Pet Care Blog

Hookworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Dr. Ricky Walther
vet giving medicine orally to dog

Hookworms are one of the most common types of worms in dogs that can do some serious damage. What symptoms should you look out for? How do you treat hookworms in dogs? And is there anything you can do to prevent your beloved pet from getting these nasty parasites? This post answers all these questions and more.

Pro tip: By enrolling your pet early, treatments for illnesses like parasite infection can be covered up to 90% by your pet insurance.

Table of Contents:

What are hookworms?

Hookworms are hook-like parasites that attach themselves to a dog’s intestines. Despite only being 3mm long, these parasites can cause severe anemia (a decrease in your pet’s red blood cells).

There are several different kinds of hookworms that affect dogs. The most common one is Ancylostoma caninum which flourishes in warm and moist climates along with Ancylostoma braziliense. Uncinaria stenocephala, on the other hand, is present in cooler climates and affects dogs occasionally.

The life cycle of the hookworm has three stages: eggs, larvae, and adults. The adult hookworms reside and mate inside the small intestine of their hosts, and then females lay microscopic eggs that are passed in the poop. In about one week, the eggs hatch into larvae which infect the environment. These larvae may survive for two months in warm and moist conditions.

How do dogs get hookworms?

Canines can get infected with hookworms in several different ways. They can ingest larvae by eating or sniffing poop or soil, or by eating an infected cockroach or mouse. Hookworm larvae can also penetrate the skin, usually through the pup's paws.

After penetrating the skin or being swallowed, it takes about two weeks for the larvae to enter the bloodstream, reach the lungs, and settle in the small intestine where they mature. In adult dogs who have become immune to the parasite, the immature worms might enter a period of arrested development (hypobiosis) in the body. Months or even years later, the parasites can become reactivated, leading to an active infection. However, even if the animal has become immune and doesn’t show any abnormal signs, they can still contaminate the environment by shedding eggs in their feces.

When a female dog becomes pregnant, the larvae enter the mammary glands and infect the puppies when they nurse. For that reason, female dogs that are to be bred should get worm medication before giving birth in order to kill the larvae that might infect the puppies.

Hookworms life cycle (Image source: Budget Vet Care)

Can humans become infected with hookworms?

Hookworm larvae are also capable of penetrating human skin, causing a skin infection called cutaneous larva migrans (CLM) which manifests in the form of small, red, itchy trails. Humans can be infected by walking barefoot on sandy beaches or lying on moist soil that’s been contaminated with animal feces.

Hookworms in humans can be dangerous. The larvae can penetrate internal organs and eyes, causing serious damage, complications, and blindness. Fortunately, these conditions can be easily avoided by avoiding contact with moist, infected soil. Bathing and washing hands regularly can also help prevent hookworm infection.

What are the symptoms of hookworms in dogs?

There are a few symptoms of hookworms in canines that pet parents should be aware of in order to help catch the infection early.

Hookworms suck blood and cause internal blood loss, which leads to anemia. The symptoms of anemia include weakness, pale gums, weight loss, and poor growth.

Hookworms are especially dangerous for young puppies who have no natural defense and can quickly develop a severe infection. Besides severe anemia, puppies might also have bloody to tarry diarrhea. Other symptoms of hookworms in puppies include:

  • Weakness
  • Unhealthy appearance
  • Inability to gain weight
  • Pale mucus membranes
  • Poor haircoat
  • Coughing

Some larvae can migrate to the lungs in both puppies and adult canines, which can result in respiratory disease and pneumonia. Massive hookworm infestation can lead to collapse and even death.

Adult canines usually develop chronic infection. Malnourished or stressed pups, as well as those living in regions where hookworms are common, are at a higher risk. Chronic disease is typically characterized by vomiting and mild diarrhea. Some dogs can also experience loss of appetite, weakness, and blood in the stool. The infection can be deadly even in adult animals if their immune system weakens.

Older dogs with ongoing exposure to the parasite may develop hookworm dermatitis. This most commonly affects the footpads and is called pododermatitis. Dogs with pododermatitis suffer from swollen and painful feet that become soft, spongy and feel hot. If left untreated, the footpads might separate, the pads turn cracked and dry and the nails become deformed.

How do you diagnose a dog with hookworms?

If your veterinarian suspects that your pet has picked up hookworm, they will perform a test called fecal float. Fecal float is an examination of a stool sample, where the stool material is mixed with a special liquid that causes the parasite eggs to float to the surface. The eggs are then collected using a glass slide which is examined under a microscope.

This diagnostic test is generally quite reliable as the parasite produces a big number of eggs on a regular basis. However, it may be less reliable in puppies, as it takes two to three weeks for the larvae to mature and start reproducing.

How do you treat hookworms in dogs?

If the presence of hookworms is confirmed, your vet will likely prescribe an anthelmintic or dewormer. These medications are usually taken orally and don’t cause any significant adverse effects, but they only kill adult hookworms and maturing larvae. This means that they might not manage to kill larvae in arrested development and, for that reason, the veterinarian will probably recommend treating your furry friend again in two to four weeks in order to get rid of any new adult worms formed from the surviving larvae.

In cases of severe hookworm infection, deworming treatment can be combined with supportive therapy, which can include a high-protein diet, fluid therapy, and iron supplementation. Make sure to follow your vet’s instructions in order to ensure that all the hookworms are eliminated.

If your dog’s immune system breaks down and you start noticing symptoms similar to the acute infection, be sure to contact your vet right away. This is an emergency situation that might require hospitalization, supportive care, and blood transfusion.

In the case of pododermatitis, medicated paste will also be applied to the affected area.

Pro tip: With regular worm and flea treatment, your dog will be healthier and happier. This will also help keep the cost of your pet insurance premiums down. If you do find your canine companion needs treatment, pet insurance can help limit the amount you have to pay at the vet’s office.

hookworm lifecycle (Image source: VCA Animal Hospital)

Can you prevent dogs from getting hookworms?

When it comes to hookworm infection, good hygiene is the best prevention. Be sure to pick up dog feces as soon as possible, because it takes six days for the hookworm larvae to leave the poop. If hookworm eggs are not in the environment, other animals can’t get infected.

The risk of infection is highest in shaded and damp areas, so kennel areas should be kept clean and dry. In addition, make sure to cover sandboxes so that they won’t become contaminated by animals randomly passing by.

Disinfection is also very important. Concrete runs can be cleaned with a 1% bleach solution. Applying borax or rock salt to sandy or gravel runs will kill the worms (it should be noted though that these two substances will also kill the grass).

Avoid areas where there are large amounts of feces (like dog parks) and avoid taking your pooch to facilities that don’t follow standard cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

Deworm dogs on a regular basis using an anthelmintic approved by your vet. Puppies should be dewormed at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age and then every month. Nursing dogs should be dewormed at the same time their puppies are. In addition, prompt deworming should be given if the parasite is detected.

Speak to your vet about adding a heartworm preventative that protects against hookworms to your pet’s preventative care plan.

Key Takeaways

  • Hookworms are common parasites in dogs that can also affect humans.
  • Young puppies are at the highest risk for blood loss due to hookworms, which is why it’s very important to deworm on a regular basis.
  • Knowing the symptoms and how to prevent your pet from getting infected will help keep them healthy and happy.
  • If you have questions or concerns about hookworms, your vet is always the best source of information.

Do you want to find the best pet insurance?

Let's analyze your pet's breed, age, and location to find the right coverage and the best savings. Ready?

Analyze My Pet

About Pawlicy Advisor

The pet insurance marketplace endorsed by veterinarians, at Pawlicy Advisor we make buying the best pet insurance easier. By comparing personalized coverage and pricing differences we can save you a ton of money, up to 83% in some instances!

Pawlicy Advisor helping a pet parent and their dog find a great deal on insurance

Instantly Compare Pet Insurance Plans

Get Quotes


How Pet Insurance Works

How To Compare Plans

Determine If Pet Insurance Is Worth It

Determine If Wellness Plans Are Worth It

Vet Visit Costs

New Puppy Checklist

Comparison Charts

ASPCA vs. Pets Best

Pets Best vs. Embrace

Embrace vs. Pumpkin

Pumpkin vs. MetLife

More Comparison Charts

Find Your State

New Jersey





New York



More States

Dog Insurance

German Shepherd




English Bulldog

French Bulldog

Great Dane





More Breeds

Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

More you might like

Kitten with ear mites
7 minute read
Ear Mites in Cats: Symptoms & Treatment
mixed breed puppy with parvovirus at the veterinary clinic
7 minute read
Parvo in Puppies: Everything You Need to Know
Beagle laying down on the floor
6 minute read
Beagle Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
dog with constipation
8 minute read
Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Border Collie dog
6 minute read
Border Collie Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
dog drinking water from river
8 minute read
Giardia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment
Training a dog on a leash
5 minute read
7 Mistakes People Make When Training Their Dogs
sick cat lying on top of red car
9 minute read
Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Symptoms & Treatment
female veterinarian giving a pill to a brown labrador in a clinic
6 minute read
Metronidazole for Dogs: Uses, Dosage, and Side Effects
Cane Corso dog
8 minute read
Cane Corso Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
Professional veterinarian giving pill to German Shepherd dog in clinic
7 minute read
Trazodone for Dogs: How Does It Work and When Is It Prescribed?
Shiba Inu dog running in field
7 minute read
Shiba Inu Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
Dog waiting to take prescription medication pills
5 minute read
Benadryl for Dogs: Uses, Dosage, and Side Effects
yeast infection in a dog's ear
7 minute read
Yeast Infections in Dogs: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
Vet holding medications for a little maltese dog
8 minute read
Tramadol for Dogs: Uses, Dosage & Side Effects
sick dog lying on couch
8 minute read
Pancreatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
X-ray of Hip Dysplasia in Dog
7 minute read
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
dog eating a nut
5 minute read
3 Types of Nuts That Are Safe for Dogs to Eat
growing corgi puppies
7 minute read
Corgi Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
poodle puppy playing on the floor
8 minute read
Poodle Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
increased pot belly of a dog with cushing disease
6 minute read
Cushing Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and How to Save on Costs
Dog reaching into picnic basket for food
8 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Almonds?
dogs looking at a dish of pistachios
5 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Pistachios? Here Are The Risks!
human's hand feeding dog a carrot
6 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Carrots? Everything You Need to Know
puppy eats peanut butter off of a spoon
8 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter? Only If It's Xylitol-Free
dog eating banana from woman's hand
6 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Bananas: Everything You Need to Know
growing pug puppy
7 minute read
Pug Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
Jack Russel carrying apply in mouth
6 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Apples? Here's Everything You Need to Know
Golden Retriever looking at a pile of mangoes
5 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Mango? Here's Everything You Need to Know
growing akita puppy
7 minute read
Akita Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
growing great dane puppy
8 minute read
Great Dane Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
dog with broccoli in mouth
7 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Broccoli? Here's Every thing You Need To Know
golden retriever puppy eating watermelon
5 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Watermelon? Here's Everything You Need To Know
dog wants to eat a potato chip
6 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Potatoes? Here's Everything You Need to Know
growing chihuahua puppy
7 minute read
Chihuahua Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
growing Rottweiler puppy
8 minute read
Rottweiler Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
growing boxer puppy
7 minute read
Boxer Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
growing french bulldog puppy
7 minute read
French Bulldog Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
pets across the united states
15 minute read
Pet Ownership Statistics by State, And So Much More (Updated 2020)
sleepy english bulldog puppy
8 minute read
English Bulldog Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
dog being pet by the vet
9 minute read
Leptospirosis in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & How to Save on Costs
dog looking at a wild mushroom
8 minute read
Can Dogs Eat Mushrooms? Here's Everything You Need To Know
dog having tick removed
8 minute read
Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & How to Cut The Costs
sick dog at the vet
9 minute read
Heartworm Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Reducing Costs
german shepherd puppy playing
6 minute read
German Shepherd Growth & Weight Chart: Everything You Need To Know
dog at vet with kennel cough
10 minute read
Kennel Cough in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & How To Save On Costs
dog and cat in need of affordable pet care
11 minute read
How to Get Affordable Pet Care in 2024
dog at vet visit for the first time
2 minute read
5 Tips For Your First Vet Visit
well cared for dog
18 minute read
39 Dog Care Tips: The Ultimate Pet Parent’s Guide
Owner gives kiss on cheek to smiling, happy dog
8 minute read
Dog Teeth Cleaning Costs: Best Ways To Save On Dental Care
Back to Blog
A family with pets that are insured by Pawlicy Advisor
Pawlicy Advisor is the leading independent marketplace for finding the best coverage for your pet at the lowest rate.
Join 2,438,795+ insured dogs and cats across the US.
Get a Quote
Our pet insurance partners
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Logo
Pets Best Pet Insurance Logo
Embrace Pet Insurance Logo
Pumpkin Pet Insurance Logo
MetLife Pet Insurance Logo
Prudent Pet Insurance Logo