Hookworms can harm adult dogs' stomachs and are deadly for puppies. Our vets in Monterey Park offer facts on treating and preventing hookworms in dogs.
What are Hookworms?
Hookworms are tiny parasites that have mouthparts that look like hooks. They can be found in both dogs and cats. Although they are small, they can suck a lot of blood from your pet's intestine once they attach themselves.
If your pet gets a lot of hookworms, it can lead to anemia or inflammation in the intestine. Hookworms usually live in damp and warm places, and pets that live in crowded or unsanitary conditions are more likely to get them.
How do Dogs Get Hookworms?
There are four ways in which dogs can get infected with hookworms:
- 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 lifecycle of a hookworm has three stages: egg, larvae, and adult.
- Adult hookworms lay microscopic eggs within a pet that's been infected. These eggs are then passed through the feces, where they hatch into larvae and contaminate the environment.
- Larvae can survive for weeks or even months before infecting an unsuspecting dog.
- Once the larvae make their way into your pooch's body, they migrate to the intestine, where they mature into adults and lay eggs. The cycle then begins again.
What are the Symptoms of Hookworms in Dogs?
If your dog has hookworms, they may experience stomach problems, which is the main symptom.
There could also be other signs of hookworm infection, such as:
- Dry, dull coat
- Generalized weakness
- Pale gums
- Significant (unexplained) weight loss
- Failure of puppy to grow or develop properly
- Bloody diarrhea
- Skin irritations (especially around paws)
If your dog displays any of these hookworm signs, contact your vet immediately. It's not uncommon for young puppies to die from severe hookworm infections.
How are Hookworms Diagnosed?
To diagnose hookworms in dogs, the vet needs a fresh poop sample. The sample will be mixed with a solution, making any eggs present float to the top for easy detection. However, this test only works when the hookworms have grown and started laying eggs. Unlike other worms, hookworms attach themselves to the intestinal lining, making them hard to see in poop until treated. Fecal flotation may not work in very young puppies as it takes 2-3 weeks for hookworms to mature and lay eggs.
How are Dog Hookworms Treated?
Hookworms can be eliminated by a type of drug called anthelmintics, which are usually given orally and have few side effects. However, these drugs can only kill adult hookworms, so treatment should be repeated 2-3 weeks after the initial treatment. In severe cases where your dog has anemia due to hookworms, a blood transfusion may be required to save its life.
Can Hookworms Infect Humans?
When you lie on dirty ground, hookworms can start to burrow into your skin causing 'ground itch'. In rare cases, the larvae can even harm your internal organs like the eyes and lead to blindness or other problems. To avoid getting infected with hookworms, make sure to keep yourself clean and practice good hygiene habits.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Attracting Hookworms?
To prevent hookworms in dogs from spreading, there are a few important methods to consider.
- 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 when at the park or out 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 prevent 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.