Hookworms are a common intestinal parasite in both dogs and cats. They are particularly common in young puppies and kittens, though they can infect dogs and cats of any age.
What Are Hookworms and How Do Dogs and Cats Get Them?
Hookworms are worms that live in the intestinal tract of the infected dog or cat. They attach to the inside of the pets intestinal tract and feed by sucking your pet’s blood.
Your dog or cat can acquire hookworms in several ways:
- A dog or cat can ingest the eggs or larvae of the worm when contacting contaminated soil or water.
- The hookworm larvae can infect a dog or cat by penetrating the skin and migrating through the pet’s tissues into the intestinal tract.
- Puppies and kittens can be infected by drinking the milk from an infected mother dog or cat, respectively.
Can People Get Hookworms and How Does That Happen?
People can be infected by hookworms in much the same that dogs and cats are infected. Common routes of infection in people include:
- Walking or wading in areas contaminated with hookworms
- ingesting hookworm larvae when eating unwashed vegetables and other foodstuffs
Symptoms of a Hookworm Infection
In some cases, dogs and cats infected with hookworms may not show any symptoms at all. In other cases, the symptoms may range from mild to severe and life-threatening. Serious infections are more likely in young puppies and kittens.
Symptoms commonly seen with hookworm infection include:
- anemia due to blood loss
- intestinal discomfort
- skin lesions if infection occurred by penetration through the skin
Symptoms seen in people may be similar to those seen in pets. When skin lesions occur as a result of skin penetration by the hookworm larvae, the condition is known as cutaneous larval migrans.
Diagnosing Hookworm Infections in Dogs and Cats
Hookworm infections in dogs and cats are usually diagnosed through examining a fecal sample for the eggs of the hookworm. Clinical signs may alert the pet owner and/or veterinarian to the possibility of hookworm infection but the fecal examination is required to confirm infection.
The eggs of the hookworm are microscopic and not visible to the human eye. Your veterinarian will need to process the fecal sample so that the eggs can be found and identified using the aid of a microscope.
Treating Dogs and Cats for Hookworms
Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for hookworms. However, much of the battle is keeping your pet from becoming re-infected once the infection is cleared. Animals can easily become re-infected if re-exposed after treatment.
For mild uncomplicated hookworm infections, oral medication to kill the worms may be all that is required. Medications effective in killing hookworms include pyrantel pamoate, fenbendazole and mebendazole.
However, in more serious cases, where severe anemia and/or dehydration is present, fluid therapy, blood transfusions, iron supplementation and other life-saving therapies may be required.
Hookworms are common parasites for both dogs and cats, with kittens and puppies being particularly susceptible. Besides possessing the ability to make our pets sick, hookworms also have the ability to infect humans.