What are Hookworms?

This nasty little parasite can cause a boatload of problems for you and your pet. Good news is a yearly fecal exam will make sure your pet is healthy and parasite free! 

How do Hookworms affect my pet?

Hookworms are a parasite that lives in the intestines of pets. They have a hook-like mouth, which gives them their name. Hookworms ingest blood by attaching to the intestinal wall. In young puppies or even older dogs with a heavy worm load, they can cause significant blood loss and anemia. In milder infections, they typically cause chronic intermittent diarrhea, sometimes with weight loss or vomiting. The feces of an animal infected with hookworms will contain eggs, which can then contaminate the environment and be passed to other animals or humans.

How did my pet get Hookworms?

Hookworms are considered an endemic parasite in our region, meaning that they are widespread in our environment. Hookworms can be acquired by ingesting Hookworm larva hatched from eggs in the soil. They can also occasionally be acquired from skin contact with larva.

How are Hookworms treated and prevented? 

If your veterinarian identifies Hookworm eggs in your pet’s fecal sample, they will be treated with a dewormer which will kill the adult worms. In many cases, a single dose is effective, although if any persistent eggs are identified when your pet’s fecal sample is rechecked a second dose of dewormer is sometimes required. Although it can be difficult to completely eliminate hookworms from the environment, picking up your pet’s stool immediately and disposing of it in plastic for 2 to 3 weeks after diagnosis will help reduce the contamination in your yard. Always avoid direct contact with fecal material of a dog diagnosed with hookworms – use gloves or an inside out plastic bag to pick it up. Our recommended monthly heartworm preventions also prevent a variety of intestinal parasites, including Hookworms. It is important that these preventions are given every 30 days to be effective. Pictured right: A hookworm egg from a fecal sample viewed under the microscope.

What about my other pets?

If one pet in the household is diagnosed with Hookworms, fecal samples from all of the other pets in the house should be examined for Hookworm eggs. Some pets may not have any symptoms but could still be suffering intestinal damage from infection.

How will Hookworms affect my family?

Hookworms are considered zoonotic, meaning they can infect both animals and people, although in people they typically create an infection in the skin. Avoiding direct contact with fecal material by using gloves or plastic bags is the best prevention. Wash hands thoroughly, and wear shoes in your yard. Consult your physician if you note any areas of itching or rash.

Have more questions about Hookworms? Contact us today! 

What else is checked for in your yearly fecal exam? Check out these related articles for more parasite information:

What are Roundworms?

What is Giardia?

Parasite Prevalence: What's Your Pet's Risk?