Preventing Hookworm Infestations
Do you live in an area that's prone to warm, humid weather, such as the Southeast? Your dogs and cats might be at risk for health problems from parasites.
If you live in an area that's prone to warm, humid weather, such as the Southeast, your dogs and cats might be at risk for health problems from parasites. Although hookworms are not as well-known as heartworms, they are still dangerous for your pet and you definitely want to prevent them. What follows below is a brief explanation of what hookworms do, how they spread, and how you can prevent them using Heartgard for dogs and similar medications.
About Hookworm Infestations in Dogs and Cats
Hookworms are ugly little beasts. A close-up on these 0.25” - 0.5” worms reveal a round mouth filled with jagged, shark-like teeth. Once they infect a dog or a cat, they will take up residence in the animal's intestine. They latch on to the intestinal wall and suck your pet's blood.
Humans, dogs and cats can all get hookworms, but of the three species, dogs are most likely to pick up this parasite, which is why a hookworm preventative such as Heartgard for dogs is so important.
How Dogs and Cats Get Hookworms
How do these bloodsuckers come to live in the intestines of dogs and cats? Here are the different ways that hookworms spread.
- In Utero: Dogs can contract hookworms from their infected mother while still in utero. The hookworm eggs travel through the placenta and into the body of the new puppy. It is suspected that kittens can also be infected while in utero, but this has not been confirmed.
- Mother's Milk: Likewise, dogs are known to contract hookworms from the milk of their mother. Although the hookworms live principally in the intestines, they can sometimes migrate into the mammary glands and pass into the puppy via milk.
- Through the Skin: Probably the most common method for adult dogs and cats to contract hookworms is directly through their skin, usually through their paw pads. Because infected animals pass hookworms through their feces, stepping on or sniffing infected feces can lead to a hookworm infestation.
Symptoms of Hookworms
Hookworm symptoms can be hard to recognize; nevertheless, be on your guard because hookworm infestations have serious consequences if left untreated. Because hookworms suck the blood of their hosts, most animals with hookworms become anemic. Anemia symptoms are also difficult to spot. In general, anemic dogs and cats will show fatigue, weakness, and pale gums.
Other signs of a hookworm infestation include bloody or tarry stool, weight loss, and pale mucous. In kittens, hookworms lead to stunted growth.
Preventing Hookworms in Dogs and Cats
Simple ways to protect your animals against hookworms include:
- Keep litter boxes clean
- Prevent animals from investigating the faeces of other dogs and cats
- Give animals a monthly preventative medication
Monthly preventatives, such as Heartgard for dogs, are the best way to ensure that your animal stays hookworm-free for their whole life. Furthermore, Heartgard and other medications designed to prevent worms in pets also protect against heartworms, roundworms, and other varieties of pet parasites.
Preventing Hookworms in Humans
Hookworms are still a serious problem in the developing world, but in the West, hookworms do not present a major threat to humans. In the developing world, a lack of proper sewage treatment and sanitary toilets leads to the spread of hookworms. In the West, hookworms can be prevented simply by avoiding walking in bare feet outdoors where animals might have defecated.
Has your pet ever had hookworms? How did you catch the hookworm infestation and how did it impact your pet's health? Share your experiences in the comment section below.