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Hookworm in Dogs: Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Hookworm in Dogs: Signs, Treatment & Prevention

It's important to be aware that hookworms can cause gastrointestinal issues in adult dogs who are otherwise healthy. However, this parasite can be particularly dangerous for puppies. Our team of veterinary in Redding has provided information on the facts surrounding hookworms in dogs and how to prevent and treat them.

What are Hookworms?

It's not uncommon to find hookworms in both dogs and cats, as these intestinal parasites have hook-like mouthparts. Despite their small size, ranging from 1/4" to 3/4", they can consume a considerable amount of blood from your pet's intestine once latched on. If left untreated, a hookworm infection could cause anemia or inflammation of the intestine, which could be detrimental to your pet's health. Hookworms thrive in moist and warm environments and are commonly found in pets living in unsanitary or overcrowded conditions.

How do Dogs Get Hookworms?

Dogs can become infected with hookworms in one of four ways:

  • Larvae can penetrate your dog's skin leading to infection. 
  • Dogs can easily ingest hookworm larvae when cleaning their feet, or by sniffing at contaminated feces or soil. 
  • Unborn puppies can contract hookworms via the mother's placenta in utero. 
  • After birth, puppies can contract hookworms through an infected mother's milk. 

What is the Lifecycle of the Hookworm?

The hookworm lifecycle consists of three stages, including egg, larvae, and adult. 

  • After infecting a pet, adult hookworms lay tiny eggs. These eggs are released through the feces, hatch into larvae, and contaminate the surroundings.
  • The larvae can survive for extended periods, possibly weeks or even months, before infecting a dog without warning.
  • Once inside the dog's body, the larvae travel to the intestine, where they develop into adult hookworms and lay eggs. This marks the beginning of the cycle repeating itself.

What are the Symptoms of Hookworms in Dogs?

Hookworms in dogs primarily cause digestive issues. Other symptoms include:

  • Dry, dull coat
  • Coughing
  • Overall weakness
  • Pale gums 
  • Noticeable and unexplained weight loss
  • Failure of puppy to grow or develop properly 
  • Bloody diarrhea 
  • Skin irritations (especially around paws)

If your dog shows any of these signs, it's crucial to reach out to your veterinarian immediately. Severe hookworm infections can be fatal, especially for young puppies.

How are Hookworms Diagnosed?

To detect hookworms in dogs, a fecal flotation test is commonly used. When you visit your vet, they may ask you to provide a fresh stool sample from your dog. This sample will then be mixed with a solution that causes any present eggs to float to the surface, making them easy to identify.

However, keep in mind that this method is only reliable once the worms have matured enough to start producing eggs. Hookworms do not typically show up in your dog's feces as they remain attached to the intestinal lining until treated.

Therefore, fecal floats may not be accurate in detecting hookworms in very young puppies, as it takes 2-3 weeks for the worms to mature and start producing eggs.

How are Dog Hookworms Treated?

A class of drugs called anthelmintics can be used to eliminate hookworms. These medications are typically given orally and rarely produce side effects. That said, these medications are only effective at killing adult hookworms so it will be necessary to repeat the treatment 2-3 weeks following the first treatment. If your dog is suffering from severe anemia due to hookworms, a blood transfusion may be necessary to save your dog's life.

Can Hookworms Infect Humans?

If one lies on contaminated ground, the hookworm larvae may start to burrow into the skin, causing a condition known as "ground itch." In rare instances, hookworm larvae can infiltrate and harm internal organs, including the eyes, resulting in complications and blindness. Maintaining good hygiene and bathing practices can aid in preventing hookworm infections in humans.

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:

  • Star deworming puppies at around 2-3 weeks old and if they show symptoms.
  • Nursing female dogs should be dewormed when their puppies are also dewormed.
  • Always clean up after your dog when at the park or out on walks, and keep your yard free of dog waste.
  • Wash your hands regularly when around your dog or after cleaning up dog waste. Teach your children to do the same.
  • Keep your dog's parasite prevention up-to-date. There are many products available that can prevent hookworms. Consult your vet to find the right parasite prevention for your dog.

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.

Contact our Redding vets for hookworm concerns. We offer exams and treatments, plus tips for future prevention. Please call us today!

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