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Hookworms In Dogs - Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment

The hookworm is one of several parasitic worms that dogs can be prone to contracting, and it is important that all dog owners follow a comprehensive worming protocol to protect their dogs from infestation with hookworms and other internal parasites. However, despite worming best practice, it is still possible on occasions for worms such as hookworms to become resistant to dog wormers, or to be present in such great numbers that following normal worming dosage and frequency guidelines is not enough to completely protect your dog against their presence in large numbers.

Many dog owners often think of worming as a ‘do it and forget it’ endeavour, and generally, as long as worming is carried out regularly and conscientiously, this is all that is required. However, worming is something that is only effective at killing parasitic worms that are already present within the dog’s intestine, and avoiding them reproducing in great enough numbers to take a firm hold and cause problems. Dosage with a worming treatment is not a form of vaccination, and does not protect the dog against further infestations later on, nor from picking up parasites in between worming treatments.

All dog owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of hookworm infestation within their dogs, plus how to take steps to prevent its occurrence and treat any problems that arise. Read on to learn more about hookworms in dogs.

What are hookworms?

Hookworms are small, thin parasitic worms that make their home within the small intestine of affected dogs, latching onto the lining of the intestine and leaching nutrients from their host. This can lead to a range of problems including malnutrition, blood loss, and inflammation and infection of the intestine. Left unchecked, hookworm infestation can be life threatening to dogs, particularly young puppies and those with a compromised immune system.

Can hookworms be prevented?

A good, regularly administered worming protocol goes a long way towards preventing hookworm infestation in dogs. The type of wormers you use for your dog, in what dosage and how often you use them, are all decisions that should be arrived upon in consultation with your vet, as ineffective or inadequate worming is no more useful than not worming your dog at all!

Good quality anti-parasitic wormers that do the job properly are not available to buy over the counter from pet shops and supermarkets, and so you should avoid using supermarket brands and low cost worming treatments, as essentially these are a false economy. Your vet will be able to recommend the correct type of wormer and the required dosage for your dog, and these wormers can then be bought directly from the surgery or in some cases, bought over the counter in pharmacies or ordered online.

How do dogs contract hookworms?

There is a range of ways in which your dog can contract hookworms, and puppies are particularly prone to the condition, as they can become infected by ingesting the larvae of hookworms that is present in the milk of infected dams.

Hookworm larvae can also be present in the soil, so it is entirely possible that your dog can pick up the larvae when simply out and about on his walks. Also, if your dog likes to scavenge for discarded food or road kill, he may even inadvertently ingest parasitic larvae from the things that he eats.

Symptoms of hookworm infestation in dogs

A dog that is suffering from an infestation of hookworms will appear generally under the weather, and rather flatter and more lethargic than they would be in good health.

They will often have a poor appetite, and may be displaying signs of anaemia, which will display itself in the pink membranes of the skin, such as the gums, inside of the nostrils and eyelids, which will be much paler than normal. In extreme infestations, hookworms may also be present in the lungs as well as the intestines, leading to a persistent and unexplained cough.

Passing stools that are very dark and have a tar-like consistency, and possibly either diarrhoea or constipation may be present too. It is often not possible to see hookworms in the stools themselves, although of course if you do see worms in the stools, this is a clear indication of infestation.

Dogs that have begun to lose condition, are coughing, or are suffering from signs of digestive upsets such as diarrhoea or constipation are already quite sick, and veterinary treatment should be sought as a matter of urgency, as hookworm infestation, left untreated, can prove fatal.

Treating and eradicating hookworms

Your vet will be able to definitively test for the presence of hookworms by examining a stool sample, and then a high dosage and sometimes repeated administration of a veterinary strength wormer will be prescribed to eradicate the hookworms themselves.

Generally that is all that is required to eradicate hookworms, but depending upon the degree of infestation and the affect that this has had upon the health of the dog, supplementary treatment with iron for anaemia and/or nutritional supplements may also be recommended.

Left unchecked, hookworm infestation can prove fatal in dogs, and parasitic worms are tenacious creatures that will not just go away on their own! Do the right thing for your dog by worming them thoroughly and regularly with a veterinary recommended worming treatment, and taking your dog along to the vet for further investigation at the first sign of a problem.


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