Hookworms in Dogs: Hookworm Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

hook worms in dogsHookworms are bloodsucking parasites that live in the small intestines of dogs.  These small, thin worms with teeth-like structures or cutting plates in the mouth are most prevalent in regions with high humidity and environmental temperature. Aside from feeding on the blood of their hosts, hookworms also suck tissue fluids thus a severe infestation often results in anemia and malnutrition.

There are three common species of hookworms that affect dogs—Ancylostoma caninum (canine hookworm), Ancylostoma braziliense and Uncinaria stenocephala.

Routes of Transmission of Hookworms in Dogs

There are several important ways by which hookworms can be acquired and transmitted—

  • migration of hookworm larvae through the placenta into the uterus to infect unborn puppies
  • ingestion of hookworm larvae from the mother’s milk
  • ingestion of hookworm larvae in the soil
  • ingestion of an intermediate host
  • direct skin penetration particularly through the footpads

Life cycle of Hookworms in Dogs

Adults in the small intestine of dogs lay eggs that are passed out in the feces. Outside the body, eggs hatch to release hookworm larvae which attach on vegetation or bodies of water while waiting for a host (dog).

When larvae penetrate the dog’s skin it will go to the lungs via the bloodstream. As the larvae reach the trachea, they will be coughed up and are swallowed. Once they reach the small intestine, they attach to the intestinal walls where they mature and reproduce. A dog starts to eliminate eggs with the feces in 2-3 weeks after ingestion of infective larvae.

Larvae can become dormant in muscle, fat, and other tissues of the body. In these conditions, the larvae migrate towards the uterus of a pregnant dog and are responsible for causing a prenatal infection of the litter.  Hookworms in puppies are, unfortunately, more commonplace than one would hope.

Dog Symptoms of Hookworm Infection

Since hookworms feed on blood and tissue fluids, a dog harboring the parasite often looks unhealthy. Continued loss of blood can cause severe anemia to rapidly set in as evidenced by the pale mucous membranes of the gums and eyelids. Other dog health symptoms are the production of black, tarry feces. Young animals have stunted growth and hair coats appear dull and dry. Pneumonia may set in as a result of the migration of hookworm larvae to the lungs. When left untreated, dogs become extremely emaciated and anemic and eventually die from the hookworm infestation.  It’s important to annotate hookworm symptoms in dogs and report them to your vet.

Diagnosis of Hookworm Infection in Dogs

A definitive diagnosis for the presence of hookworms is the finding of eggs in the dog’s feces. Since it will take at least 2-3 weeks before eggs are observed in the feces, there may be instances when stool examination is negative.

Early hints that your dog is harboring parasites are the manifested signs associated with severe blood loss as a result of parasites feeding on the dog’s blood, and loss of nutrients as a consequence of worms feeding on tissue fluids. The most obvious clinical manifestations include signs of anemia and malnutrition. These signs usually appear as early as 10 days after the dog has been exposed to the infective hookworm larvae.

Hookworm Treatment in Dogs

There are many dewormers which are highly effective against hook worm in dogs. Your vet can prescribe the best preparation for your dog based on its age, weight, and health status. It is recommended that deworming be repeated in a week or two after the first phase.   Some larvae remain dormant within the dog’s muscles, once they become activate they will develop into adult worms in 10-12 days.

Prevention of Hookworm Infection in Dogs

A good Hookworm preventive program involves regular stool exams to check for the presence of parasite eggs. Good sanitation will help get rid of hookworm eggs and infective larvae in areas frequented by dogs. It is also important to use the appropriate dewormer and administer the right dosage at the recommended time to protect your poodle dogs from Hookworm infection.

Photo Source: Hookworm under Microscope

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