Hookworms are just as dangerous as they sound. These are intestinal parasites that hook themselves into the lining of your dog’s intestines. They got their name from their hook-like mouthpieces which they use to hook themselves onto the intestinal wall and feed off tiny blood vessels in the lining. This can lead to severe anemia.
Hookworms have 3 stages: egg, larvae, and adult. The tiny little eggs pass through the feces where they then hatch into larvae and infect the environment. The larvae have survival modes of weeks up to months before infecting your pup. Once infected, the larvae will migrate through the dog’s body up to the intestines where they will mature into adult worms and lay eggs, continuing the cycle.
How do dogs get hookworms?
Dogs can get hookworm by ingesting the larvae by sniffing or eating the contaminated soil/feces. They can also ingest larvae when grooming their paws, drinking from a contaminated puddle/water source or from lying in contaminated soil as the larva burrows into the skin.
Just like many other worms, dogs can get hookworms passed on by their mom. The larvae will infect the puppies either in utero or through the moms milk when she nurses her puppies. Because hookworms cause anemia, this can potentially be fatal in puppies.
Some symptoms include:
- Pale gums
- Bloody diarrhea
- Poor/stunted growth
These symptoms can be signs of many other diseases/illnesses so if your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with your veterinarian for the best course of testing and treatment.
The key part to treating and keeping hookworms from reinfecting is to prevent reinfection. You can do this by cleaning up your dog’s poop immediately before the larvae get the chance to infect the environment. Hookworms can survive and thrive in moist, warm environments so proper hygiene and cleaning up after your dog is very important.
A common question asked is if humans can get hookworms and the short answer is yes. We cannot get infected with adult hookworms but the larvae can burrow under our skin which can cause uncomfortable itching. Hookworm infection in humans can be just as dangerous as in dogs as the migrating larvae can penetrate and damage our internal organs and eyes.