Hook Worms in Canines

Veterinarians use microscopes to help diagnose hookworms in canines.
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The parasite known as the hookworm is common in canines, according to the American Kennel Club -- and especially in puppies. Hookworm infections are easily identifiable, as they display several straightforward symptoms regardless of how your puppy became infected. If your puppy is diagnosed with the parasite, a veterinarian can treat his infection with medications.

Hookworms 101

The intestinal parasites known as hookworms, also known as Ancylostoma braziliense, Ancylostoma caninum or Uncinaria stenocephala, do exactly what their name implies. Larva ingested by puppies and dogs develop in the intestines. Hookworms, which measure a half-inch long, hook themselves onto the blood vessels of the intestinal walls. Leeched on by their six sharp teeth, these parasites feed on the canine's blood supply for two to three weeks until they are mature adults. The hundreds of eggs produced by mature female hookworms pass through your puppy's digestive tract and out through his feces, starting the reproductive cycle over again.

Hooked on Hookworms

Puppies and dogs ingest hookworms in several ways. Developing puppies sometimes acquire hookworms through their mother's placenta. Nursing puppies can develop a hookworm infection by ingesting their contaminated mother's milk. Older puppies and dogs often become infected with hookworms through their skin when walking through contaminated water or soil. The small parasites are able to burrow themselves into a puppy's skin, eventually finding their way into the bloodstream. Canines also become infected with hookworms orally, such as when curiously sniffing and munching on feces containing hookworm eggs or larvae. Additionally, consuming a contaminated small mammal has the potential to infect your pooch with hookworms.

What to Look For

Canines with a hookworm infection are generally fatigued and have pale gums due to anemia, or a decrease in red blood cells. Additional symptoms include weight loss, irritated skin near the paws, a dull coat and bloody diarrhea. Younger puppies infected with hookworms may be stunted in growth due to blood loss and lack of essential nutrients. If your dog is infected, you may find hookworms in his stool -- although this is somewhat difficult without a microscope. If your pooch has any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and bring a stool sample. If your puppy is diagnosed with hookworms, your veterinarian will give him several doses of de-worming drugs known as anthelmintics, which kill adult hookworms. Canines with severe anemia may need a blood transfusion.

Parasite Prevention

To prevent a hookworm infection in your puppy, it's important to keep his environment clean. Hookworm eggs and larvae thrive in poorly sanitized, warm and damp environments. Properly pick up and remove all feces from your dog's environment on a daily basis. Avoid walking your dog through sand, since hookworm eggs and larvae thrive in sand. Have your puppy or older dog routinely checked by a veterinarian so that he can receive de-worming medication. For example, new puppies should receive de-worming medications when they're 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks and 8 weeks old. Older canines typically receive de-worming medications once or twice per year.