How Much Do You Know About Hookworm?

About Hookworm
 
Larvae are young hookworms that hatch from eggs found in the soil. Your dog or cat can acquire hookworm by rooting in the soil and accidentally eating one. It’s also possible for your pet to pick up hookworm when she licks dirt off her fur. Once inside your pet’s body, hookworm live in the lining of the intestinal wall. They feed on your dog or cat’s blood for survival. 
 
If the hookworm reproduces, the eggs get into your pet’s digestive tract and get into the environment through her feces. Puppies and kittens can also acquire hookworm from their mother’s breast milk and be infected with them from the first day of life.
 
Symptoms of Hookworm Infection in Puppies, Kittens, and Adult Pets
Puppies and kittens infected with hookworm may start to exhibit symptoms by two weeks of age. The most common ones include:
  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Dehydration
  • Protein deficiencies
  • Diarrhea
  • Stunted growth
  • Reduced energy
  • Low body weight
  • Blood in the stool
Pets who acquire hookworm as an adult will typically show skin irritation in the form of dermatitis on the paw pads. Adult pets may also become anemic due to the worms releasing an anticoagulant in the intestines. This usually results in diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, and dehydration.
 
Prevention of Hookworm
The website Pets and Parasites recommends that puppies receive de-worming medication from a veterinarian when they are two, four, six, and eight weeks old. This is due to the high percentage of puppies who already have this intestinal parasite. Heartworm prevention products for older dogs prevents this worm as well, so a separate hookworm protocol is not normally necessary. Your puppy should have a fecal examination up to four times during the first year of life and one to two times annually once he becomes an adult.
 
Kittens should receive de-worming medication to prevent heartworm every other week when they are three to nine weeks old. The schedule after that is the same as it is for puppies. Unfortunately, kittens also have a high rate of hookworm infestation that they acquire from their mother’s breast milk. Keeping cats indoors helps to prevent them from getting hookworm found in soil. 
 
Treating Hookworm in Dogs and Cats
A positive diagnosis of hookworm can only be made from a stool sample. It can take a few weeks for the parasite to start shedding eggs, which is why early treatment for puppies and kittens is so important. Your pet then needs to complete a course of medication to kill adult worms in the intestines. The final step is to bring your dog or cat back to Grantsburg Animal Hospital or Wild River Veterinary Clinic to have their stool checked again. We will either give you the all-clear or discuss additional treatment options.
 
If you suspect your pet has hookworm, please contact us at 1-800-924-0588 to request an evaluation. We also encourage you to get your puppy or kitten started on a de-worming protocol right away.
 
Photo Credit: AntiGerasim / Getty Images

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