Hookworms in Dogs and Puppies
Reviewed for accuracy on March 30, 2020 by Sarah Wallace, DVM
Intestinal parasites like hookworms and roundworms are common in dogs and cats. There are no vaccines available for hookworms or roundworms, so helping a pup with either parasite requires a keen eye to spot symptoms and then a trip to the veterinarian. De-worming medications are necessary to get rid of the infestation. If left untreated, these parasitic worms can cause death due to complications like malnutrition and anemia in puppies. With young dogs, it’s extremely important to watch for signs of infection and treat any cases as quickly as possible.
Puppies can contract roundworms and hookworms by ingesting the microscopic eggs from contaminated dirt and can also become infected with hookworms through exposed skin of the paws, belly or any other part of the body that touches the ground. Furthermore, both types of parasitic worms can be passed from an infected mother to her pups, either while the puppies are in the uterus or through nursing. Entire litters of puppies can become infected with hookworms and roundworms if the mother is infected.
Symptoms of Worms
Hookworm symptoms include:
- A malnourished appearance (low body weight)
- Unkempt appearance
- Low energy/not willing to play
- Nostrils, ears, and lips, gums may appear pale
- Stools could be dark or “tarry” (looking like tar) or diarrhea may be present
- If the parasite has migrated into the lungs, a hacking cough will be present.
Roundworm infections manifest as a variety of symptoms:
- Lethargy (lack of energy)
- Anorexia (not wanting to eat)
- Belly discomfort or pain
- Abdominal swelling (swollen full of worms)
- Throwing up (worms may be seen in the vomit)
- Worms may be seen in the feces
- When roundworm larvae have infected the lungs, the dog may exhibit a hacking cough
Diagnosis and Treatment for Worms
Your veterinarian will require a detailed description of your dog’s symptoms, including onset, frequency, and any abnormalities in behavior or stool. A physical exam will take place to search for symptoms like abdominal swelling and pale membranes. Bring a sample of your dog’s stool to your appointment; parasite eggs or dead adult parasites are usually passed out in fecal matter, and tests can be performed to identify the parasite.
Deworming medications will be prescribed, depending on the type of parasite. You may need to provide your puppy with additional nutritional supplements, depending on the severity of the infection.
Management and Prevention
Parasites are dangerous to young animals, and tricky to eliminate, as larvae must be destroyed as well as adult worms and pets can become reinfected or reinfect themselves repeatedly. You’ll need to do the following:
- Follow your veterinarian’s treatment schedule and recheck appointment recommendations to ensure the treatment is working.
- Clean up your pet’s feces right away after defecation to avoid contaminating the soil.
- If you frequently bring your pet to high-traffic pet areas such as dog beaches or dog parks, consider more frequent deworming treatments to keep parasites at bay.
- Consider switching to a monthly flea, tick or heartworm preventive that contains an anti-parasitic ingredient that can treat your pet for parasitic worms monthly.
Remember there is no vaccine for intestinal worms, so it’s up to you to keep pets safe and their environment as clean as you can manage. Should you see any of the clinical signs listed above, get them to a veterinarian for treatment. Watch young puppies closely for any changes in feeding and bathroom habits; quick treatment can save a dog’s life.