Updated: Sep 12, 2018
When it comes to the health and safety of both humans and pets, people don't always think about the tiny hookworm parasite. Did you know that these voracious feeders are zoonotic? That means they can be transmitted to people from our pets. Once infected, they live in the intestinal track and can cause damage through blood loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss in pets, but can also cause severe physical issues and cognitive growth problems in human children.
Sounds scary right? Let's start with how they are transmitted.
The simple answer is that these parasites are transmitted through feces or contaminated soil. The microscopic eggs hatch larvae within about 1-2 days and these larvae can live in soil for months in the proper climate. If a dog ingests the contaminated soil, the larvae can bury themselves in the intestinal track and mature. These pesky parasites can also burrow into your pet’s skin and work their way to the gastrointestinal tract. Hookworms then attach themselves to the intestinal wall. From there, they release eggs (up to 30,000 eggs per day!!) that pass through with the animal’s feces. In pets, it can cause anemia, loose stools and, in very young animals, can potentially cause death unless a blood transfusion is available. Puppies and kittens can also become infected via nursing.
In humans, we can get hookworms walking on beaches or even in your own backyard. They burrow through your skin with the most common point of entry being the foot. It can be itchy and sometimes you can even see track marks where the larvae are moving underneath your skin.
How can we stop something like this from happening to our pets, family and friends?
Easy...PREVENTION! Young animals should be dewormed around 2-3 weeks of age. They should be dewormed every 2 weeks until about 12 weeks of age. It is also a good idea to keep them on a monthly parasite prevention. Most of these medications, such as Sentinel, Trifexis, Interceptor Plus, or Revolution, provide protection against nasty parasites, roundworms and hookworms, but also against the deadly heartworm parasite. There are many other products, but there are the most common and readily available at your veterinarian with a prescription. Puppies and kittens should have their stool checked about 2-4 times during the first year of life. After a year of age, we strongly recommended that fecal examinations occur every 6 months. We want to make sure your pets, and your HUMAN family, stay parasite free! If you do have a pet that comes up positive for Hookworms, make sure to keep the stools picked up, the litter box cleaned out and make sure YOU, the owner, are washing your hands after every time you clean up feces. Also, you may want to think twice about taking that sunset walk on the beach.
Who is most at risk?
Children are most at risk because almost every child loves playing in the dirt and playing with their pets. If you are in a profession that causes you to be exposed to contaminated areas, like gardening or landscaping, or even working with animals, take extra care by using protection and good hygiene.
If you think your pet may have parasites, don’t wait for advice on the Internet or try to find the “cheapest” option. Call your veterinarian and ask what he or she recommends for your unique pet! Remember, when you keep your pet on parasite prevention every 30 days, all year long, you are protecting the WHOLE family…two legged and four legged!!