Canine hookworms are a type of parasite that attach to the intestines of a dog using their hook-like mouths. The adult parasites lay eggs, which eventually pass through the stool of the host and wait for a new host to come along and consume them. Proper care should be given to an infected dog to ensure that he is clear of the parasite and won't pass it to another unsuspecting pooch.
Hookworm eggs enter a host via four routes: oral ingestion, through the skin, in the womb through the placenta or through a nursing mother dog's milk. Symptoms of this parasite infection include weight loss, weakness, pale gums, bloody stool, disheveled coat, skin irritation, dehydration and stunted growth in puppies. Anemia, or blood loss, is a major concern in puppies. Adult female hookworms are able to produce more than 20,000 eggs each day, so early detection and removal of the parasite are essential.
A stool sample is required for a veterinarian to determine if your dog is infected with hookworms. If hookworms are discovered in the stool, your veterinarian will provide your dog with medications known as anthelmintics to kill the adult hookworms. The medication must be given again after a period of at least two weeks, since newly matured adults who were in their larval stage during the last treatment need to be eliminated. Dogs with a severe hookworm infection may need to receive a blood transfusion to treat anemia. To avoid reinfection, female dogs who are nursing should be treated along with her pups.
Contaminated environments harbor hookworm eggs that can enter the body orally or through the skin, so proper hygiene is important to prevent infecting your pooch. Properly clean up and dispose of any stool left behind in your yard, garden, dog run or in dog parks. Daily sanitation is especially important in crowded areas with more than one dog. Avoid walking your dog through sand or playing in dirt for an extended period of time, since hookworm eggs thrive in sand and dirt. In addition to proper hygiene, your dog should receive monthly heartworm treatments, which also help to prevent hookworm infections. Isolate any infected dogs from other pets until your veterinarian determines they are parasite-free.
Maintaining a clean, sanitized environment is healthy for not only your pooch but for you and your family as well. Hookworm larvae can come directly in contact with human skin and burrow into it, causing itching. Although extremely rare, canine hookworm larvae can travel to human bowels and cause inflammation. After playing outside or handling soil or sand, always wash your hands with warm soap and water to help prevent the spread of hookworms. To disinfect surfaces touched by potentially contaminated hands, combine 3 cups of bleach with a gallon of water and wash the surface.