Hookworms are intestinal parasites that affect both dogs and cats. There are several species of hookworms, but they all behave in a similar manner. Hookworms are small worms that attach to the lining of the small intestine where they suck their host’s blood. When a female hookworm lays eggs, the eggs pass out of the intestine through the host’s stool where they hatch into larvae. These larvae can then infect a new host either by being eaten when a pet licks the ground or when the pet eats another animal such as a bird or mouse infected with hookworms. The larvae can also penetrate the skin of the dog or cat burrowing through the skin then migrating throughout the body until they reach the small intestine.
Hookworms that infest dogs can also be passed from mom to pup through mom’s milk or to the puppies in the uterus before they are born. Feline hookworms do not infest kittens in this manner. Cats can be infected by larvae migrating into the skin or by ingesting a prey animal that is infected.
Hookworms can cause severe blood loss and anemia in young puppies and kittens since they feed on blood from the intestines. Some pets may also have diarrhea if infested. Many pets have no symptoms at all.
What is more disturbing is that PEOPLE can become infected with hookworms. Humans are typically infected by walking through soil or sand contaminated with hookworm eggs. The hookworm larvae migrate through the skin causing an itchy rash known as cutaneous larva migrans. People can also develop intestinal hookworm infection by eating improperly washed vegetables grown in contaminated soil.
Hookworms and many other intestinal parasites can be prevented by using routine medications to deworm your pet. Many effective monthly preventatives are available such as Sentinel and Revolution. Ask us about the best way to protect your pet and make sure to have a stool sample checked on your pet one to two times a year to screen for intestinal parasites.