Hookworms in Dogs

When hookworms infect a healthy adult dog, it often leads to stomach problems. But for puppies, these tiny parasites can be deadly. Our vets in Edgewater share facts about hookworms in dogs and how they can be treated and prevented. 

What are hookworms?

Hookworms, parasites with hook-like mouths, embed themselves in the intestines of animals, often cats and dogs. Moist, warm environments are a common breeding ground for these organisms, posing a risk to pets if proper sanitation is neglected. They consume a significant amount of blood once attached to your pet's intestines. Hookworm infections can sometimes lead to anemia or inflammation in the intestine.

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.

  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 primary signs of hookworms in dogs are tummy troubles. Some other noticeable symptoms are: 

  • Dry, dull coat
  • Coughing
  • Generalized weakness
  • Pale gums 
  • Significant (unexplained) weight loss
  • Failure of the puppy to grow or develop properly 
  • Bloody diarrhea 
  • Skin irritations (especially around paws)
  • Sometimes, you might be able to notice hookworms in your dog's poop.

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?

Veterinarians use fecal tests to find hookworms in dogs. Your vet will ask you to bring a fresh stool sample for 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 works well only when the worms are grown enough to lay eggs. Unlike some other worms and parasites, hookworms can stick to your dog's intestines even after your dog poops.

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 hookworms treated?

Special drugs can eliminate hookworms. Typically, people take them orally and they rarely cause any issues. However, adult hookworms can only be killed by them, so your dog may require treatment every 2 to 3 weeks.

If hookworms cause anemia in your dog, a blood transfusion may be necessary to ensure their survival.

Can hookworms infect humans?

Lying on contaminated ground can cause itchiness and irritation in humans, known as "ground itch." Hookworm larvae have the ability to penetrate and cause damage to internal organs, including the eyes, in certain rare cases. Regular bathing and practicing good hygiene can help reduce the risk of hookworm infection in humans.

How can I prevent my dog from attracting hookworms?

There are several important ways to stop hookworms from spreading 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.

Do you suspect your dog may have hookworms? Contact our Edgewater vets today to book your pup's examination and fecal test.