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Health & Wellness

Hookworms in dogs: symptoms and treatments

And how to prevent your dog from contracting these parasites.

If you’ve ever caught your dog trying to eat another animal’s poop, you’re not wrong for shooing them away. It’s not only gross, but they’re at risk of contracting hookworms — an infection that can cause your pet uncomfortable symptoms, like vomiting or a decreased appetite. Plus, it’s contagious amongst pets and humans. If your dog gets hookworm, here’s everything you need to know to help them feel better and protect yourself. 

What are hookworms in dogs? 

Hookworms, which are worm-shaped parasites, seek to live inside of a dog’s intestines, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. Once hookworms are inside of a dog, they can mate and reproduce. In addition, hookworms can thrive in a variety of climates and environments, making them an important parasite for pet parents to be aware of. 

“Hookworms can be found everywhere but are more common in warm and moist areas on the East and West coast of the United States,” Dr. McCullough says. “One type of hookworm prefers colder climates and can be found in the northern United States and Canada.”

Are hookworms contagious?

Hookworm infections are contagious between animals and can sometimes spread by an infected mother nursing her puppies. “Otherwise, all other infections are through the skin or ingestion of hookworm larvae,” Dr. McCullough adds. 

Once an infected dog deposits hookworm eggs into an environment, those eggs have the ability to be ingested or penetrate through a dog’s skin, Dr. McCullough says. After a hookworm has traveled inside of a dog’s body, it’ll adhere to the intestinal wall inside of that dog’s intestines. The parasites can also migrate to the dog’s lungs, where they can travel up their windpipe, be coughed up and swallowed again, she adds. 

Unfortunately, hookworms are easily contracted by people, too. “Humans are susceptible to hookworm infections,” Dr. McCullough says. “They are often acquired through barefoot contact with contaminated soil or sand in public areas.”

RELATED: Giardia in dogs: what it is and how to treat it

Hookworm symptoms in dogs

According to Dr. McCullough, you most likely won’t be able to spot hookworms in your dog’s poop. But, some changes in a pup’s health indicate a hookworm infection, including: 

  • Decreased appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability to gain weight (especially in puppies)
  • Potbelly
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool 

Seeing your veterinarian after spotting hookworm symptoms is important as rarer, severe dog cases can be fatal. 

How to treat hookworms in dogs

Reach out to your veterinarian if your dog begins showing symptoms of hookworm. Veterinarians often diagnose this infection by testing their poop, Dr. McCullough explains. If your dog tests positive for hookworms, vets will likely recommend anti-parasitic medications and dewormers. Veterinarians may recommend serving your pup a bland diet to ease an upset stomach during their recovery period, too. 

Treatment may need to be repeated 2 to 3 weeks after the first round, Dr. McCullough says, and it can take between 3 to 4 weeks to completely get rid of hookworms in your dog. 

How to prevent hookworms in dogs

Your vet can prescribe your dog deworming medication as a preventive measure, not just a treatment, Dr. McCullough says.

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The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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