Causes of Hookworms
Puppies can become infected with hookworms before they are born, because the larvae of these parasites can pass through the placenta of infected bitches. Newborn puppies can also get hookworms through their mother’s milk, if she is infected. Not all pregnant female dogs carry hookworms, especially if they are on a regular de-worming program. Hookworm eggs, and newly-hatched hookworm larvae, can be picked up in the environment from the feces of infected animals. They can be ingested through the mouth, such as when a dog licks its paws or grooms itself after coming into contact with infected fecal material. Dogs also can become infected when the parasites directly penetrate their skin and work their way into the bloodstream. People can become infected with canine hookworms through these same two routes: fecal-oral, and direct skin penetration.
One of the best ways to prevent hookworms is to treat a bitch for intestinal adult stage worms and activated dormant larvae before she is bred. Breeding bitches should also be de-wormed towards the end of their pregnancy, and again several weeks after their puppies are born. Most experts recommend de-worming puppies starting at about 2 or 3 weeks of age, and then every 2 weeks until they are weaned. Of course, feeding a high-quality diet, with free access to fresh water, is always important to a dog’s overall health and well-being.
Prenatal care and treatment of the bitch is extremely important to minimize the risk of hookworm infection in her puppies, whether across the placenta or through her milk. All species of hookworms – especially Ancylostoma braziliense – can infect people by directly penetrating their skin. This causes a condition called cutaneous larva migrans, or “CLM.” Basically, the larval-stage hookworms chew directly into and under the person’s skin, causing extremely itchy, S-shaped sores. Larvae of Ancylostoma caninum hookworms can also migrate up into a person’s eyes (visceral larva migrans) or into their gastrointestinal tract, where they cause severe abdominal pain.