What are Hookworms?

In short, hookworms are a nasty little parasite that can cause a boatload of problems for you and your pet. The good news is, a yearly fecal exam will help make sure your dog or cat is healthy and parasite-free!

Let's look at the info you need to know to protect your pet and your family from hookworms: 

How Do Hookworms Affect My Pet?

Hookworms are a parasite that live in the intestines of dogs and cats. They have a hook-like mouth, which gives them their name. Hookworms ingest blood by attaching to the intestinal wall. In young puppies and kittens, or even older dogs and cats with a heavy worm load, they can cause significant blood loss and anemia. In milder infections, they typically cause chronic intermittent diarrhea, sometimes with weight loss or vomiting. The feces of an animal infected with hookworms will contain eggs, which can then contaminate the environment and be passed to other animals or humans.

How Could My Pet Get Hookworms?

Hookworms are considered an endemic parasite in many regions throughout the U.S., meaning that they are widespread in the environment. Hookworms can be acquired by ingesting hookworm larva hatched from eggs in the soil. They can also occasionally be acquired from skin contact with larva. Unfortunately, you or your dog can bring this infested soil into your home on your feet or shoes. This means that even indoor cats are at risk, especially because they self-groom so consistently. This is often due to pet waste left in public areas (or even in your own yard). You should always scoop that poop!

Kitten playing near a pair of shoes

How are Hookworms Treated and Prevented?

If your veterinarian identifies hookworm eggs in your pet’s fecal sample, they will be treated with a dewormer which will kill the adult worms. In many cases, a single dose is effective, although if any persistent eggs are identified when your pet’s fecal sample is rechecked, a second dose of dewormer is sometimes required. Although it can be difficult to completely eliminate hookworms from the environment, picking up your pet’s stool immediately and disposing of it in plastic will help reduce the contamination in your yard or in the litter box. Always avoid direct contact with fecal material of a dog or cat diagnosed with hookworms – use gloves or a plastic bag to pick it up.

Our recommended monthly heartworm preventions may also prevent a variety of intestinal parasites, including hookworms. It is important that these preventions are given on time, every time to be effective. 

What About My Other Pets?

If one pet in the household is diagnosed with hookworms, fecal samples from all of the other pets in the house should be examined for hookworm eggs. Some pets may not have any symptoms but could still be suffering intestinal damage from infection.

Dog and cat playing together

How Can Hookworms Affect My Family?

Hookworms are considered zoonotic, meaning they can infect both animals and people, although in people they typically create an infection in the skin. Avoiding direct contact with fecal material by using gloves or plastic bags is the best prevention. Wash hands thoroughly, and wear shoes in your yard. Consult your physician if you note any areas of itching or rash.

Have more questions about hookworms? Call your family veterinarian today!

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