Hookworms in dogs are tiny parasitic worms which can live inside a dog's intestines. They survive by feeding on the dog's blood supply and can increase in numbers very quickly. If your dog gets hookworms, there's no need to panic as they usually only cause mild symptoms in adult animals. However, they can cause discomfort and health problems for your dog in the long term. For this reason, it's important to recognize the signs of hookworms and know what to do if your dog develops symptoms.
Dogs usually get hookworms by accidentally ingesting hookworm larvae, usually by eating the feces of an infected animal or contaminated soil. Water can also become contaminated with hookworms, infecting animals that drink it.
Hookworm larvae can burrow into a dog's skin if they lie or walk on contaminated soil. This is most likely to happen on the pads of their paws. The larvae could then get into the dog's digestive system when they groom themselves.
Hookworms cause iron-deficiency anemia in dogs because they leech large amounts of blood from the intestine. If your dog has anemia, they will probably have pale gums and may appear lethargic. Hookworms can also give your dog diarrhea, which may be streaked with blood. This can cause your dog to lose weight.
If your dog has hookworms embedded in their skin, this can cause itching and irritation. You may notice them scratching around the infested area, especially on their paws.
Hookworm larvae can be transferred from a mother dog to her puppies. They can pass to the puppies while they are still in utero through the mother's placenta. Hookworm larvae can also be ingested by puppies in their mother's milk while they nurse. It's important for breeders to be vigilant for the symptoms of hookworms as they can cause severe symptoms and death in young puppies.
While hookworm numbers tend to rise more slowly in fully-grown dogs, puppies can accumulate large numbers of adult hookworms in their intestine very quickly. This leads to severe anemia and blood loss, and the puppy will probably pass bloody or black tar-like diarrhea. Unlike adult dogs, puppies may not show any warning signs that they are unwell and can collapse and die suddenly as the result of hookworm infection.
If you notice symptoms of hookworms in your dog or puppy, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will carry out a diagnostic test for hookworms known as a fecal float. This involves examining a sample of the dog's feces to check for hookworm eggs.
The test is very reliable at detecting hookworm in adult dogs as hookworms lay large numbers of eggs each day. However, the test may not easily detect hookworms in puppies until they are severely infected because it takes several weeks for the larvae to mature in their intestine.
Dogs with hookworms will normally be prescribed worming medication. This type of medicine is usually taken orally. However, it is only able to kill adult hookworms, and any larvae left in the dog's system will survive treatment. Treatment will need to be repeated after 2-4 weeks to kill the new adults.
If your dog has severe anemia as the result of hookworm infection, they may require blood transfusions.
It's important to stop hookworm larvae from contaminating the environment and potentially infecting other animals and humans. The best way to achieve this is to clean up dog feces straight away. You can ask your vet whether it is appropriate to treat your dog with a regular anti-parasitic worming treatment as a preventative measure. This can stop new infections and prevent your dog from becoming infected again.
Breeders should take steps to stop their litters of puppies from becoming infected with hookworms. The whole litter should be given anti-parasitic worming medication when they are around 2-3 weeks old. The mother should be treated at the same time or her puppies could be infected by drinking her milk.
Hookworms are around 3mm in length and are named after their distinctive mouth-parts, which look like hooks. They use their mouth-parts to latch on to the intestinal wall of dogs and other animals and feed off the tiny blood vessels there.
Although they are tiny, hookworms can consume a lot of blood collectively from the host animal, especially if large numbers are present inside the dog's intestine.
Hookworms have a 3-stage life cycle, beginning with eggs which pass into an infected animal's feces. The eggs hatch into larvae which can survive in the environment for months. When a dog becomes infected with hookworm larvae, they pass through their digestive system into their intestine where they grow into adults. These adult hookworms lay eggs and the life cycle begins again.
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