Dog hookworm is one of the more serious dog worms that can infect your dog because, unlike other common intestinal parasites, a dog hookworm feeds by drinking its host’s blood.  For this reason, they can cause anemia -- and even death – in both puppies and adult dogs.  Since hookworms are not passed in the dog’s stool, they are very difficult to diagnose without a fecal test from your veterinarian.

How Hookworms Infect A Dog

Hookworm larvae can infect your dog in four ways.  First, hookworm larvae can be eaten as part of a dead carcass or in soil that is swallowed when your dog cleans itself.  Second, hookworm larvae can penetrate the dog’s skin directly through its feet, belly, or whatever part of the skin touches the ground.  Third, hookworm larvae can enter lactating dogs by skin penetration, then pass to the dog’s mammary glands and from there are passed on to the pup.  Finally, if the female dog is pregnant, some migrating hookworm larvae may pass through the placenta and enter the fetus, and infect the puppies while they are still in the embryonic stage.

Once hookworm larvae are inside your dog, they make their way to its intestine.  Some of these worms simply stay there and mature into adulthood.  However, others tunnel out of the intestine, climb up the windpipe, get coughed up and swallowed by the dog.  Once these worms are back in the intestine they mature into adulthood where they start sucking your dog’s blood.

The hookworm larvae that remain in the dog’s intestine will emerge from one tissue to move onto the next.  At this point, some fall into a state of arrest where they go dormant and encycst.  These hookworm larvae remain inactive but will periodically emerge and continue their migration.

Dog Hookworm Symptoms

If your dog contracts hookworms it may show signs of anemia such as a general weakness.  It may pass loose, bloody stools and may be dehydrated.  However, these can also be the signs of other common diseases.  If you spot any of these symptoms in your dog, make sure you consult your veterinarian.

How Can I Know My Dog Has Hookworms?

Hookworms in dogs are very difficult to diagnose.  You and your vet may be able to diagnose the disease based on the symptoms your dog shows or by finding a large number of hookworm eggs in fresh stool samples.  However, your dog may develop anemia before eggs can be found in the feces.  This means your vet may have to examine three consecutive fecal samples, taken 2-3 days apart, to confirm the diagnosis.

Hookworms And Puppies

Puppies are very susceptible to a hookworm infection.  This is because the mother dog can be infected and pass the hookworm larvae through the placenta directly into the puppies’ embryos, or the puppies can be infected by drinking contaminated milk from their mother.  This means that some members of the litter will be born infected.  Other puppies may become hookworm infected from the soil of their own nest, which quickly becomes contaminated, with the stool of their littermates.

A hookworm infection can be lethal to young puppies.  This is because a young puppy is growing and growth includes creating enough new blood to serve not only its current oxygen needs but also the new blood that is needed for growth.  In the hookworm-infected puppy, this process is sabotaged by numerous little bloodsucking hookworms in its intestinal tract.  The puppy may effectively bleed to death.

How To Treat Hookworm In Dogs

It is fairly easy to treat hookworm infections in adult dogs.  However, puppies require special attention.  The best way to prevent dog hookworm in puppies is by a daily deworming of the mother dog through the second half of pregnancy and into its nursing.  A special treatment using Fenbendaxole (Panacur) has been found to be effective in preventing both hookworm and roundworm infections in unborn puppies.

Adult dogs can be dewormed through the use of any good deworming treatment.  Some of the most popular of these are Wormout, WormX Plus, Drontal Plus, Panacur-C and Safe-Guard.  Both Panacur-C and Drontal Plus require a prescription from your veterinarian.  The rest of these treatments can be purchased over the counter and usually require one treatment followed by a second treatment 30 days later.  However, you should consult with your veterinarian before using any of these over-the-counter treatments to make sure you have chosen one that would be best for your dog.

How To Prevent Hookworms

As you can see, there are a number of different ways you dog can contract a dog hookworm infection.  To keep your dog from becoming dog hookworm infected, you should definitely keep its living area clean and remove its feces regularly.  You should also try to keep your dog from eating the carcasses of small animals that may be hookworm infected.  It is a good idea to keep your dog out of dog parks that are not well maintained and full of dog feces.  Finally, if your dog is a predator – and has the habit of eating small animals - you need to have your vet give it a fecal exam several times a year.

You can also prevent your dog from falling prey to a hookworm infection by deworming it at regular intervals.  You can use heartworm medications such as Interceptor and Sentinel and deworm the dog monthly.  The active ingredient in these products will also remove other intestinal parasites from your dog, keeping it happy, healthy and parasite free all season long.

Dog hookworm can be a real danger to your dog and especially to puppies.  However, if you take the steps necessary to prevent the hookworms from infecting your dog, you may not have to worry about it contacting these parasites.  On the other hand, if your dog does contract hookworms, it is easy and inexpensive to deworm it and rid your dog of this pest before it can do serious harm.

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