Hookworms in Dogs and Cats

Hookworms in Dogs and Cats

Are Hookworms in Dogs and Cats a Big Deal?

Hookworms in dogs and cats can be a nuisance that’s easily fixed, but can also become a life threatening, even fatal problem.   It is a fairly common intestinal parasite that is so small, pet owners will never see them.  In fact, even at our veterinary clinic, we do not see the actual adult worms in the stool, but rather, we see the microscopic eggs in the stool of affected pets.

Are Hookworms Just a Puppy Thing?

Pets of any age can be infected with hookworms.  But it is especially dangerous in puppies and kittens.  Since they are blood sucking parasites, and since these little ones do not have too much blood to begin with, severe life threatening anemia can occur even when these babies are only a few weeks old.

Most of the time, we find hookworms as part of a routine yearly exam, and the pet is not exhibiting symptoms.  However, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and anemia can be signs of hookworm infection.  Heavy numbers of parasites can give the stool a black tarry appearance.  It is possible in some cases for these worms to trigger pancreatic problems as they attach to the upper small intestines in the area of the pancreatic duct.  Also, the immature larva in odd cases can migrate through the lungs, into the trachea, and be coughed up by the puppy and swallowed into the stomach, creating something called verminous pneumonia.

How do Pets get Hookworms?

Hookworms in dogs and cats can enter the pet either directly from the mother before the babies are even born, or can be ingested by the pet as they sniff around grass that is infected with the hookworm larva.  Certain species can even penetrate the pads of their feet as larva and migrate through the body to the intestines.  

Can We get Hookworms?

Although humans don’t get dog and cat hookworms, it is possible for children playing in contaminated grass to be accidentally be infected with the larva, causing a condition called cutaneous larval migrans.  That’s why we routinely do preventive wormings to new puppies and kittens.

Treating hookworms is very successful and not expensive.  And, some of the heartworm preventives we prescribe at the Rannals Small Animal Hospital do help prevent hookworms as well.   For more information, call us at 903-839-7235.

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