Issue Description Hookworms are parasites which get their name
from the hook-like mouth parts they use to attach to the intestinal
wall. They are only about 1/8" (3 mm) long and so small in diameter
that you have to be looking very carefully to see them. Despite their
small size, they suck large amounts of blood from the tiny vessels in
the intestinal wall. A large number of hookworms can cause anemia.
This problem is most common in puppies, but it will occasionally occur
in adult dogs. In general, dogs tend to harbor very few hookworms
compared to the number carried by infected dogs.
Symptoms The most significant problems appear related to
intestinal distress and anemia. Blood loss results from the parasites
sucking blood from intestinal capillaries. The presence of pale gums,
diarrhea, or weakness might suggest the need to specifically determine
the dog's red blood cell count. Some dogs experience significant
weight loss, bloody diarrhea, or failure to grow properly with
Skin irritation and itching can be one
of the common signs of a heavily infested environment. The larvae
burrow into the skin and cause the dog a great deal of itching and
Diagnosis Hookworms are diagnosed with a microscopic
examination of a small stool sample. Since there are so many eggs
produced on a daily basis, they are rather easily detected. One adult
female hookworm is reported to produce as many as 20,000 eggs a day.
In puppies, large numbers of worms usually must be present before eggs
are shed into the stool. For this reason, fecal examination may be
less reliable in very young puppies than in adult dogs.
Treatment There are several very effective drugs that
will kill hookworms. These are given by injection or orally and have
few, if any, side-effects. However, these drugs only kill the adult
hookworms. Therefore, it is necessary to treat again in about 2-4
weeks to kill any newly formed adult worms that were larvae at the
time of the first treatment.
A blood transfusion may be
necessary in some dogs because of the rather severe anemia which can
Since the dog's environment can be laden with
hookworm eggs and larvae, it may be necessary to treat it with a
chemical to kill them. There are some available that are safe to use
All pups should be treated at 2-3 weeks of
Prompt deworming should be given when parasites are detected;
periodic deworming may be appropriate for pets at high risk for
Prompt disposal of dog feces should occur, especially in yards,
playgrounds, and public parks.
Strict hygiene is important, especially for children. Do not allow
children to play in potentially contaminated environments.
A nursing female dog should be treated concurrently with her pups;
nursing may reactivate infection in the female.
Most heartworm prevention products contain a drug that will
prevent hookworm infections. However, these products will not kill the
adult hookworms, so dogs must be treated for adult hookworms first.