Hookworms dangers to pets, humans

Dear Vets:

My dog Chica is 3 months old and I’ve noticed that she has blood in her diarrhoea. My friend said that she may have hookworms? How do I confirm this and how is it treated?

Hookworms are parasites that get their name from the hook-like mouthparts they use to attach to the intestinal wall. They are only about 1/8″ (3 mm) long and so small that it is very difficult to see them with the naked eye.

Despite their small size, they ingest large amounts of blood from the tiny vessels in the intestinal wall.

A large number of hookworms can cause significant blood loss (anaemia).

This problem is most common in puppies, but can occur in adult dogs.

Dogs may become infected with hookworms by four routes: orally, through the skin, through the mother’s placenta before birth and through the mother’s milk.

The most significant problems appear related to intestinal distress and anaemia.

Pale gums, diarrhoea, or weakness are common signs of anaemia. Some dogs experience significant weight loss, bloody diarrhoea, or failure to grow properly with hookworm infection.

Skin irritation and itching, especially of the paws, can be signs of a heavily infested environment.

The larvae burrow into the skin and cause itching and discomfort.

Hookworms are diagnosed with a microscopic examination of a stool sample. Since there are many eggs produced daily, they are easily detected.

One adult female hookworm may produce as many as 20,000 eggs a day!

There are several effective drugs to eliminate hookworms.

They are given by injection or orally and have few, if any, side-effects. However, these drugs only kill the adult hookworms.

Therefore, it is necessary to treat again in about 2-4 weeks to kill any newly formed adult worms that were larvae at the time of the first treatment. A blood transfusion may be necessary in dogs with severe anaemia.

The hookworm larvae can burrow into human skin which causes itching, commonly called ground itch.

However, it is important to note that the worms do not mature into adults. Direct contact of human skin to moist, hookworm infested soil is required. Fortunately, this does not occur often if normal hygiene practices are observed.

Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your puppy or adult dog may have worms. Regular deworming will help to keep your dog healthy and parasite free!