Hookworms are a type of intestinal parasite that can make your dog very sick if she becomes infected with them, especially if she's a puppy. Each species of these tiny nematode worms affect different types of mammals, including dogs, cats and humans. Of these hookworms, only three species can infect our canine companions.
Hookworm Species That Affect Canines
The three species of hookworms that infect dogs are Ancylostoma braziliense, Ancylostoma caninum and Uncinaria stenocephala. Of these, Ancylostoma caninum is the most widespread and the most common cause of infection in pooches. Both hookworm species of the Ancylostoma genus are found in warm climates and can't usually survive outside of a host in cooler weather, according to the Third Street Veterinary Hospital website. Those of the Uncinaria genus can survive in the cooler temperatures of many northern states. Hookworms of all three species infest your dog's intestinal tract, absorbing blood and nutrients from the pup, possibly resulting in anemia or weight loss.
How the Icky Worms are Transmitted to Rover
Your pooch can become infected with hookworms by ingesting their larvae in soil contaminated by the feces of an infected dog or by eating an infected host, like a rodent. Both Ancylostoma species of hookworm larvae can also infect your dog by burrowing through her skin. A mother dog infested with Ancylostoma caninum hookworms can pass them to her pups while they are still in her womb or through her colostrum when they're nursing from her. These methods of transmission between mother and pups aren't typically the case for the other two species of canine hookworms, according to the Iowa State University Center for Food Security & Public Health.
Getting Rid of Those Bad Bugs
If your pup has become infected with any species of canine hookworm, you'll need to visit your vet. The vet can examine the pooch's stool for signs of hookworm larvae and give her a physical exam to check for other symptoms of a hookworm infection. He will determine whether your pup is infected with hookworms and prescribe a deworming medication to get rid of these pests. Most deworming medications contain ingredients like pyrantel pamoate or milbemycin oxime, both of which kill off adult hookworms of all species. You'll need to give your pup these oral medications as directed by your vet. Two treatments, two to three weeks apart, are usually required to kill off any immature hookworms remaining after the first.
Dangerous for Rover and for You
While the three species of hookworms that affect canines typically can't infect the intestines of people, they can penetrate the skin of humans and cause an itchy skin infection. The most common hookworm to infect the skin of humans is Ancylostoma braziliense. This skin infection usually clears up on its own, according to WebMD. In very rare cases, Ancylostoma caninum can migrate through the skin and to the intestines of people, leading to abdominal pain, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To prevent the spread of canine hookworms, always scoop your pup's feces, keep her environment clean and regularly deworm your pup as recommended by your vet.