Dogs frequently contract the blood-sucking intestinal parasite known as hookworms. Although the majority of diseases do not pose a serious risk to life, they can cause puppies to suffer from crippling anemia and potentially fatal blood loss. Dogs can contract hookworms from a number of species, the most prevalent of which is ancylostoma caninum in North America. Although hookworms can infect people, they rarely result in significant issues for them.
What Are Hookworms?
Less than an inch long, hookworms are tiny, thin parasitic worms with mouth plates or teeth that resemble hooks. These features facilitate their attachment to the intestinal walls of their blood-feeding animals hosts.
Hookworms attach to the intestinal wall and feed on blood and/or tissues, in contrast to roundworms, which passively float around in the intestines stealing nutrients from a dog’s meals. Where they have fed in the past, they have the ability to separate and migrate, leaving behind tiny bleeding ulcers.
Symptoms of Hookworms in Dogs
- Any of the following symptoms can be caused by hookworms, but overt symptoms usually only show up in cases of severe infestations:
- The main causes of hookworm symptoms are the worms’ bothersome existence in the intestines and blood loss from feeding. Red blood signifies bleeding in the lower intestines, while black or tarry stools point to blood loss in the upper intestines.
What Causes Hookworms in Dogs?
Animal excrement contains hookworm eggs. The eggs develop into larvae under warm, humid circumstances after a few days. These larvae can infect dogs in a number of ways, including:
When dogs lick the ground or groom themselves when they have larvae on their fur, they are able to directly consume them.
They have the ability to move through skin, commonly through the paws or belly.
They may be consumed by a rat or other animal, and subsequently by a dog that consumes the contaminated animal.
Additionally, larvae found in their mother’s milk can infect puppies.
After entering a dog, the hookworm larvae may mature into adult worms while residing in the intestines. Additionally, they could go via the tissues to the canine lungs, where they are eventually ingested and coughed up before maturing into adults in the intestines. In quiescent mode within bodily tissues, migratory hookworm larvae in older dogs often become mobile again at a later time.
Because the larvae typically become active during pregnancy, puppies frequently inherit them. Certain hookworm species have the ability to enter the mammary glands. Some mature into adults within the mother’s intestines, where they produce eggs that can infect puppies.
How Do Vets Diagnose Hookworms in Dogs?
By taking a stool sample and looking through a microscope to check for eggs or adult worms, veterinarians can diagnose hookworms.
How to Treat Hookworms
There are a number of prescription drugs available to treat hookworms in dogs. However, these drugs are primarily effective against intestinal hookworms; they do not affect migrant larvae. Therefore, as the larvae develop, the therapy should be repeated. A veterinarian might advise, for example, receiving treatment every two weeks. The dog’s age and specific circumstances will determine how many treatments are required.
Even if there are no outward symptoms of hookworms, routine deworming of puppies is advised since it takes time for infected puppies to discharge eggs.
See your veterinarian about a deworming regimen for the mother and puppies if you have a pregnant dog.
Prognosis for Dogs with Hookworms
After receiving treatment, adult dogs with hookworm infestations typically recover in a few months. Even with vigorous treatment and supportive care, puppies with severe infestations are more susceptible to blood loss and anemia, and some may even pass away.
How to Prevent Hookworms
Many monthly treatments intended for heartworm and other parasite control include medication that, once de-wormed, will continuously prevent hookworm infestations.
Your veterinarian will advise routine fecal tests and/or a deworming regimen if your dog is not receiving one of these preventatives in order to prevent hookworms. Another way to avoid worm infection in pets is to pick up pet waste and keep them from eating rodents.
Are Hookworms Contagious to Humans?
Both humans and dogs can contract hookworm infections from their larvae. When contaminated soil or sand comes into contact with a person’s skin, an infection can occur. If they come into contact with a dog that has these tiny particles on its fur and then touch their mouths, they may inadvertently consume eggs.
In humans, the larvae typically do not mature into adult hookworms. Though most cases are not serious, the larvae that migrate through the skin can cause irritation and inflammation.
In order to avoid these health issues in humans, proper treatment and prevention of hookworm infections are crucial, as is maintaining adequate cleanliness. Human infection can be avoided by following the same procedures that stop hookworms from spreading from dog to dog, such as clearing up waste and using dewormers as prescribed.