Dog sick with hookworms

Key takeaway

Hookworms are a type of intestinal parasite that hook themselves to the intestinal lining of their host. Dogs that are infected with hookworms may present symptoms such as pale gums, anemia, weight loss, and weakness. Hookworm treatment may involve anthelmintics, blood transfusions, and iron supplements.

Hookworms are a type of intestinal parasite that live inside the digestive system of a dog. Similar to any other type of parasites, hookworms in dogs can be quite damaging to your pup if they’re left untreated, which is why it’s so important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of hookworms in dogs so you can get your dog the care they need. 

In this blog post, we’ll be going over what hookworms are, the symptoms of hookworms in dogs, how to treat hookworms in dogs, and more. To learn more about hookworms and how they may be affecting your pup, continue reading the post, or use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.

What Are Hookworms?

Hookworms in dogs are a type of intestinal parasite that hook themselves into the lining of your dog’s intestines and feed off the blood vessels in the intestinal lining. They have hook-like mouthparts which they use to attach themselves into the lining–hence the name, “hookworms”. Hookworms are only about 3 millimeters in size, but they can cause serious damage to your dog and can lead to anemia. 

The lifecycle of a hookworm begins as an egg. The egg is passed through the digestive tract of a dog and enters into the environment through a dog’s feces. The egg then hatches into larvae and contaminates the environment through the soil. A dog can get infected with this larvae by simply coming in contact with it or by eating larvae when they lick their fur. 

The larvae then travels through the dog’s body until they get to the intestine, which is where they will grow into adults and lay eggs, continuing the life cycle of hookworms.

There are a few different types of hookworms that can infect dogs. The most common type of hookworm in tropical and subtropical parts of the world is called Ancylostoma caninum. Ancylostoma braziliense is another type that can be found from Florida to North Carolina and along the Gulf Coast in the United States. Uncinaria stenocephala is the main cause of hookworm in cooler regions and can be found in Canada and the northern area of the United States.

Graphic listing symptoms of hookworm in dogs

Symptoms

It’s crucial to be aware of the symptoms of hookworms in dogs so that you can identify it quickly and bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Even though hookworms pass through your dog’s feces, because they’re so small it’s very difficult to see hookworms in dog poop. So, you need to watch out for other symptoms that may indicate your dog is suffering from hookworms.

The most obvious signs of hookworms in dogs are intestinal distress and anemia. In puppies, the anemia can be so severe that it can be fatal. Dogs who are weak or malnourished will show more obvious signs and may suffer from chronic anemia. But healthy, older dogs will likely not show as many noticeable symptoms.

Some of the most common symptoms of hookworms in dogs that you should be aware of include:

  • Anemia
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Itchy paws
  • Poor growth
  • Death

These can all be symptoms of other health conditions, so it’s important to bring your dog to the vet as soon as you see them exhibiting any of these signs so they can receive a proper diagnosis.

Graphic explaining how dogs get hookworms

Causes

Dogs can get infected with hookworms in one of four ways:

  • In utero
  • Oral ingestion
  • Direct skin contact
  • Through their mother’s milk

Dogs often ingest larvae when they sniff or eat contaminated soil or feces, but they can also get infected when they lick their paws or drink contaminated water. If a dog lies in contaminated soil and then grooms themselves, they may become infected with the larvae. Another way dogs can become infected with hookworms is through their mother’s placenta before birth or by drinking their mother’s milk, which can be especially harmful since puppies tend to be more severely impacted by anemia.

Diagnosis 

To diagnose hookworms in dogs, your vet will perform a diagnostic test called a fecal float. This is a stool sample and it’s very accurate at detecting hookworms in dog poop.

To conduct the test, a vet will combine the dog’s stool with a solution that causes the parasite eggs to float to the top and stick to a glass side that’s placed on the surface. Because hookworms produce a large amount of eggs on a daily basis, it’s generally easy to identify hookworms with this test. However, it can be harder to see the eggs in young puppies’ stools since it can take up to three weeks for the larvae to grow and produce eggs. Be sure to talk to your vet about deworming protocols that can prevent a hookworm infection in litters.

It takes 2-4 weeks to get rid of hookworms

Treatment

There’s no doubt that hearing that your dog has hookworms is alarming. But fortunately, there are numerous ways to treat hookworms in dogs. There are several types of drugs that can be used to treat hookworm infections, and they’re called anthelmintics. Most of these drugs are given orally and have few side effects, but they only kill adult hookworms. Because of this, it’s crucial to treat an infected dog again two to four weeks after their initial treatment in order to kill the remaining hookworms.

In severe cases of anemia, a blood transfusion or supplemental iron may be needed to nurse your dog back to health.

It’s also crucial to remove feces from your dog’s environment so they can’t reinfect themselves by coming in contact with the eggs and larvae. Hookworm larvae will not survive for long in very cold, warm, or dry temperatures. The best way to remove hookworms from your dog’s environment is to just do it by hand, but be sure to wear gloves while doing so.

Because hookworms can be passed by a mother to her puppies, it’s important to keep a pregnant dog out of contaminated areas. It’s also important to keep a pregnant or nursing dog’s housing and bedding clean, so be sure to talk with your vet about any disinfectants that can be used to sanitize the area.2

Hookworms In Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

How contagious is hookworm from dog to human?

Generally, hookworm from dog to human is not very contagious, but certain hookworms can cause a condition called cutaneous larva migrans in humans. For this condition to occur, a human must come in direct contact with contaminated soil, which often happens when someone is walking around barefoot outside. 

The symptoms of this condition include a red and itchy rash on the skin, but the worms will not mature into adults and they’ll die within a couple of weeks. In very rare cases, the larvae can travel throughout the body and can infect the intestine, causing abdominal pain, discomfort, and diarrhea. 

How do I know if my dog has hookworms?

You’ll know if your dog has hookworms if they exhibit any of the following symptoms: anemia, weakness, pale gums, weight loss, bloody diarrhea, and itchy paws. These can also be symptoms of a host of other health conditions, so it’s critical to bring your dog to a vet so they can get a proper diagnosis.

How long does it take for a dog to get rid of hookworms?

Generally, it will take 2-4 weeks for a dog to be completely rid of hookworms. Dogs will need two hookworm treatments in order to kill all the worms in their system. 

How do I clean my house of hookworms?

After your dog has been treated for hookworms, it’s essential to clean your house so they do not get reinfected. The floors inside your house should be vacuumed and cleaned with an all-purpose cleaner and bedding should be thoroughly washed. If you have other animals in your house they should be dewormed as well. All stool from outside should be removed, as well as any other outdoor area that your dog frequently visits. 

Dog owner comforting sick dog

Final Notes

Hookworms in dogs can be very dangerous if they’re left untreated, but with the right care and medication, your pup can be free of hookworms in no time. If you suspect your dog is suffering from hookworms, it’s crucial to make an appointment with a vet as soon as possible, and you can use Dutch.com to do so.

With Dutch, you can make remote veterinarian appointments and easily get connected with our network of licensed vets. Our telemedicine for pets service gives you access to the best vets to treat a variety of issues. You’ll start with an online consultation detailing your dog’s condition, and then you’ll work alongside one of our vets to figure out a treatment that works for you and your dog. And once you’re prescribed a medication, we’ll get it delivered directly to you within 7 days’ time. Get started with Dutch today and get your dog the care they deserve. 

References

  1. Burke, Anna. “Understanding Hookworms in Dogs.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 4 Oct. 2019, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/understanding-hookworms-in-dogs/

  2. Peregrine, Andrew S. “Gastrointestinal Parasites of Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 28 Feb. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/digestive-disorders-of-dogs/gastrointestinal-parasites-of-dogs?query=hookworm

  3. “Hookworms.” Pets & Parasites by CAPC, https://www.petsandparasites.org/dog-owners/hookworms/#:~:text=Similar%20to%20tapeworms%20and%20roundworms,environment%20through%20your%20dog%27s%20feces.