm is that when it is threatened by a predator, it can shed its tail.

So, if you see your dog standing next to a twitching tail, he might not have eaten the slow worm at all. 

Now, wax worms are slightly different because many people who fish keep wax worms as bait and many reptile owners keep wax worms as food.

Whilst, I’m not saying that wax worms are an ideal snack for your dog, wax worms that have been bought for food or bait might be cleaning and have fewer parasites than worms that have been crawling around in the soil!

Can a dog poop out a worm?

Finally, let me clear up a bit of a misunderstanding.

If your dog snacks on worms, then those worms aren’t the ones that they then poop out.

An earthworm will be broken down and digested in the dog’s stomach.

If your dog is pooping out worms, then these worms aren’t earthworms but parasitic worms.

It is a bit confusing because your dog might have been infected with parasitic worms from an earthworm or they might have been infected with parasitic worms for a different reason entirely- for instance by eating cat poop or dog poop. 

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!