Parasites are obviously unpleasant, and hookworms are no exception. These worms can affect the health of your dog, so it is very important to be able to recognize the symptoms that your dog shows.
What are hookworms?
They are scientifically known as “Ancylostoma caninum” or “Ancylostoma braziliense,” and they are intestinal parasites that literally hook themselves on the lining of your dog’s intestine. They are named after their hook-like mouthpieces, which they use for attaching themselves to intestinal walls, and they feed off the blood vessels inside the intestinal lining. They are very small, about 3 inches in length, but their presence is dreadful, and they can cause anemia despite their small appearance.
Unlike roundworms, which just float around and steal nutrients from the dog’s intestine, hookworms are attached to the intestinal wall, and they feed off of blood and tissue. They can also detach and move to other spots in the body, leaving ulcers behind, where they previously fed.
There are three hookworm species that are known to affect dogs, and some can also affect the human body by migrating from animal to humans through the skin. The severity of symptoms varies from one species to another, but the most dangerous one is Ancylostoma caninum which can cause anemia.
Hookworm eggs are passed through feces, and after a few days spent in moist and warm conditions, they hatch into larvae. There are multiple ways through which these larvae can get into a dog’s system. They can be directly ingested when a dog licks the soil or its own fur. They can also migrate through the skin when they get in contact with the dogs’ paws or belly.
The dog might eat something infested with hookworms, such as a rodent or a small animal. Puppies can be infested with larvae through their mother’s milk.
Once a hookworm got into your dog, they might evolve into adults while living in the intestines. Or they can migrate from one organ to another, and when they reach the dog’s lungs, they get coughed up and ingested again, developing into adults into the dog’s intestines.
Signs of hookworms in dogs
A dog that has hookworms will have a general unhealthy look and loss in appetite. The linings of the animal’s ears, nose, and lips will look paler. Other specific symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, or a dark and tarry stool. If the hookworms got inside the dogs’ lungs, the dog would cough profusely. Death can also be an effect if the pet is not treated immediately.
Skin irritation is another telling sign of hookworm infestation. The larvae can dig under the dog’s skin and cause a great deal of pain and distress.
How do dogs get hookworms?
Dogs can become infected with hookworms in various ways. They can become infected when they swallow hookworm larvae or immature worms, from soil, feces or by eating other infected small animals. The larvae may penetrate the skin and travel to the intestine where they lives its full life cycle.
If a pregnant female dog ever had hookworms, through pregnancy larvae might reactivate, and hookworm eggs might reach the puppies through the milk. This is one of the most dangerous routes of infection for dogs.
How is a hookworm infection diagnosed?
Usually, hookworms are diagnosed by analyzing stool samples under a microscope since hookworms produce a high number of eggs which can be easily detected.
Hookworms can produce up to 20,000 eggs a day. In puppies, hookworms can’t really be seen in the stools, because a large number of worms should be present before they lay any eggs.
Treatment of hookworms
There are a couple of effective prescribed drugs that can eliminate hookworms, which can be given through injections or orally, and there are little to no side effects.
It is important to note that these drugs only kill adult hookworms, so you’ll need to repeat the treatment after a couple of weeks to make sure that you kill the now grown and adult larvae.
There are chances that the area where the dog spent most of his or her time might be infected with hookworm eggs, too, so make sure to sterilize it chemically. Extreme cases might call for a blood transfusion when dogs experience severe anemia.
Recovery from hookworms
It usually takes about 3-5 days for symptoms to disappear after taking the specific medication, and a couple of weeks until all the adult worms will be eliminated. In more serious cases, recovery will involve monitoring some of the dog’s body functions that caused anemia or weakness.
Can humans get roundworms from dogs?
Adult hookworms do not infect people, but they can dig into human skin (“cutaneous larva migrans”) and cause severe itching, irritation or inflammation, but worms can’t evolve into adult hookworms unless there is any type of direct contact with moist, hookworm-infected soil. If proper hygiene is respected, this rarely occurs.
How can you prevent hookworm infections?
Strict hygiene is the most important thing. Make sure you don’t allow children to play in potentially contaminated environments, and always clean up and disinfect the areas where your dog usually spends his or her indoor time.
All puppies of two to three weeks of age should be given a proper deworming when parasites are detected. Periodic deworming should be given to pets which have higher risks of reinfection, such as dogs that mostly live outdoors.
Proper hygiene and treatment are essential to make sure your beloved pet doesn’t have to suffer, and also that your health as the owner of a dog is in great condition. Make sure that you always properly clean up waste, so there isn’t any chance for the hookworms to spread from dog-to-dog or to humans.