Hookworm Infection in Dogs

Infection in dogs may be caused by various parasites such as the ringworm (Ancylostoma and Uncinaria). Hookworms attach themselves to the intestines of the infested animal and feed on blood. Their saliva contains an anti-coagulant agent, so, even when the ringworm changes its place, its previous feeding place will continue to bleed. This make hookworm infection in dogs dangerous as it can cause anemia and possibly death.

Some types of hookworm are also contagious to humans causing skin conditions or intestinal pain. In order to prevent infestation dog owners should have a proper hygiene routine, washing hand thoroughly after handling the pet and not walk barefoot in places where the dog could have defecated.

Hookworms can reach the host's intestines not only by ingestion, but also through the skin. Eggs are eliminated through feces. Once on the ground, they can live for several months waiting for a host. If the larvae enter the host's body through the skin, they can travel to the lungs causing coughing and may also be ingested.

Symptoms of Hookworm in Dogs

The symptoms of hookworm infection in dogs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Pale mucus membranes (gums and mouth)
  • Anemia
  • Poor body condition
  • Coat dull and dry
  • Poor appetite
  • Growth in young puppies is stunted
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Weight loss

Diagnosing Hookworms in Dogs

Hookworm adults seldom detach themselves from the intestine of the host, so adult worms will not show in the stool. It is only the larvae that can be detected through fecal flotation. If the dog is also showing symptoms of anemia, a blood count will also be necessary.

Treatment of Hookworms in Dogs

Hookworm is resistant to some of the worm drugs on the market (piperazine), so even if the dog has underwent another parasite treatment, he can still be infected with hookworms. However, there is roundworm medication that will also be effective against hookworm (ivermectin, fenbendazole, pyrantel, praziquantel).

For puppies, deworming can be started at 2 weeks of age and administered  every other week until 2 months old.  Afterwards, medication has to be administered every month until the puppy is 6 months old. However, if you use year-round heartworm medication this will keep intestinal parasites away as well so you will not need to use hookworm medication.

For adult dogs that are under year-round heartworm medication fecal tests to look for hookworm infection should be done 1 or 2 times a year. If the dog is not under such a treatment, it is recommended to perform the test more often, 2 to 4 times a year.

In severely infected animals, deworming will be accompanied by iron supplements and a high-protein diet.

Whenever your dog is being treated for hookworms, you will need to also treat the environment. The larvae strive well in cool, moist environment and in feces. So you should remove feces daily and clean the floors and the yard.  A solution of bleach and water is effective for cleaning interior spaces. As for the yard, it can be more easily cleaned with sodium borate solution (be careful, this kills vegetation) or by flaming the surface.