One of the issues that may be experienced by a dog is an infection. Infections may take on many different forms, including those caused by bacteria and viruses. At times, dogs may also experience infections of parasites, including hookworms. This can be a serious issue that needs to be treated in order to improve the health of your dog. What are hookworms, how are they diagnosed and what can be done to treat the issue effectively?
Hookworms are microscopic intestinal parasites that can affect both dogs and cats. When viewed under a microscope, their mouthpieces appear to be like a hook and they use them to impale the lining of the intestinal wall to hold themselves in the area. You can see them with the naked eye when they are fully grown, but they are only approximately 3 mm long, so they are difficult to see. When they hook into the lining of the intestinal walls, they ingest blood in great quantities.
Hookworms can occur in any type of environment but they are more likely to take place if they are in a warm and moist environment. In addition, hookworms may be more likely to occur with poor sanitation including in areas where dogs are overcrowded in pens. The hookworms typically enter into the dog through the skin, through the mouth or they can be passed on to the baby during birth or in utero. Hookworms also can be found in the mother’s milk, so they can be passed on in that way as well.
When a dog has a hookworm infection, the parasites will pass microscopic eggs through the feces and the environment where they defecate will be contaminated. The larva that hatches from those eggs will stay in the soil for months at a time and when a dog swallows hookworm lava, the lifecycle begins. In addition, a pregnant dog may have hookworms reactivated that have been dormant in the dog for quite some time.
Hookworms may cause some noticeable symptoms, including intestinal distress, blood loss and anemia. You may also notice weakness, weight loss, bloodied diarrhea and pale gums when the dog has a hookworm infestation. If the skin is irritated, it could be due to a heavy infestation in the area.
A veterinarian will need to make a microscopic examination of a stool sample in order to determine if hookworms are present. A solution is added that causes the eggs of the hookworm to float.
If a hookworm infestation is detected, medications may be given by the veterinarian to help eliminate them. The drugs will need to be taken on an ongoing basis, because they only kill the adults and not the larva or the eggs. Any feces from the yard should also be removed to help prevent a re-infestation of the dog.