Dog Parasite - Hookworms


Overview - Hookworms that infect canines belong to the Ancylostomatidae family of parasitic nematodes which get their name from the hook-like mouth parts they use to attach to the intestinal walls of their hosts. Despite their small size, hookworms can siphon a large volume of blood from their hosts and cause serious illness, especially in young dogs. Thankfully however modern medicine has provided us with a plethora of de-worming medications, so treatment and prevention of hookworms is relatively simple and highly effective.

Parasite found - Small intestine

Symptoms - Clinical symptoms that may suggest your dogs is suffering from an infestation of hookworms include generalized weakness and pale gums (results of severe anemia), a dull coat, and significant weight loss.

Treatment - A number of very effective, very safe de-worming agents are available through your veterinarian. In fact, most puppies are de-wormed as a precaution as early as 2 or 3 weeks of age.

If your dog has been diagnosed as having an active infection of hookworms, 2 to 4 doses of the de-wormer will be necessary, as the drugs kill only adult worms. More than one dose is necessary to eliminate any newly matured worms that were larvae at the time of the first dose.

In the case of particularly severe hookworm infestations, your dog may require blood transfusions in addition to de-wormers in order to combat anemia. Your veterinarian will be able to decide if this is a necessary step for your companion animal.

Prevention - All puppies should be de-wormed at a young age, no later than three weeks of age, regardless of health status. In addition, females should be treated both before breeding and again during late pregnancy to reduce risk.

Periodic de-worming may be indicated for dogs at a particularly high risk for infection. This possibility should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Proper hygiene is perhaps the most important factor in preventing hookworm infections in both humans and animals. The prompt disposal of dog feces is vitally important, especially in yards, gardens, and public parks. Dogs should be discouraged from toileting in areas frequented by children, such as sandboxes or playgrounds. A bleach solution of 3 cups of household bleach to a gallon of water is a satisfactory cleaning agent for any surfaces you suspect may have been contaminated.

Persons who have contact with the ground for long periods of time should take the time to place a barrier between their skin and the earth (i.e. a ground cloth for someone working in a crawlspace). Since sand is a perfect environment for hookworm larvae, animals should never be allowed to defecate on the beach, and people should avoid spending time in damp sand.

Human Contact - Canine hookworms can infect humans, but because we are not their natural hosts, they infect us in a different way than they do dogs. Hookworms infect humans by burrowing through the skin. People may be exposed in a number of different ways, but most frequently infection occurs when an individual is lying, sitting, or standing in or on moist soil or sand. Hookworm larvae penetrate bare skin and their subsequent migration through the dermis is known as cutaneous larva migrans or, more commonly, “creeping eruption.” Lesions appear as red lines under the skin and sometimes break open at the skin’s surface. The condition causes no harm beyond severe itching, and usually disappears within several weeks as the larvae die. Very rarely a more severe condition may evolve, causing lung disease and painful muscles, in which case medical treatment should be sought.

It should be noted that human infections with canine hookworms are relatively rare and can almost always be prevented by avoiding prolonged contact with moist soil or sand.