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Hookworms in Dogs: Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Hookworms in Dogs: Signs, Treatment & Prevention

Your dog can pick up many parasites, such as hookworms, through their daily play and exploration, this makes preventive care extremely important. Here, our vets in Bedford talk about the lifecycle of hookworms, how they are transmitted and how pet vaccinations can help protect your dog. 

Parasitic Infections: Hookworms in Dogs

The hookworms are named as such due to the hooklike appearance of their mouth. While they are only about 1/4" - 3/4" in size, they are able to filter a large amount of blood from your pet by latching onto the interior wall of their intestines. If your pet develops a significant hookworm infection, this could lead to anemia or inflammation of the intestine. 

The transmission of hookworms most commonly occurs in places where there are many dogs in a small, humid area.

How do dogs contract hookworms?

There are four common ways that a dog can contract hookworms, such as:

  • Larvae can penetrate your dog's skin leading to infection. 
  • A dog can easily ingest hookworm larvae when grooming their feet, or by sniffing at contaminated feces or soil. 
  • Unborn puppies can contract hookworms via the mother's placenta in utero. 
  • Once born, puppies can contract hookworms through the milk of an infected mother. 

What is the typical lifecycle of hookworms in dogs?

The hookworm lifecycle has three stages, including egg, larvae and adult. 

  • Adult hookworms lay microscopic eggs within a pet that's been infected. These eggs are then passed through the feces, where they hatch into larvae and contaminate the environment. 
  • Larvae can survive for weeks or even months before infecting an unsuspecting dog. 
  • Once the larvae make their way into your pooch's body, they migrate to the intestine, where they mature into adults and lay eggs. The cycle then begins again. 

What are the common signs and symptoms of hookworm infections in dogs?

The primary symptom of hookworms in dogs is intestinal upset. Other symptoms may include:

  • Dry, dull coat
  • Coughing
  • Generalized weakness
  • Pale gums 
  • Significant (unexplained) weight loss
  • Failure of the puppy to grow or develop properly 
  • Bloody diarrhea 
  • Skin irritations (especially around paws)

If you notice any of the symptoms associated with hookworms you should contact your vet as soon as possible to have them examined. If you have a young puppy the risk of death is increased with infection.

How does the vet diagnose hookworms in dogs?

Your vet will likely use a fecal floatation test to diagnose hookworms in your dog.

This will require you to bring in a fresh fecal sample to your dog's appointment. The stool will be mixed with a solution that will cause the eggs (if present) to float to the top of the solution where they can easily be spotted.

However, this test is only accurate once the worms have matured enough to begin producing eggs. Unlike some other worms seen in dogs, you will not typically see hookworms in your dog's poop because the worms stay securely latched onto your pet's intestinal lining until the condition is treated.

The accuracy of this test is not consistent however as it can take a few weeks for the worms to produce any eggs.

What are the treatment options for dogs infected by hookworms?

A class of drugs called anthelmintics can be used to eliminate hookworms. These medications are typically given orally and rarely produce side effects. That said, these medications are only effective at killing adult hookworms so it will be necessary to repeat the treatment 2-3 weeks following the first treatment.

If your dog is suffering from severe anemia due to hookworms, your vet may recommend a blood transfusion depending on the severity of the infection.

Is it possible for my dog to transmit hookworms to me or my family?

Lying on the infected ground can allow the hookworm larvae to begin burrowing into the skin leading to a condition called 'ground itch'.

In some rare cases, hookworm larvae can penetrate and damage internal organs including the eyes, which can cause blindness and complications. Good bathing and hygiene habits can help to prevent hookworm infections in people.

Can vaccinations or other preventive measures help protect my dog?

There are a number of key approaches when it comes to preventing the spread of hookworms in dogs:

  • Puppies should be dewormed at approximately 2-3 weeks of age, and if symptoms occur.
  • Nursing female dogs should be dewormed when their puppies are also dewormed.
  • Always clean up after your dog when at the park or out on walks, and keep your yard free of dog waste.
  • Be sure to wash your hands frequently when around your dog, or after cleaning up dog waste. Also, ensure that your children wash their hands frequently.
  • Keep your dog up-to-date on their parasite prevention. Many products formulated to prevent hookworm will also help to prevent hookworm. Speak to your vet to learn more about the right parasite prevention for your canine companion.

Are reactions to pet vaccinations common?

There are always risks associated with veterinary procedures including dog and cat vaccinations. However, the risk of your pet experiencing a serious side effect of a vaccine is very small. Although it can be frightening for those pet owners whose adorable animal companion does experience an effect.

This means that an estimated 13 out of 10,000 dogs will have a reaction. This means that 9987 dogs come out without any serious issues.

What kinds of side effects can my dog get from their shots?

The majority of the side effects dogs and cats get from vaccines are short in duration and generally mild making them far less dangerous than the illnesses the pet vaccinations protect them from. Following we have listed some of the most common side effects pets get after being vaccinated:

Lethargy & Slight Fever

Lethargy, a slight fever, and some mild discomfort are the most common side effects pets get from vaccines. You may notice the symptoms as your dog just not quite behaving as they normally do. This is a normal reaction to dog vaccinations, and the symptoms should be mild and only last one or two days. If your dog isn't acting like themselves within a few days after their puppy shots, call your vet for advice.

Localized Swelling

Lumps and bumps are common side effects in all pets after their dog shots. Sometimes a small, firm bump will develop at the spot where the needle pierced the skin. This is a normal response however pet owners should monitor the area to make sure that the lump doesn't get bigger or display signs of inflammation, oozing, or infection. The lump shouldn't be painful and should gradually disappear in about a week. If the lump shows signs of infection or hasn't gone away after a week has passed contact your veterinarian.

Sneezing & Cold Like Symptoms

While most of the vaccines recommended for dogs are administered by injection some are given by drops or sprays into the animal's eyes or nose. Side effects of intranasal vaccines look a lot like a cold and include symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. Your dog should recover from these symptoms in a day or two. If your pet doesn't get better within a couple of days or starts showing more severe symptoms, contact your vet.

What serious side effects could my pet experience from vaccines?

Typically, any side effects that come from cat or dog vaccinations will pass relatively quickly and only have a mild effect. There are some cases where there is a serious reaction to the dog shots requiring veterinary attention.

Symptoms of a serious reaction will generally occur very quickly after the vaccine is given but could take up to 48 hours to appear. Signs of more severe side effects to dog and cat vaccinations include facial swelling, vomiting, hives, itchiness, diarrhea, and breathing difficulties.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction that pets can get from vaccinations. Anaphylaxis will typically occur in dogs very soon after the vaccination has been given, but it's important to remember that anaphylaxis can appear up to 48 hours after the vaccine.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you would like to learn more about protecting your dog from hookworms and other serious parasites, contact our vets in Bedford to schedule an examination.

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