We are going to start a series on intestinal parasites that will give you information on how pet’s contract them, if they can spread to us, and how to prevent them in the future. For all of these parasites, the way we can test for them is by performing an intestinal parasite screen, a stool sample. A Licensed Veterinary Technician will look at part of the sample under a micrscope to look for the parasitic eggs. Each parasite has a specific type of dewormer we will use.
Today we will start with Hookworms!
Similar to tapeworms and roundworms, hookworms are intestinal parasites that live in the digestive system of your dog or cat. The hookworm attaches to the lining of the intestinal wall and feeds on your pet’s blood. Its eggs are ejected into the digestive tract and pass into the environment through their feces.
Larvae (young hookworms) that hatch from hookworm eggs live in the soil and can infect your pet simply through contact with and penetration of the skin and through eating the hookworm larvae. It is common for hookworms to infect the host through the pet’s belly or feet as well as to be ingested during routine licking (cleaning).
How will hookworms affect my pet?
Hookworms suck blood and therefore cause internal blood loss. They are a serious threat to pets, especially young puppies and kittens that may not survive the blood loss without transfusions. In older animals the blood loss may be more chronic, and the pet may have diarrhea and show weight loss. If you think your pet is infected with hookworms, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for evaluation, diagnosis, and safe, effective treatment.
How do I prevent my pet from getting hookworms?
Similar to steps for prevention of other intestinal parasites, it is essential to keep your pet’s surroundings clean and prevent them from being in contaminated areas. Puppies and kittens should be treated for hookworms at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks of age, followed by administration of a monthly preventive treatment. Fecal examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 to 2 times per year in adults. Nursing mothers should be treated along with their young. Several heartworm preventive medications also treat hookworms. Consult your veterinarian for safe and effective prevention and treatment options.
Can humans be harmed by hookworms?
Some hookworms of animals can infect humans by penetrating the skin. This is most likely to occur when walking barefoot on the beach or other areas where pets deposit feces. Infection usually results in an itching sensation at the point where the larvae enter the skin and visible tracks on the skin. The condition is easily treated but can cause mild to extreme discomfort in the affected person. One species of hookworm that infects dogs is known to develop in the human intestine, too, where it may cause disease.