Dog Hookworms Can Kill Your Dog

Hookworms are one of the nastier worms that can infect a dog and your dog can catch hookworms in ways that would surprise you. In addition, YOU can catch hookworms, too.

First of all, hookworms are so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye. Only with a microscope can a veterinarian see hookworms. Second, they can make your dog very sick.

Hookworms are bloodsuckers, drinking your dog’s blood much like the mythical vampire. Some say that 300 adult hookworms can drain 10% of your dog’s blood in a single day. Others say that hookworms can each drink 1.0 ml of blood per day. A third source claims that one hookworm will drink a half a teaspoonful of blood in a week, and that a thousand can drink 1.5 drinking glass fulls of blood in a single day. No matter how you look at it, they can seriously drain the blood right out of your dog.

To make matters worse, hookworms inject an anti-coagulant which prevents the bite wound from clotting even after the hookworm stops feeding. In other words, your dog keeps bleeding internally whether or not the hookworms are actually feeding. That’s pretty serious.

There are three species of hookworms and they live in your dog’s intestines. Some species of hookworms can live up to 15 years; that’s longer than the life span of many dogs. Others live for only six months. Either way the hookworms multiply so once infected, treatment is required to get rid of them. A single female can lay 20,000 eggs per day inside of your dog, and the eggs hatch in a few days.

If only 300 hookworms can drain 10% of your dog’s blood in a day, and a female can lay 20,000 eggs, you can see how serious this can be for your dog. This is not small potatoes, folks, hookworms can be fatal to your dog.

There are several ways that your dog can catch hookworms. Puppies can be born infected if the mother is infected. Puppies can also catch hookworms through their mother’s milk. Beyond puppyhood the ways of catching hookworms are many, and your dog doesn’t even have to come into contact with other infected dogs.

Hookworm larva can live in the grass, soil, water, or even on dog toys. Hookworms can easily pass through the skin even if there are no open cuts to get into. Your dog can catch hookworms through the pads of his feet or by skin contact with contaminated dirt or grass. Imagine, simply by walking your dog through a contaminated area, he can catch hookworms. Just by laying down on some grass which has hookworm larva, your dog can become infected.

Drinking water which has hookworm larva can also infect your dog, such as an old tree stump that collects water. As the larva can also live on plants, eating plants is another method of transmission. In addition, hookworms can travel. Their larva can swim, thereby traveling on the morning dew or in raindrops from one place to another.

Small rodents and even cats can spread hookworms all around the neighborhood. Dogs can also catch hookworms by eating infected rodents such as mice, moles and squirrels. Think about that the next time your dog chases after a squirrel, especially if he ever catches one.

Even dog poop which has turned to dust can carry hookworms eggs, and just breathing in the dust kicked up by the wind or running through the leaves can infect your dog.

How does an area become contaminated? Infected dogs and cats pooping in the area will leave behind hookworms eggs. If the poop lies around for a few hours before being scooped, that’s all it takes for the eggs to hatch and infest the soil. Hookworms eggs can hatch in as few as 12 hours.

Symptoms of hookworms in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, pale gums, pale skin, weakness, weight loss, malnutrition and anemia which can lead to death. A dog can have hookworms and show no symptoms, however. Worse yet, hookworms don’t always show up in a poop test so your dog can be infected even with poop tests showing negative.

Hookworms that infect dogs and cats can also affect people, causing a skin irritation known as Plumber’s Itch. Hookworms can burrow under your skin and cause red, itchy bumps or a rash. Plumbers often become infected when they work up under a house with a crawlspace where cats and dogs have pooped. This was once a common affliction for plumbers which is how it came to be known as Plumber’s Itch. In rare cases, dog hookworms can infect a person’s intestinal tract.

There is also a human form of hookworm that is just as severe in humans and potentially as fatal. While this is more common in third-world countries than in industrialized nations, it can happen anywhere. Hookworms thrive in warm, humid climates and the Southeast U.S. once had hookworms in epidemic proportions. As living conditions improve, hookworms become less prevalent.

Just as with dogs and cats, people can catch hookworms through their skin simply by sitting in contaminated grass or sand. With such an easy form of transmission, hookworms can quickly become a public health hazard.

Sandy beaches can be a haven for hookworms of all types, which is one reason why public beaches frown on dogs at the beach. Children’s sandboxes are another place where hookworms can thrive, especially if the neighborhood cats use the sandbox as cat litter. Cats can both catch and transmit hookworms just as dogs can.

While there is no way to fully protect your dog from catching hookworms, you can minimize his chances. Promptly scoop all poop on your property, especially poop left behind by other dogs and cats. Avoid walking your dog where other dogs and cats regularly poop. Keep your dog on heartworm prevention, and choose one that protects him from other worms as well.

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    13 Responses to Dog Hookworms Can Kill Your Dog

    1. Allie says:

      Another trouble with relying on over-the-counter dewormers is that every worm has a different life cycle and one treatment may not be enough to break that cycle. A vet will know how many treatments and how far apart those treatments need to be. I cannot speak to the wisdom of this, but I’ve seen numerous discussions on the internet where people talk about regular deworming schedules as a precautionary. There is no consensus on how often to treat.

      Heartworm or flea meds that also include regular dewormers work under this principle. They deworm your dog to some extent with every monthly treatment, but none of them that I’m aware of kill all types of worms, or guarantee a 100% worm kill rate. Still it gives some peace of mind.

      So many of our dogs and cats have come to us already infested with fleas and worms that I just assume they’ve got them and proceed accordingly.

    2. Allie says:

      Something else I discovered along the way is that dewormers that you buy over the counter have misleading packaging. It might boast on the front that it kills or controls several species of worms, but the truth is that most don’t, in spite of the packaging, especially ones with only a single ingredient. Nor do the enhanced heartworm meds protect from ALL other worms.

      Last year I switched to a very expensive over-the-counter dewormer because it does work better. It’s called Quad by Bayer. Pricey, but I read all the docs and studies and comparisons, and it is much more effective. None can promise 100%, not a one, but misleading packaging is very bad. Quad is not for heartworm prevention, and I use it as a precautionary, not as a substitute for veterinary intervention.

      And some worms take up residence on your property to where if you don’t also treat the yard, they’ll quickly get reinfected. Another gotcha is that a dog can have worms, but the poop test shows negative. This is called a False Negative and it is not uncommon.

    3. Melissa Brown says:

      Hookworms just killed my golden retriever puppy. After blood transfusions and treatments. Vet said he was infected by his mother. Breeder should have known!

      • Allie says:

        OMG that’s awful! My heart goes out to you! We think of them as such hardy creatures, but unexpected ailments can bring them down so quickly. May your heart find peace, and your home find a new best friend.

    4. Beth says:

      Our PitBull we have had for about 4 days got sick two days ago and we took her to the vet thinking she had parvo and the vet said its hook worms gave us the medicine to help her but I’m still concerned that’s it to late. She refuses to drink she has watery reddish diarrhea, vomiting yellow, very weak and the smell is horrific. I’m very worried about her. When is it to late?

      • Allie says:

        I don’t know when it’s too late. That’s a question for the vet. The poor thing to be that sick! It sounds like you are taking the right steps though, getting veterinary help for it.

        I would ask the vet also if there’s anything you should be doing to treat the yard. If she’s that sick, you don’t want her to come into contact with yard chemicals. But at the same time, you do need to ask the vet for a strategic plan to prevent recurrence.

        Something else you might want to ask the vet is about heartworm preventives that also protect from other worms. None of them protect from everything, but some do protect beyond heartworms.

        Good luck to you! I hope she recovers and rewards your efforts with a long, healthy life.

      • Markus tibbett says:

        I have a pit bull puppy that has all the same symptoms I took him to the vet today gave him worm medicine but he’s still acting the same way I don’t know how much longer he will keep trying to fight but I’m still doing everything I can to save him.

      • Allie says:

        Gosh, I am so sorry! It’s awful to watch them fight health issues. I pray that he recovers. I wrote this post because while everybody knows about dog worms, it is not common knowledge how devastating they can be. I’m so paranoid that I keep an eye on their poop throughout their lives, and use heartworm meds that also deworm. We travel a lot so our dogs come into contact with a lot of other doggie left behinds. We stay in dog-friendly hotels and cottages, so our dogs are exposed to god knows what from every other dog that ever stayed there. My heart goes out to you, and I so hope the vet meds set him back to rights.

    5. anna.patrick says:

      I have a 10 yr old boston terrier he was sick. We took him to the vet because he was throwing up they did a stool sample which said it was black tary and gave us some medicine and sent us home. We looked the medicine up for a infection and worms. He is eating a bland diet now a week and drinking ok.Stool is still black but he is throwing up blood.. I did see a few days ago something that looked like a worm but it was more shaped like a moth?? Any help is welcomed thank you

      • Allie says:

        Poor little fellow. This can’t be fun for him. If he’s throwing up blood, I’d be calling the vet again ASAP. Good luck, and keep us posted!

    6. pauline says:

      what happens to your dog if vet doesn’t detect hookworms in stool sample but the dog is infested with worms, how can I treat my dog without a doctors prescription for medication.

      • Allie says:

        When I had two dogs and only one tested positive, I just asked the vet to give me meds enough for both. If it were me, I’d voice my concerns to the vet and just ask for precautionary meds. I suspect they’d rather give you a prescription than risk you trying home remedies.

    7. JO says:

      Whipworms are just as bad. My dogs were diagnosed with them and every month I must use a preventative as the eggs (from stool droppings) stay in the soil for years. I now keep my yard clean, but because I didn’t know, it is too late and must medicate monthly along with other preventatives.
      I will NOT take my animals to a dog park for just this reason. Dog parks are fecal disease havens.

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