A healthy adult dog with hookworm infection typically suffers from gastrointestinal upset, while puppies can face a potentially fatal threat. Our veterinarians in Lafayette provide information on hookworms in dogs, their treatment, and prevention strategies.
What are Hookworms?
Hookworms, parasites equipped with hook-like mouths, infiltrate animal intestines, particularly those of cats and dogs. They thrive in inadequately sanitized, moist, and warm surroundings, making it easy for pets to become infected. Once attached to your pet's intestine, they voraciously consume significant quantities of blood. Hookworm infections may result in anemia or intestinal inflammation.
How do Dogs Get Hookworms?
Dogs can acquire hookworms through four distinct methods:
- Larvae can penetrate your dog's skin, leading to infection.
- A dog can easily ingest hookworm larvae when grooming their feet or sniffing 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 comprises three stages.
- Eggs: Adult hookworms deposit eggs within the dog's intestinal tract. Subsequently, these eggs exit the body through feces, 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 enter the dog's body, they move to the intestine, where they mature into adults and restart the cycle.
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)
If you observe any of these signs in your puppy or adult dog, promptly contact your veterinarian. Severe hookworm infections can lead to the untimely death of young puppies, emphasizing the urgency of immediate treatment.
How are Hookworms Diagnosed?
Veterinarians use fecal tests to diagnose hookworms in dogs. Your vet will instruct you to provide a fresh stool sample from your dog.
They will mix the sample with a solution, causing any hookworms or eggs present to rise to the solution's surface. However, this test only yields accurate results once the worms have matured enough to start laying eggs.
Unlike certain other worms and parasites, hookworms can remain attached to your dog's intestinal tract after defecation.
Since it typically takes 2 to 3 weeks for hookworms to reach maturity and start laying eggs, fecal float tests may not be reliable for diagnosing young puppies.
How are Dog Hookworms Treated?
Anthelmintic drugs effectively eliminate hookworms. Administer them orally, and they seldom cause side effects. However, they only kill adult hookworms, requiring repeated treatment every 2 to 3 weeks.
If your dog develops hookworm-induced anemia, a life-saving blood transfusion may be required.
Can Hookworms Infect Humans?
Lying on the ground contaminated with hookworms can cause itchiness and irritation in humans, known as "ground itch." In rare cases, hookworm larvae can infiltrate and harm internal organs, including the eyes. To prevent hookworm infections, maintain regular bathing and good hygiene practices.
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.