As a dog owner, your animal’s health is a priority, you take it to the vet, make sure it gets all its vaccines. But every once in awhile, a pesky germ will manage to find its way to your dog, that’s when you start noticing your dog’s health declining.
In today’s topic, we’ll be covering up hookworms, those pesky little creatures that hook themselves (hence, the name) to the intestine lining. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to tell the signs, know what to do, and most importantly, protect your dog from having them again, or your family from getting infected.
What Is a Hookworm?
As the name suggests, it is a worm that finds its way to the intestines of the dog, hooks itself to the intestine linings, and then trouble starts.
Scientifically called “Ancylostoma caninum” and “Ancylostoma braziliense”, this lovely parasite, despite its small size, tends to cause fatal damages.
From anemia to major weight loss, one better pray their dog doesn’t come in contact with it.
The parasite has 3 phases, and in its first phase, the eggs find their way into the body through feces.
After it’s safely inside, the eggs hatch and the larvae are released, which will, later on, travel through the digestive tube, all the way to the intestines, where it’ll use its hook to get attached to the lining and start feeding off of small vessels.
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How Is It Transmitted?
Contact with a contaminated surface, water, or another animal, can cause hookworms in dogs, through oral ingestion, or direct contact with the skin.
Other ways include in utero, or through breastfeeding. Hence the importance of diagnosing it early, so it’s not transmitted to other dogs in the area, and thus causing a huge infestation.
How Do I Know if My Dog Has Hookworms?
It goes without saying, that catching the hookworms early in your dog, can save its life, as the symptoms tend to progressively evolve, and the state of the animal worsens.
Anemia is the first symptom to look for, as mentioned before, the worms feed off of small vessels, but over a long period, this can cause severe anemia, which you can spot if you notice a tiredness, exercise intolerance, loss of appetite, and pale gums. These signs indicate that your dog may be suffering from major blood loss, so the faster you act, the more chances there are at saving your dog.
Other signs include weight loss, bloody diarrhea, itchy paws, and poor growth in puppies.
Diagnosing Hookworms in Dogs
This is up to your vet, as he will take fecal matter for analyzing it, the test is called fecal float, and with it the vet looks for hookworms eggs, which, if present, should be easy to find, since the parasite tends to produce a large number of eggs every day.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the vet will move to the next step, which is treatment.
Your vet will want to first treat any symptoms that may worsen the prognosis, like a severe anemia. Once your animal is more stable, the vet will move to administer a dewormer, or an anthelmintic.
However, these meds only work on adult worms, meaning any larvae will still grow, unharmed. Hence the need for a scheduled second visit, a few weeks after the first one, to administer a second dose that will take care of the now adult worms.
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Prevention Against Hookworms
Just because your dog has been treated for hookworms, and unless your vet gives the dog a heartworm preventive, chances are your dog can be infected again, so incorporating a new hygiene system in your household is crucial, to prevent any new infestations.
Hookworms larvae tend to grow in warm and moist areas, which is why cleaning up after your dog, and disinfecting the house is of the utmost importance. Make sure you pick after your dog immediately after it poops.
Another great piece of advice is to avoid suspicious areas, or areas where many dogs reside, hence lots of possibly infested fecal matter. Dogs tend to sniff each other’s butts, which increases the chances of catching the eggs.
And of course, ask your vet to include heartworm preventive in your dog’s health plan, because, despite all of the efforts mentioned above, your dog can still be infected. So a radical prevention is crucial.
Can Humans Get Hookworms from Dogs?
Watch this really great video from “Gross Science”, that talks about hookworms and the Myth of the “Lazy Southerner”!This is another concern to be taken into consideration. Humans can absolutely get hookworms from their animal.
So if you suspect that your dog has hookworms, make sure that you keep a barrier between you and the animal, like wearing gloves at all time, and keeping a distance, until the dog has received proper treatment.
To be accurate, adult hookworms have no effect on humans, but larvae do, as they can be transferred simply through touch, and burrow under skin, leaving an itchy spot behind. The larvae can travel and cause severe harm to different organs, so if you have any children in the household, you need to be careful and stay alert for any symptoms.
Having a dog is surely fun, but some people tend to forget that it is also a huge responsibility. Taking your dog to the vet and getting the proper vaccines and medication should be a priority, not doing so can result in fatal results, both in the dog and any humans that come in contact with it.
Keep an eye on your pet, and make sure that it doesn’t only receive love, but proper healthcare as well.