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As a pet owner, chances are you’ve heard about common pet parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms. However, you should also beware of hookworms. These parasites can infect both puppies and adult dogs, and if left untreated, hookworms can cause severe complications. Let’s take a closer look at hookworms in dogs, including what they are, symptoms to watch out for, and treatment options available at Anasazi Animal Clinic.  

What Are Hookworms in Dogs?

Hookworms are a very common intestinal parasite. They get their name by the way their hook-like mouths latch on to the inner walls of the small intestine to feed off the blood vessels in its lining. 

There are three stages to hookworm development—egg, larvae, and adult. Adult hookworms lay their eggs inside a dog’s small intestine. The eggs pass through the dog’s feces, hatch into larvae, and contaminate any soil the feces land on. 

If a dog interacts with the contaminated feces or soil, they could ingest the larvae. If those larvae travel into the dog’s small intestine they will grow into adult hookworms and continue the cycle. 

How Do Dogs Get Hookworms?

Dogs can get hookworm infections by: 

  • Eating feces or soil contaminated with larvae
  • Lying on or walking on contaminated soil—hookworm larvae can burrow into a dog’s skin or paws, or a dog could ingest the larvae during grooming
  • Eating an infected rodent or another small animal
  • Dogs nursing puppies can pass the infection through their milk

What Are the Signs of Hookworms in Dogs? 

Symptoms of hookworms in dogs include: 

  • Anemia
  • Low energy/weakness
  • Pale gums or other mucus membranes
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood in feces
  • Itchy paws

Hookworms can be especially hard on puppies as their natural immune systems have not yet been fully developed. 

And despite their very small size, because hookworms suck blood straight from the dog’s body, they can cause serious anemia if left untreated. This can be a serious complication for young puppies and older dogs. 

How Are Hookworm Infections Treated? 

Because hookworms are extremely small—only about 3 millimeters in size—they are impossible to detect in a dog’s feces. If you suspect that your puppy or adult dog has hookworms, the only way to know for sure is through testing by your veterinarian. The main treatment for hookworms is a deworming medication. The medication is administered in timed doses to kill the adult hookworms and any larvae currently affecting the dog. 

Puppies normally receive deworming treatment as part of their standard medical routine. Veterinarians administer hookworm treatments to puppies at two, four, six, and eight weeks of age. Nursing adult dogs are also treated in conjunction with their puppies. And, puppies should have their feces checked two to four times during their first year to make sure they are free of parasites.

Can I get hookworms from my dog?

Unfortunately, yes—hookworms from a dog can sometimes penetrate the skin of a human and infect them as well. This usually happens when walking barefoot outside on contaminated soil or from touching contaminated feces. The good news is that hookworms are just as treatable in humans as they are in dogs. If you are currently caring for a puppy or dog with hookworm, you should also schedule an appointment with your doctor to check for possible infection.

Dog Veterinarian in Gilbert AZ

Hookworms in dogs are a serious condition. When left untreated, they cause severe discomfort and suffering for adult dogs. They can also be extremely dangerous—and potentially deadly—to puppies. If you suspect your dog or puppy may have hookworms, contact Anasazi Animal Clinic today for our next available appointment. 

Photo by Nick Mundackal on Unsplash

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