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  • Molly Weinfurter

My Dog Ate a Worm: Can Dogs Eat Worms?

Updated: Jun 11

After a rainy day, it’s common to see worms lying around. As disgusting as it is for us, many dogs try to eat worms off the sidewalk, especially dry, dead worms. Unfortunately, my dog is one of them. She becomes so fixated on dead worms that she keeps stopping to pick them up and swallow them before I can stop her. It’s a bad habit that can be hard to break, but why do dogs eat worms? And can dogs eat worms, or is it unsafe for them? Keep reading to find out.

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Can Dogs Eat Worms?

While dogs are capable of eating worms, it isn’t a habit we should encourage. Dogs should never eat random objects they find outside because those items could carry unhealthy bacteria that could make dogs sick. Teaching your dog the “drop it” cue is a great way to prevent them from ingesting worms and other objects they find. My dog used to be very stubborn about eating dead worms, but now she almost always drops them when told.

Maltese wearing coat sniffing

Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Worms?

No, it’s not safe for dogs to eat worms because worms could carry bacteria and parasites that are harmful to dogs. Dogs could face an upset stomach or more severe symptoms as a result. So, even if your dog ate a worm in the past and was fine, it’s best to prevent them from eating them just to be safe.

Why Do Dogs Eat Worms?

The exact reason dogs eat worms is unknown. Dogs eat lots of crazy things that experts can’t explain. For example, lots of dogs eat grass, but vets can’t seem to agree on why. Plus, every dog is different, so the reason may vary from one dog to another.

Dogs likely eat worms because they’re curious or they like the taste. Dogs are natural scavengers, so if they find something they can eat, they’re often quick to pick it up.

In some cases, a dog could be eating worms because they’re not getting enough nutritional value from their food. Dogs that aren’t getting enough nutrients are more likely to eat whatever they can find outside, which usually results in gross things like worms, feces, and garbage.

If you’re concerned about your dog eating worms, mention it to your vet. They may be able to figure out why based on your dog’s specific health conditions and lifestyle.

German Shepherd sniffing

Why Does My Dog Like to Eat Dead Worms?

Lots of dogs seek out dry, dead worms on the sidewalk but don’t seem as interested in live worms. Again, the exact reasons for this aren't known, but if your dog does this, you’re not alone. It’s likely because your dog prefers the scent, taste, and/or texture of dead worms as opposed to live ones.

However, dead worms can carry unsafe bacteria just like live worms can, so it’s best not to let your dog pick them up.

How to Stop Dogs from Eating Worms

When dogs find something they want to eat, they become very determined. Thus, getting them to stop eating worms seems easier said than done. Luckily, if your dog is obsessed with worms, whether they’re live or dead, there are ways to prevent that behavior.

Ensure Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs are Met

If your dog regularly eats things they find outside, they might not be getting enough nutrients in their diet. If you suspect that’s the case, talk to your vet. Switching them to new food or adding supplements to their diet could reduce their urge to gobble up worms.

Zesty Paws Probiotics for Dogs and Nutri-Vet Pre and Probiotic Soft Chews are two dog digestive supplements that may help your dog stop eating worms and other unwanted items. However, I recommend talking to your vet before starting a new supplement just to make sure it's ideal for your dog's health and lifestyle.

Clean Your Yard

After it rains, there’s bound to be dead worms on your property. Try your best to remove them from the pavement before your dog can get to them. Removing debris like piles of leaves and clumps of grass can also help since your dog might dig through the debris to look for worms.

Supervise Your Dog Outdoors

You should always supervise your dog outdoors to prevent them from getting lost, stolen, or hurt. But you should also supervise them to make sure they’re not getting into anything they shouldn’t. If your dog is known to eat things in the yard, it’s best to keep an eye on them whenever they’re outdoors, even if it seems inconvenient.

Work on Training

Training is the best way to prevent your dog from eating worms and other objects they find. Teach your dog “drop it” and “leave it” so you can stop them from eating worms without having to pry the worm out of their mouth.

One method for teaching your dog “drop it” is to offer your dog a toy. Play with that toy for a little bit and then introduce a high-value toy or treat to get them to drop the toy they’re playing with. You can practice that a few times and then introduce the cue.

To teach “leave it,” hold out a closed fist to your dog. When they stop sniffing and pawing at it, reward them. Once they learn that they get rewarded for leaving your hand alone, you can try it with treats in an open palm and introduce the cue.

Both behaviors will take a lot of patience and consistency to master, so take it slow. Eventually, your dog will pick up on them, allowing you to use them while you’re on a walk or in the yard. When training, I recommend using small, low-calorie dog treats, such as Buddy Biscuit Trainers or Pet Botanics Training Rewards.

Yorkie looking for worms

Visit the Vet

If you’re struggling to get your dog to stop eating worms, consider visiting the vet. They can check to make sure your dog’s behaviors aren’t due to an underlying health problem. Plus, they can give personalized advice. Talking to a professional dog trainer is also a great way to work on the issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Dog Eat Worms?

Dogs could eat earthworms because they’re curious, not getting enough nutrients, or like the taste. With regular training and a proper diet, you can deter this behavior.

Can Dogs Eat Gummy Worms?

No, dogs shouldn’t eat gummy worms. Gummy worms are high in sugar and artificial ingredients, which could be harmful to your dog. Certain gummy worms may contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that’s toxic to dogs.

Can Dogs Get Worms from Eating Cat Poop?

Yes, dogs could get worms from eating cat poop. Worms and worm eggs can survive in cat feces and be passed on to your dog. If you have a cat and a dog, make sure your dog doesn’t have access to the cat’s litter box. You can prevent access by using a dog door strap.

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Dogs may eat grass for a variety of reasons, such as to aid digestion or receive nutrients they’re lacking. If your dog keeps rushing outside to eat grass, their tummy is likely bothering them.

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Dogs eat feces for many reasons. It could be a sign that they’re not getting enough nutrients in their diet, but it could also be simply because they like the taste. It’s not safe for dogs to eat poop because it could contain dangerous bacteria, especially if it’s not their own poop.

Dogs searching for worms

Stopping Your Dog’s Worm-Eating Habits

Dogs can eat worms, but it’s definitely a gross behavior. Not only is it repulsive, but it could also pose a health risk for your furry friend. So, it's best to avoid it if possible. Even though my dog knows she's not supposed to eat them, she tries again every summer, so it's something we're continuously working on.

Trying to eat a worm once in a while may not be a cause for concern, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry with your dog’s health. So, work on training with them to help prevent them from eating worms. If you’re struggling to fix the issue on your own, it may be best to talk to a vet to make sure there’s not an underlying health problem to blame.


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