What are Hookworms?
Hookworms are parasites residing inside your dog's intestine. These worms can cause issues for your loved ones health. Their scientific name is "Ancylostoma caninum" , and are known as intestinal parasites which resides or live in your dogs intestines by hooking themselves on to walls of the intestines. They get their name "hookworm" by the fact that their mouth is hook shaped using which they hang on to the walls of the intestine and feed on minute blood vessels. Since they feed on blood vessels, irrespective of their size the infestation of hookworm can cause severe blood loss leading to anaemia.
How does a dog get infected with hookworm?
You pet can get infested with hookworm due to either of the reasons:
- Via contaminated food or water.
- Contaminated surroundings like soil - causing direct contact with the skin or exposure to body
- Through infected mothers milk or during birth
What are the hookworm infection symptoms?
Hookworms when passed via infected mother to the puppies either during birth or via the feed (milk) can lead to severe conditions like anaemia and has potential to cause death in puppies.
Some of the common or visible symptoms are:
- Blood loss leading to anaemic conditions like pale gums.
- The pet is down due to weakness, decrease in activity.
- Loss in weight could be one more signal to observe.
- The puppies don't show proper growth, and some dogs might even pass blood in their stool
- Some pets develop itch in their paws.
If not treated in time, due to blood loss can be fatal leading to death for your pet.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A test called 'fecal float' is recommended by your vet to look for hookworm eggs - if they suspect hookworm infestation in your pet.
Prevention is better than cure, so consult your vet about deworming protocols to avoid getting infected or contaminating the surroundings to prevent hookworm infection as well.
Hookworms in dogs can be treated with a dewormer, or anthelmintic as prescribed by your vet. These are to be taken orally, and will have to be repeated for two to four weeks as recommended by your vet to complete get rid hookworms over the course of a period. The drug kills only adult hookworms and hence is required to be repeated to completely get rid of all hookworms.
It's rare, but blood transfusion is also required if sever anaemic conditions are developed in your dog.
Since the re-infection is caused by exposure to eggs which are passed on with stool, it's very important to immediately clean and get rid of the stool, to avoid contaminating the environment. One such places are dog kennels where such hygiene protocols are not in place.
Also speak to your vet to provide hookworm medicines with the schedule for heartworms, and help get rid of both heartworms and hookworms using the same drug.
Last but not the least hookworms can also infect humans, and can cause itch. The infection can happen via the exposure to the moist contaminated soil. The adult hookworms can't infect humans, but if there is exposure to larvae, it can penetrate your skin causing the itch, which is also know as "ground itch" and if the larvae penetrates further into the body like eyes causing blindness and damage to internal organs. Following simple hygiene like regular bathing and washing of hands prevents such infections.