Hookworms are relatively more dangerous than other types of worms in dogs . Left untreated, hookworms can lead to death. This is particularly true for young puppies.
Hookworms are ravenous creatures that suck blood by sticking themselves to the intestinal walls of the host. The hookworm larvae can even burrow into the skin of the human foot or leg causing itchy lesions. Hookworms are not as common among the feline parasites, but if they do infect a cat, they can be equally problematic for cats, dogs and humans.
The most common species of hookworm that infects puppies is Ancylostoma caninum. The natural habitat of this species is warm and humid areas in the countryside, but they are known to survive almost anywhere. Although the most common mode of transmission to puppies is through the mother’s milk, hookworms can also penetrate the skin and get into a puppy’s body. Once inside, they cling to the intestinal walls with their hooks, a characteristic which gives them their name.
Symptoms of worms in dogs are mostly general in nature, but hookworms, being voracious blood suckers, can drain energy in puppies to a much larger extent than in adult dogs. Symptoms of hookworms in puppies depend upon the severity of the infection. The most common symptoms of hookworm infestation in puppies include anemia (in severe cases), disturbance in bowel movement and diminished vitality. Hookworms can affect a young dog to such an extent that even mild infection causes a puppy to curl up and sleep for long hours, shunning play.
Most other worms in dogs can be seen alive in dog feces. Unlike other types of worms, hookworms are extremely small and cannot be viewed with a naked eye. This physical trait of a hookworm means that a microscopic examination is the only method to confirm the prevalence of hookworms.
It is imperative that you initiate preventive treatment for hookworms in puppies as soon as they are 2 weeks old. For the effective removal of hookworms, the treatment has to be repeated after every two weeks until the puppy is two months old. In a high risk environment, the same treatment should be continued at weekly intervals for another month and then at monthly intervals until the dog is six months old. Thereafter, medication for preventing heartworm can be used which is effective for roundworms, hookworms and dog tapeworm as well. A nursing mother should be treated along with her puppies to ensure that worms do not continue to pass through lactation.
Despite proper treatment, it may be necessary to provide supportive care in the form of a high protein diet and iron supplements to make up for the blood loss. In extremely severe cases, a blood transfusion may also be required.
Considering the treatment protocol, it is better to take preventive measures. Regular cleaning of the environment and periodic check-ups can go a long way to prevent and control infection. Since hookworms can also penetrate human skin, it is advised that children be kept away from infected puppies. Walking barefoot in areas where the dogs defecate, like the backyard or the garden, can be dangerous for adults also.