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Hookworms in Dogs

A healthy adult dog infected with hookworms will usually experience gastrointestinal upset. However, it can be fatal to puppies and seniors. Our vets in Villa Rica share facts about hookworms in dogs and how they can be treated and prevented. 

What are hookworms?

Hookworms are parasites that embed themselves in the intestines of animals, most frequently cats and dogs. They are mostly found in moist, warm environments. Once they attach to your pet's intestine, they consume a surprisingly large amount of blood. Some hookworm infections may result in anemia or intestinal inflammation. 

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 poop or soil. 
  • Unborn puppies can contract hookworms via the mother's placenta in utero. 
  • Once born, puppies can contract hookworms through the milk of an infected mother. 

Believe it or not, certain breeds or ages of dogs may be more susceptible to hookworm infections due to factors such as immune system strength or living conditions. These include breeds with thin coats like greyhounds or whippets, as well as puppies or senior dogs with weaker immune systems. Additionally, dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors in areas with high moisture levels are also at higher risk for hookworm infections.

Regular preventative measures and veterinary check-ups can help reduce the risk of hookworm infestations in dogs.

What is the lifecycle of the hookworm?

The hookworm lifecycle has three stages.

  1. Eggs: Adult hookworms lay eggs while inside the intestinal tract of the dog. These eggs are then passed through the feces, where they hatch into larvae and contaminate the environment.
  2. Larvae: Larvae can survive for weeks or even months in an external environment before infecting their next host.
  3. 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 is intestinal or stomach upset. Other, more visible symptoms include:

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

If you notice any of these signs in your puppy or adult dog, contact your vet right away. It's not uncommon for young puppies to die from severe hookworm infections, so immediate treatment is crucial.

How are hookworms diagnosed?

Because hookworms are able to remain attached to your dog's intestinal tract after your dog poops, veterinarians can diagnose hookworms in dogs by analyzing their poop.

Your veterinarian will request a fresh stool 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 have matured sufficiently to start laying eggs.  unlike some other worms and parasites.

As it takes 2 to 3 weeks for hookworms to reach maturity and begin producing eggs, fecal float tests may not be accurate in young puppies.

How are dog hookworms treated?

Hookworms can be eliminated using anthelmintic drugs. These medications are usually administered orally and have few side effects. However, they are only effective against adult hookworms, necessitating repeated treatment (usually every 2 to 3 weeks).

If your dog develops anemia as a result of a hookworm infection, he may require a blood transfusion to survive.

Can hookworms infect humans?

The condition known as "ground itch" occurs when a person lies on hookworm-infested soil. Hookworm larvae can occasionally penetrate and damage internal organs, including the eyes. Consistent hygiene and bathing practices may help prevent hookworm infection in humans.

How can I prevent my dog from getting 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 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. 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.

Do you suspect your dog may have hookworms? Contact our Villa Rica vets today to book an examination and fecal test for your pup.

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