Adult dogs might have tummy troubles when they get hookworms, but it's more dangerous for puppies. Our vets in North Providence share facts about hookworms in dogs and how they can be treated and prevented.
What are Hookworms?
Hookworms are tiny parasites with hook-like mouths that live inside the intestines of animals, especially cats and dogs. They are often found in moist, warm environments where pets can contract them if the area is poorly sanitary. They ingest surprisingly large amounts of blood once they latch onto your pet's intestine. In some cases, hookworm infections can cause problems like anemia or inflammation in the intestines.
How do Dogs Get Hookworms?
Dogs can get hookworms in four different ways:
- Larvae can penetrate your dog's skin, leading to infection.
- A dog can easily ingest hookworm larvae when grooming their feet or by sniffing at contaminated feces or soil.
- Unborn puppies can contract hookworms via the mother's placenta in utero.
- Once born, puppies can contract hookworms through an infected mother's milk.
What is the Lifecycle of the Hookworm?
The hookworm lifecycle has three stages.
- Eggs: Adult hookworms lay eggs while inside the dog's intestinal tract. These eggs are then passed through the feces, where they hatch into larvae and contaminate the environment.
- Larvae: Larvae can survive for weeks or even months in an external environment before infecting their next host.
- Adult: Once the larvae make their way into the dog's body, they migrate to the intestine, where they mature into adults and begin the cycle once again.
What are the Symptoms of Hookworms in Dogs?
The main symptoms of hookworms in dogs are intestinal or stomach upset. Other, more visible symptoms include:
- Dry, dull coat
- Generalized weakness
- Pale gums
- Significant (unexplained) weight loss
- Failure of the puppy to grow or develop properly
- Bloody diarrhea
- Skin irritations (especially around paws)
Contact your vet immediately if you see any of these signs in your puppy or grown-up dog. Severe hookworm infections can sometimes be fatal for young puppies, so quick treatment is really important.
How are Hookworms Diagnosed?
Veterinarians use fecal tests to find hookworms in dogs. Your vet will ask you to bring a fresh fecal sample from your dog. The sample is mixed with a solution, and if there are hookworms or hookworm eggs inside it, they will float to the top of the solution. However, this test is only accurate once the worms mature enough to produce eggs. Unlike other worms and parasites, hookworms can stay latched to your dog's intestinal tract after defecation.
The test might not work well for young puppies because it takes 2 to 3 weeks for hookworms to grow up and start making eggs.
How are Dog Hookworms Treated?
Anthelmintics drugs can be used to eliminate hookworms. These medications are typically given orally and rarely produce side effects. However, they can only kill adult hookworms, so you'll need to treat your dog multiple times (typically every 2 to 3 weeks).
If your dog comes down with anemia caused by a hookworm infection, a blood transfusion may be necessary to save your dog's life.
Can Hookworms Infect Humans?
When a person lies down on the ground that has hookworms, they might feel itchy or irritated, which is called "ground itch." In some rare instances, hookworm larvae can penetrate and damage internal organs, including the eyes. Keeping clean and bathing regularly can reduce the chances of getting a hookworm infection.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Attracting Hookworms?
There are a number of key approaches when it comes to preventing the spread of hookworms in dogs:
- Puppies should be dewormed at approximately 2-3 weeks of age and if symptoms occur.
- Nursing female dogs should be dewormed when their puppies are also dewormed.
- Always clean up after your dog at the park or on walks, and keep your yard free of dog waste.
- Be sure to wash your hands frequently when around your dog or after cleaning up dog waste. Also, ensure that your children wash their hands frequently.
- Keep your dog up-to-date on their parasite prevention. Many products formulated to prevent hookworm will also help to prevent hookworm. Speak to your vet to learn more about the right parasite prevention for your canine companion.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.