Diagnosing Hookworms in Dogs

Hookworms in dogs are parasitic organisms that attach to the intestinal wall. Unlike other types of parasitic worms found in dogs, hookworms are microscopic organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. They survive by attaching themselves to the intestinal wall and feeding off of the host’s blood. Hookworms are a very common condition, and they are spread easily and in a variety of ways.

The Spreading of Hookworms

Hookworms may be spread from animal to animal, from food or water to your pet or during the birthing process. In most cases, hookworms lay eggs within the intestines of a host animal. The eggs are then deposited in the excrement and make their way through water or food to other animals. An animal that consumes hookworm larvae in infected water, soil, food or an infected animal runs the risk of being infected. Finally, mothers can pass hookworm larvae on to their puppies during nursing or birth.

Diagnosing a Hookworm Infestation

Diagnosis of hookworms depends upon the stage of the condition. It is nearly impossible to determine if your pet suffers from a hookworm infection during the first 1 to 2 months after contact with larvae or eggs, because the hookworms have not yet matured. Gradually, over a period of weeks, symptoms will develop. Common hookworm symptoms include the following:

  • Unusually dark or foul-smelling stool
  • Emaciation
  • Restricted growth
  • Loss of coat sheen and color

If you notice any of these symptoms, have your pet examined by a veterinarian immediately. Hookworms are a serious threat to your dog’s health, particularly if you own a puppy or a small dog. Left untreated, hookworms can cause lasting damage or death.

In order to diagnose a potential hookworm infestation, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam. He will watch specifically for signs of anemia, as hookworms may cause mild to severe anemia in their host animal. In order to positively confirm the presence of hookworms in your pet’s intestinal tract, the veterinarian must take a stool sample for examination. Microscopic analysis is necessary in order to confirm the presence of hookworm eggs in the stool.

Treating Hookworms

Upon a confirmed diagnosis of hookworms, it's crucial to treat your pet of the condition promptly in order to avoid serious and potentially fatal damage. A variety of deworming medications exist, but these only serve to eliminate mature hookworms that have attached to the intestinal walls already. For this reason, a single treatment program is typically insufficient to eradicate the parasite. Typically, hookworm treatments are delivered orally or by injection. Consult with your veterinarian for further advice based upon your specific situation.

Hookworms are a common parasite, affecting thousands of dogs each year. While it's impossible to eliminate your pet’s risk of contracting hookworms entirely, take care to keep your dog out of high-risk locations and situations. If you suspect that your pet may have hookworms, have him examined by a veterinarian without delay.