Hookworms In Dogs

Hookworms are tiny invaders that cause substantial damage to a dog’s digestive tract.

Not only are these intestinal parasites a threat to our canine friends, but they can harm humans as well.

Due to the impact they can have on everyone in the home, it’s important to be educated on the potential complications hookworms can bring.

In this article we will go into the details of hookworm infections in dogs, and help you better understand how you can protect your canine companion going forward.

Hookworms In Dogs

What Are Hookworms In Dogs?

Hookworms in dogs, or Ancylostoma caninum, are an intestinal parasite that lives within the digestive tract of our canine friends.

These intestinal invaders get their name from the hook-like appearance of their mouth, allowing them to anchor themselves throughout the lining of a dog’s intestines.

While most intestinal parasites get their nutrients from contents within the digestive system, these worms survive by sucking their host’s blood.

Hookworms inject an anticoagulant into the vessels within their reach, allowing the blood to flow freely without clotting.

While this will quickly feed the hungry hookworm, this can lead to significant bleeding and inflammation of the intestines over time.

Life Cycle Of The Hookworm

To better understand how our dogs fall victim to hookworms, it’s important to be aware of the parasite’s standard life cycle.

When our dog’s come in contact with hookworms they are typically in the form of microscopic eggs.

These eggs are shed through the stool in an infected dog, leading to contamination of stool or soil.

When these eggs meet the outside world, they will begin the process of hatching into their larvae stage.

These larvae can survive for months before infecting another living host, allowing them to infect larger portions of the environment.

Once these larvae have the opportunity to infect your dog, they will begin their journey to the intestines.

Once the hookworm larvae make it to the intestines, they will mature into adult worms that lay eggs. This is how the process repeats itself, leading to a cycle of hookworm contamination.

How Do Dogs Get Hookworms?

Dogs can become infected with hookworms in multiple ways.

Whether you have a young puppy or a healthy adult, there are a few common routes of transmission that can lead to eventual exposure.

Some of the most common ways that dogs become infected with hookworms include:

  • Through the placenta by an infected mother
  • Drinking the milk of an infected mother
  • Consuming stool that is contaminated with hookworm eggs or larvae
  • Coming in contact with infected soil
  • Consuming infected animals such as mice and birds

As we mentioned above when discussing the hookworm life cycle, hookworm eggs and larvae can survive in the environment for quite some time.

This leaves plenty of opportunity for exposure, whether your dog consumes the eggs or comes in contact with a contaminated surface.

The route in which the hookworm larvae will migrate through the dog’s body varies based on how they were exposed.

If your dog ingests the hookworm eggs through contaminated stool or milk, they can easily make their way to the intestines and finish their maturation process.

If the hookworm larvae have come in contact with your dog’s skin, they will have to make a few different stops before they settle in the intestines.

The larvae will travel through the bloodstream, to the lungs, and eventually make their way to their final resting place in the intestines.

Once the hookworms settle in the intestines, they can begin to hook onto the intestinal lining and consume your dog’s blood.

This is also where they will reproduce, leading to the perpetual cycle of hookworm production and environmental contamination.

What Are The Signs Of Hookworms In Dogs?

All intestinal parasites can threaten your dog’s health, but hookworms are particularly vicious.

Not only can they lead to significant GI upset, but they can also lead to life-threatening anemia.

Due to the variety of complications they cause, you may see an array of symptoms once your dog has become infected.

Some of the most common signs of hookworms in dogs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Increased stool production
  • Vomiting
  • Flatulence
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Tar colored diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Stomach gurgling
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • Pale gums
  • Dull coat
  • Poor growth
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Death

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your canine friend, we suggest reaching out to your vet as soon as possible.

Even if hookworms are not the cause of your dog’s symptoms, these signs can indicate other serious health complications.

Hookworm Anemia In Dogs

Hookworm infections will not only cause severe GI upset when left untreated, but they can cause severe anemia as well.

Hookworms will suck the blood from your dog’s intestinal vessels, draining them of their blood supply with each meal.

Not only will this process result in blood loss, but these areas will often continue to bleed due to being injected with an anticoagulant with each bite.

Hookworm anemia in dogs and puppies can be so severe that a dog requires a life-saving blood transfusion to replace their blood loss.

If these dogs are not treated with aggressive medical care, many of them will die.

This is why it is so important to be educated on the topic of hookworms when you have a furry friend in your life.

How To Diagnose Hookworms In Dogs

In contrast to how complicated the symptoms of a hookworm infection can be, the process of diagnosing these intestinal parasites is quite easy.

By obtaining a small sample of your dog’s stool, your veterinarian can easily search for hookworm eggs by performing a fecal float.

This involves combining their stool sample with an appropriate solution, allowing the eggs to float to the top of the solution and adhere to a microscope slide.

Once the eggs have attached themselves to the slide, they can be easily viewed under the microscope.

Hookworms are often simple to identify, so the diagnostic process is typically straight forward.

It’s important to keep in mind that most owners will not see any visible worms passed in their dog’s stool if they have a hookworm infection.

Adult worms attach themselves to the intestinal lining, and don’t often let go with each bowel movement. Because of this, the only evidence of the infection will be in their clinical signs.

How To Treat Hookworms In Dogs

If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with hookworms, they will typically prescribe an anthelmintic that contains fenbendazole.

There are other medications that can target hookworms as well, but products with fenbendazole are typically the first line of approach.

Your vet will send this medication home with instructions to administer once daily for anywhere from 3 to 7 days based on the severity of their infection.

Though an anthelmintic will treat the hookworms themselves, it will not resolve any secondary complications that developed as a result of their condition.

Secondary complications such as dehydration and anemia will need to be addressed separately, and may require aggressive care in cases involving life-threatening anemia.

Due to the varying stages of hookworms that can be found in your dog’s body, most veterinarians will suggest treating your dog again 2-3 weeks after their initial round of deworming medication.

This will allow the medication to target any newly developed adult hookworms that were eggs at the time of their initial treatment.

Can Humans Get Hookworms From Dogs?

Part of what makes hookworms so terrifying is the fact that they can infect humans as well.

Hookworms are the reason why you should never run through soil barefoot, as these sneaky creatures can easily burrow into the soles of your feet.

Though you may not acquire hookworms from petting your furry friend, you can certainly get them if your pup contaminates your environment.

These intestinal parasites are generally easy to treat in humans, but it is never a risk you want to take.

Can You Prevent Hookworms In Dogs?

Thankfully for the canine friends in our life, there are a few ways to prevent hookworm infections going forward.

First, if your dog was previously diagnosed with hookworms, you will want to prevent any reinfections in the future.

You can do this by removing their stool from the yard until they finish their deworming treatment, preventing any future contamination from any remaining hookworms.

Once your dog has finished their hookworm treatment, you can easily get them started on a monthly heartworm prevention that protects against hookworms as well.

For example, Heartgard is known for combating up to three different types of hookworms in dogs.

Even if your dog has never been diagnosed with hookworms, monthly heartworm prevention is an effective tool in preventing both blood and intestinal parasites.

If you have an environment that you fear has been contaminated with hookworms, you can always speak with your vet about implementing a regular deworming routine.

Your veterinarian can determine the best plan of action based on your dog’s current situation.

How Do You Treat Hookworms In Your Yard?

There are not yet any approved methods for removing hookworms from your yard, but some pest control companies suggest raking boric acid into your soil.

This may kill the vegetation present in your yard if not used correctly, so we suggest discussing all the details with your pest control company of choice.

If treating your yard is not an option, the best way to handle the situation is by making sure everyone wears shoes in the backyard at all times, and by keeping your dog on a monthly heartworm prevention that targets hookworms.

Final Thoughts

Hookworms are an invasive parasite that can wreak havoc on your dog’s intestinal tract.

Be sure to not only deworm them from the moment they enter your home, but to start them on an approved heartworm prevention method going forward.

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