Hookworms (scientifically called Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma braziliense, Ancylostoma tubaeforme, and Uncinaria stenocephala) are worms that infect the small intestine of dogs and cats. Though they are relatively uncommon in the desert southwest region where I practice, hookworms are a major health threat to dogs and cats worldwide, especially in more humid areas. Hookworms can cause serious illness in pets because they are "blood suckers".
What Are The Symptoms Of Hookworms?
In severe cases of hookworm, dogs and cats can have a tarry or bloody diarrhea along with pallor (pale gums), anemia, weakness, emaciation, and dehydration. In severe cases the blood loss can be fatal. The severity of symptoms with hookworms depends on the species of hookworm involved (some species are deadly while others cause very little disease) and the numbers of hookworms acquired.
How Are Hookworms Transmitted?
Hookworms can be transmitted in five ways: (1) ingestion (meaning to swallow) of infectious larvae; (2) skin penetration by infectious larvae; (3) crossing the placenta to unborn puppies or kittens; (4) deposited in the mother's milk and consumed by the newborn puppies or kittens; and (5) ingestion of an intermediate host (small insect or mammal) harboring infectious hookworm larvae.
How Are Hookworms Diagnosed?
Hookworms are diagnosed by detecting tile eggs under the microscope on a fecal (stool) analysis.
What Kind Of Disease Can Hookworms Cause In People?
When infectious hookworm larvae touch a person's bare skin they can cause a condition called a creeping eruption in which the hookworm larvae migrate through the skin and cause severe itching.
How Are Hookworms Treated In Dogs And Cats?
Hookworms are treated with oral deworming medications. In severe cases a blood transfusion may also need to be given.
How Can I Prevent Reinfection infection With Hookworms?
Clean the yard, kennel, or litter box often to prevent contact with contaminated feces. Make sure all pets are hookworm free by periodically checking stool samples both visually and with fecal flotation and treating the worms when detected.
Besides Hookworms, Are There Other Internal Parasites That My Dog Or Cat Can Become Infected With?
Yes. In addition to hookworms your dog can also pick up roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms (all of which are worms), coccidia (which are one-celled parasites) and giardia (a protozoa parasite) among others. Your cat can pick up roundworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and giardia in addition to hookworms.