Understanding hookworm in dogs and puppies
Hookworms are unpleasant parasites that can live inside an infected dog’s intestine. While they typically cause mild symptoms in adult animals, they can be much more serious in puppies.
Once inside your dog, hookworms ‘hook’ themselves onto the wall of your pet’s small intestine and feed on its blood, leaving small ulcers where they’ve been attached.
How your dog can get hookworm
Infected dogs pass hookworm eggs out with their faeces. These eggs hatch into larvae (immature hookworms). Your dog can become infected if they swallow these larvae while rummaging around outdoors. Hookworm larvae can also infect dogs by penetrating through the skin, or when they eat another animal (e.g. bird, rodent) infected with these larval stages. Hookworm larvae burrowing through your dog’s skin, such as the paws when walking around, can cause inflamed, sore skin as well.
Once infected, hookworm larvae grow into adult hookworms and latch onto your dog’s gut to feed and lay new eggs, starting the cycle all over again.
Signs and symptoms of a hookworm infestation
Symptoms can include:
- Pale gums (caused by anaemia)
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Diarrhoea (may be bloody)
- Faeces that are dark or look like tar
Your vet can make a diagnosis by looking for hookworm eggs from a faecal sample from your dog and checking your dog for anaemia with a blood test.
How to prevent hookworm in your dog
Picking up, bagging and disposing of your dog’s faeces will help reduce contamination in your garden or the local park of hookworm larvae (as well as the larvae and eggs of other dog parasites).
To prevent hookworm, you can also use a worming treatment. It’s recommended adult dogs be wormed at least every three months. Puppies should be wormed every fortnight from 2 weeks of age until 12 weeks of age, then monthly to 6 months of age.
Get more information on effective worming treatments for dogs.
Did you know?
Hookworm can affect humans, too. The larvae in the soil can burrow into our skin if we’re barefoot, causing irritation in the soles of our feet. One of the hookworms, A. ceylanicum, can even grow and develop in peoples' intestines, and pass the eggs in the stool, continuing infection to the family.