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Hookworms in dogs are intestinal parasites that are usually found in the intestines of your dog. Unlike most other worms, hookworms are very small in length, about an inch long. They do not feed on the nutrients in your dog, but rather the blood and tissues inside the intestines. They will even detach from one part of the intestine and latch onto another part to feed again. They usually leave ulcers in the intestines when they are finished feeding.
Hookworms in dogs can be contracted a few different ways. The first and most common way your dog may contract hookworms is by consuming hookworm eggs through feces itself, or feces particles on the fur. Hookworms can also burrow into the skin. The most common areas for hookworms to burrow are the paws and belly area. Another way your dog could contract hookworms is by indirectly consuming them through a dead rodent or other infected animal. Puppies may also contract hookworms from their mother’s milk.
Often times, the larvae will enter the lung tissue, which will cause the dog to cough up and swallow them again. This helps them to enter the intestines, where they can become adults and feed and reproduce. Often times, hookworms can stay in the body for years and remain dormant, until they are reawakened, usually during pregnancy. They are then passed to the puppies through the placenta or through the mammary glands.
Symptoms of Hookworms in Dogs
Hookworms can affect any dog, but the most commonly affected are young dogs and puppies. Dogs with a weakened immune system may also be more prone to hookworms. Symptoms of hookworms in dogs are very similar to other worm symptoms, but there are a few distinguishing characteristics of hookworms in dogs.
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms of hookworms in dogs:
- Pale gums.
- Weight loss, and your dog will not be gaining weight even if he is eating.
- Hacking cough.
- Sores on the paws, in between the toes may be red and infected. This is caused by hookworms directly entering the skin.
- Diarrhea, sometimes containing blood.
- Dark, tar colored feces. This is caused by blood that has been digested and is known as melena.
- Poor skin and fur condition, often dry and flakey. Sometimes contain sores.
- Signs of abdominal pain.
The severity of these symptoms may vary depending on the number of worms and larvae in the system. For example, there may not be any coughing if the larvae is not in the lungs. Often times, severe symptoms may be caused by many hookworms in the body. Your dog’s overall health will usually determine how severe the infestation becomes.
Treatment for Hookworms in Dogs
Diagnosis of hookworms in dogs may be done by an examination of the feces. Usually hookworm eggs can be found in the feces under a microscope. Once hookworms have been properly diagnosed, it is time to begin treatment as soon as possible to avoid serious illness.
Treatment for hookworms in dogs needs to be given every one to two weeks in order to kill the live hookworms, as well as kill the larvae that may hatch. A fecal examination may be done after a few weeks to check for hookworm larvae as well. Most deworming medications will help with hookworms. These are given orally or in the form of injection.
Along with deworming medications, your veterinarian may prescribe other supplementations and antibiotics to help fend off secondary infections. Iron supplements, anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medications may be given to help ease the stomach and boost the immune system as well. In more serious cases of hookworms in dogs, blood transfusions may be required. IV fluids may also be given along with an overnight stay to monitor your dog’s vital signs.
Always be sure to keep your environment sanitary and clean during treatment. This means cleaning up any feces in the yard, and washing bedding and floors as often as possible. Since hookworms may be transferred to humans, always wash your hands thoroughly after handling your infected dog.