Hookworms in Dogs
Hookworms are the most common intestinal worm to affect dogs in Australia. A hookworm infection can cause severe illness or even death so protecting your dog is very important. Hookworms which affect dogs can also infect and cause disease in people. Read on to find out more about hookworms in dogs and how to protect your dog and your family.
What are hookworms?
Hookworms are a type of parasitic worm and there are a number of different hookworm species. The most common species to affect Australian dogs is Ancylostoma caninum. Adult hookworms live in the small intestine of infected dogs. They have sharp, biting mouthparts which they use to attach to the intestinal wall to feed on blood. In severe infestations, the level of blood loss can be fatal.
Microscopic view of the front end of a hookworm (Ancylostoma caninum) showing three pairs of teeth
What causes hookworms in dogs?
Dogs become infested either by ingesting hookworm larvae from a contaminated environment or by the larvae penetrating the dog’s skin and migrating to the intestine. Puppies can also become infested by worm larvae transmitted in their mother's milk.
Hookworm life cycle in dogs
To explain the hookworm life cycle, let’s begin with adult hookworms living in the small intestine of a dog. Male and female worms mate and the females produce eggs which are passed in the dog’s faeces. The eggs hatch in the environment and release hookworm larvae. In as little as 2 days (depending on temperature) the larvae will develop in the environment (e.g. soil) and be able to infest another dog by being ingested or by penetrating the dog’s skin. The larvae then migrate through the dog’s body to end up in the small intestine where the life cycle begins again.
Hookworm in puppies
Female dogs which have been infected with hookworm can transmit the parasite to their puppies through the milk. Disease caused by hookworm can be particularly severe in young puppies.
Hookworm symptoms in dogs
Hookworm symptoms in dogs are related to the damage that they can cause to the intestine and the blood that can be lost from their feeding.
Signs of hookworm in your dog may include:
- Bloody diarrhoea
- Pale gums
- Weight loss
- Dull coat
When only small numbers of hookworms are present, there may be no symptoms at all. On rare occasions, hookworm infections can be very serious and life threatening. Always consult with your vet if your dog shows signs of illness.
How are hookworm diagnosed?
It is not usually possible to see hookworms in dogs' stools with the naked eye, but your vet can perform a microscopic examination of a faecal sample to look for hookworm eggs.
Hookworm treatment for dogs involves administering a deworming product that is effective against hookworm, such as NexGard SPECTRA® for Dogs, HeartGard30® PLUS or ParaGard® Allwormer for Dogs. In severe cases, dogs may need to be hospitalised for supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids or a blood transfusion. If you have any questions about the best hookworm medicine for dogs, please speak to your vet.
- NexGard SPECTRA for Dogs: protects against intestinal worms, including hookworm, as well as heartworm, fleas, ticks and mites, all in one tasty chew.
- HeartGard30 PLUS: a real beef chew that protects against heartworm, roundworm and hookworm.
- ParaGard Allwormer for Dogs: a liver flavoured broad-spectrum dewormer that treats and controls a range of intestinal worms, including hookworm.
How contagious is hookworm in dogs?
Hookworms are the most common intestinal worm to affect dogs in Australia. Dogs become infected either by ingesting hookworm larvae from a contaminated environment or by the larvae penetrating the dog’s skin and migrating to the intestine. Puppies can also become infected by their mother through her milk.
Can a person get hookworms from a dog?
Yes. Hookworm eggs are passed in the faeces of infested dogs and cats. The eggs hatch and the larvae can infest people by penetrating the skin (e.g. if walking barefoot on contaminated sand or soil). The larvae can then migrate through the skin and body resulting in itchy and inflamed skin lesions and other more serious conditions.
How do I know if my dog has hookworms?
Signs of hookworm infestations may include bloody diarrhoea, weight loss, pale gums and weakness. Some dogs can have a hookworm infestation but show no obvious signs. Hookworms can only be diagnosed by consulting with your vet who will look for hookworm eggs in a faecal sample. Always speak to your vet if your dog becomes unwell.
Can you see hookworms in dog stool?
Hookworms are small and it is unlikely you’ll be able to see the worms in your dog’s faeces. Your vet can perform a microscopic examination on a faecal sample from your dog to look for hookworm eggs.
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NEXGARD SPECTRA®, NEXGARD®, HEARTGARD30® and PARAGARD® are registered trademarks of the Boehringer Ingelheim Group.
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