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Hookworms in Dogs

Hookworms are an intestinal parasite.

Hookworms are intestinal parasites that affect dogs. Their name comes from the fact that their mouthparts, which they use to attach themselves to their host's intestinal wall, are hooked.

Hookworms feed on blood, and if there are enough of them, they can cause anemia to the point of being life-threatening for the dog. This is most common in puppies because they are small and their immune systems are less mature.

How Are Dogs Infected By Hookworms?

Dogs can get hookworms in the following ways:

  • Ingesting or sniffing up larvae present in the soil, where the feces of infected dogs caused contamination.
  • Hookworm larvae can also burrow their way through the skin into a host's body.
  • Puppies can get hookworms through their mother's milk, or the parasites can infect them directly while they are still in utero.

Hookworm infestations are most common in humid, warm areas with poor sanitation, like pet stores and puppy mills.

What Are the Signs of Hookworms in Dogs?

Dogs with hookworms might not show any signs of illness. That's why it's essential to have a fecal sample checked by a veterinarian periodically. However, some dogs might get sick when they are infected with hookworms, and their signs can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, possibly bloody
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Weakness
  • Inappetance
  • Weight loss over time
  • Skin irritation and itchiness—this is most common on the paws when the larvae have burrowed in there

Diagnosis of Hookworms in Dogs

Hookworms can be diagnosed by identifying the eggs in a fecal sample. They are usually easy to find, but sometimes, it takes more than one consecutive sample to see them.

Hookworm Treatment in Dogs

Many medications kill adult hookworms. They need to be repeated two to three weeks after the first treatment because the drugs don't kill all of the life stages of the parasite.

Hookworm eggs can stay in the environment for months, reinfecting your dog after successful treatment. The eggs are hard to get out of the environment. If your dog is diagnosed with hookworms, clean up the stool immediately after your dog goes to decrease contamination of your yard. Use gloves.

Your veterinarian will also likely recommend a monthly heartworm preventative that includes dewormer effective against hookworms if your dog has been diagnosed with hooks. That is an excellent way to continually treat your dog and, over time, decrease or eliminate the parasite load in your yard.

People and Hookworms

Hookworm larvae can burrow into humans' skin. Usually, this only causes local itchiness, and it's not particularly common as long as people practice good hygiene. Sometimes, hookworm larvae that burrow into a person migrate through the tissues of the body and can cause problems in the eyes or organs, but that is relatively rare.

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