The hookworm is a dangerous parasite both for humans and domestic pets. Over half a billion people in the world are infected with hookworms, and an unthinkable number of dogs and cats suffer from physical ailments caused by these destructive parasites. When untreated, hookworms can be severely detrimental to the digestive system, as well as vital organs, and may result in death. If your dog or cat shows any alarming symptoms, it will be imperative to bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible to eradicate the worm infestation.
Dogs and cats often get hookworms from simple actions such as licking surfaces that house the larvae, or walking on contaminated ground in public places like dog parks, or well-traversed fields, puddles and paths. Puppies can also get hookworms through their mother’s milk, or simply through skin contact with the parasites.
The hookworms penetrate the animal’s skin, and begin feeding on the walls of the intestines. Because hookworms suck blood, the host will suffer blood loss and small holds in the organ where the worms reside, whether that is the intestine, lungs, etc.
Animals who have been infected with hookworms may suffer from diarrhea, dark stool, or constipation. When hookworms invade the lungs, the dog or cat will cough, and show signs of difficulty breathing. The pet’s lips, ears, and nostrils will be pale, and they will have an overall appearance of weakness and poor health.
Unlike many parasites in the worm family, hookworms cannot be detected by sight, as there is no evidence of the worms on the external body or excrement. Vets must search stool samples through microscopes to determine whether or not the pet is infected with hookworms. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, vets may prescribe oral medications or injections that will kill the parasites. De-worming medication should continue for several weeks, and fecal examinations should continue at least twice a year thereafter.
Warning: Hookworms can transfer to humans if they come into contact with infected fecal matter, whether by walking on the beach or in the garden where the pet’s waste might be. If a dog or cat is being treated for worms, the owners should visit their doctor for a check-up too.