Hookworm in Dogs

Hookworms are a blood-sucking worm that lives inside the intestines of dogs and attach themselves to the walls of the intestines using a little hook-shaped mouth, which gives them their name. They then suck blood and nutrients from the dog, causing a variety of health problems.


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How do dogs get them?

Dogs can get hookworms in several ways. First, soil often contains the larva. They leave an animal that is infested through the feces, which leaves a bunch of eggs in the dirt which later hatch into larva. These larva can be eaten by the dog, if it eats dirt for some reason. Most dogs aren't running around chomping on potting soil, but they might grab a piece of food or eat an animal that has fallen on the ground and gotten dirt on it. Second, if the dog steps on hookworm larva, they can burrow into its skin and eventually get to the digestive system. Third, pregnant dogs often give them to their puppies. 

What are the symptoms in dogs?

Dogs that have hookworms will often have diarrhea, weight loss, and general weakness. If the population of the worms gets too high, the dog will get anemia, which is a blood condition caused by the loss of blood to the worms, which feed on it. This can result in pale-looking gums. Also, you may start seeing blood in the dog's stool. Finally, while not a symptom of adult worms, frequent scratching of the skin often accompanies them because the larva will get into the environment of the dog, and they then start getting into the dog's skin and making it itch.

Puppies are uniquely at risk, and sometimes die from the anemia. They are also harder to diagnose because they do not send out eggs in their feces unless there are lots of worms, and that is usually what vets look for.

What is the treatment for dogs?

The dog needs to have a stool sample taken to the vet to be checked for hookworms. The vet will then prescribe a deworming drug for the dog. You have to give it to them several times, because while it kills off the adults, there will still be larva and eggs in the area. After a month or so you will have cut off the life cycle of the hookworms completely. Also, if your dog has gotten anemia, it may need a blood transfusion or other treatment.

Can they infest people or cats?

YES. In cats, hookworms will produce very similar symptoms as in dogs - so if you've got a cat in your house, you need to take precautions to keep it healthy as well. In people it is more of a skin condition that they cause. They cannot burrow any further than the outer part of human skin, so you won't have the same symptoms as your dog. You should take basic sanitary precautions - do not touch feces of the dog directly with your skin, and clean it up immediately. You are only going to get it by contacting the dog's feces, not the dog itself. Watch out if you have kids, and keep them from playing in any area where the dog goes to the bathroom.

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