Ancylostoma spp., also known as hookworms, are blood-sucking intestinal parasites that can live in the small intestinal tract of your dog.
These parasites can cause severe anemia and inflammation in the small intestine tract, which can lead to severe and life-threatening illness—especially in puppies.
Here’s what you need to know about hookworms in dogs and puppies.
What Are Hookworms in Dogs? How Common are They?
Hookworms are common small intestinal parasites.
Adult hookworms use their hook-like mouths to attach to different locations in a dog’s small intestines and suck blood.
The adult hookworm will live in the small intestinal tract of dogs and will shed eggs into the feces, which infect the surrounding environment.
Hookworms are more commonly found in warm, moist environments throughout the United States.
What Do Hookworms Look Like? Can You See Hookworms in Dog Poop?
Adult hookworms are very small white worms that are difficult to see with the naked eye. They range from about 10-20 mm long in size. So although hookworm eggs are shed in a dog’s poop, due to their small size, you can’t typically see hookworms in dog poop.
What Causes Hookworms in Dogs?
There are a few different ways that a dog can contract hookworms:
Eating Contaminated Poop or Soil
Once hookworm eggs are shed through a dog’s poop, they contaminate the soil and develop into infective third-stage larvae. A dog can then become infected by ingesting feces or soil that has the infective larvae, either directly or by licking their paws or fur.
Lying on or Walking on Contaminated Soil
The third-stage larvae can also burrow into a dog’s skin if they lie down or walk on soil that’s contaminated.
Eating Other Animals
Dogs can become exposed by ingesting vertebrate hosts that contain the infective larvae in their tissues.
Puppies can become infected while nursing, as larvae can be secreted in the mother’s milk.
Once ingested, these third-stage larvae migrate to the small intestines, where they develop into immature and adult hookworms.
Can Dogs Get Hookworms from Cats?
Yes, there is a species of hookworm that can infect both dogs and cats.
It is possible for your cat to infect your dog with hookworms, especially if your dog eats cat feces. There is also a higher chance of kittens and puppies infecting each other with hookworms when they are housed together.
Hookworm Symptoms in Dogs and Puppies
Clinical signs of hookworms in puppies include:
Pale mucus membranes
Failure to gain weight
Blood in the stool
Clinical signs of hookworms in adult dogs include:
Some larvae can migrate to the lungs in puppies and adult dogs, which can lead to respiratory disease and possibly pneumonia—especially in puppies.
Some adult dogs can become immune to hookworm infection over time and not show any abnormal signs; however, they can still contaminate the environment by shedding eggs in their feces.
Hookworm larvae can migrate into the skin of dogs, most notably in between their toes, causing irritation of the skin and itching.
Hookworm Treatments in Dogs and Puppies
Dewormers are used to treat hookworms in puppies and dogs.
Puppies should already be getting dewormers on a regular schedule (every two weeks from birth until 8 weeks of age).
Adult dogs diagnosed with hookworm infection need to receive the appropriate deworming medication from their veterinarian.
Treatment for Severe Hookworm Infection
In severe cases of hookworm infection, deworming treatment is combined with supportive therapy, which can include:
Possible blood transfusions if anemia is severe
Hookworms can be life-threatening in some situations, especially when your puppy or dog has severe anemia. Supportive care by a veterinarian is vital to help keep your puppy or dog alive while the deworming medication works to kill the hookworms that are present.
Hookworm Prevention in Dogs and Puppies
Puppies have a higher risk of infection, as they are more susceptible to environmental exposure and can become infected while nursing from their mother.
Due to the high risk of intestinal parasites in puppies, it is recommended that puppies should have at least four fecal exams to check for intestinal parasites, including hookworms, in the first year of their life, followed by two fecal exams yearly.
Puppies should also receive an appropriate deworming medication at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age.
Puppies should then be put on a monthly preventative at the appropriate age that is recommend by their veterinarian.
Adult dogs should have regular fecal exams and be on monthly heartworm prevention that also includes a dewormer for hookworms and other worms.
Can Humans Get Hookworms from Dogs?
Yes, you can get hookworms from your dog or any dog. Hookworms are considered zoonotic, which means people can get hookworms in the form of cutaneous larval migrans. The hookworm larvae can burrow into the skin of humans and cause very itchy lesions.
In some cases, the larvae can migrate to the intestines and cause enteritis, leading to severe abdominal pain.
Contracting hookworms from your dog is not a common occurrence, but this is one reason why it is important to have your dog’s feces regularly examined and to pick up their stool in the yard after they defecate.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Marina Vedernikova