The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Hookworm Infection in Puppies & Dogs

By Dr. Jacqueline Brister

what a hookworm in a dog looks like

How do dogs get hookworms?

Hookworms are parasitic worms that infect the intestinal tract of dogs. Hookworm eggs are passed into the feces of infected animals. If a dog eats or drinks anything contaminated with hookworm eggs, he or she can become infected.

Hookworm Symptoms in Dogs

Hookworms attach to the dog’s intestinal tract, sucking blood through the intestinal wall. This can lead to blood loss and severe anemia (low percentage of red blood cells in the body) if a dog is infected with high numbers of worms. Symptoms include laying around or not wanting to play (lethargy), pale appearance to the gums, bloody or dark loose stool or feces, and rapid breathing.

Even in dogs who are not heavily infected, loose stool is common. A round, full appearance to the abdomen or stomach area is also common. Dogs with hookworm infection will also often have a dull, rough hair coat and appear smaller or skinnier than is normal for their age/breed.

Dogs infected with hookworms may pass adult worms in the stool, but not always. Most dogs with hookworm infection will pass hookworm eggs in the stool but these eggs are not visible with the naked eye and can only be viewed with a microscope.

Can humans get hookworms?

Yes, hookworms are a zoonotic disease. This means that hookworm infection in dogs can be transmitted to humans. Canine hookworm infection in humans is often known as cutaneous larva migrans. While infection due to ingestion of hookworms is very uncommon, contact with hookworms by the skin or mucous membranes (e.g., mouth) can lead to migration of an immature hookworm (larva) under the skin of a human being. Cutaneous larva migrans is usually extremely itchy from the inflammation associated with the hookworm larva’s movement. Infection most often occurs from contact with hookworm-contaminated moist soil (e.g., sandboxes, gardens). Children seem to be at highest risk for this type of infection.

Treatment and Prevention of Hookworm Infection in Dogs

Mild hookworm infections are easily treated with anthelmintic dewormers. Your veterinarian will be very familiar with the options available and should be able to prescribe a dewormer based on your dog’s weight and age. For severe hookworm infections that result in anemia, a blood transfusion may also be necessary.

Hookworm infection in dogs can be prevented by removing feces or feces-contaminated soil or water from the yard. Wear gloves and ensure proper hygiene when handling contaminated materials. Removal of any contaminant is not always practical, thus many heartworm preventives can also prevent intestinal parasitic infections such as hookworms. Talk with your veterinarian about your options to prevent or avoid hookworm infections in your dog.

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