Hookworms are dangerous parasites that live in a dog's small intestine. With remarkable efficiency, hookworms "graze" on the lining of the intestine, leaving multiple bloody holes in their wake. These can lead to anemia and may even cause a small puppy to bleed to death. In humans, hookworms migrate through tissue close to the skin, causing painful, itchy rashes.
Three common hookworms are:
Ancylostoma caninum is the most pathogenic hookworm and can cause anemia in infected dogs. Like other hookworms, it poses a zoonotic threat to humans and can cause creeping eruptions.
Ancylostoma braziliense is a species of hookworm that can infect dogs and can cause creeping eruptions in humans who contract it.
Uncinaria stenocephala is typically found in a host's small intestine and usually targets dogs, but can also infiltrate cats, foxes and can cause creeping eruptions in humans.
Dogs: Hookworms can worm their way into unsuspecting dogs through a number of parasitic means. Their larvae can be accidentally ingested by a dog in contaminated environments such as backyards and dog parks. They can penetrate the skin of a dog that unknowingly steps through the dewy grass where hookworms hide.
Humans: People tend to become afflicted with hookworms by walking through contaminated areas with bare feet.
Dogs: How can you tell if a dog is infected with hookworms? Only a veterinarian can tell for sure, but signs to look for may include weakness, weight loss, diarrhea, and pale gums.
Humans: In people, hookworm infection typically causes itchy red tracks to appear on the skin where the worms have been traveling just beneath the surface.
What to do
Dogs: A veterinarian can help deworm an infected dog. Deworming medication has to be administered to kill the hookworms and may need several rounds to work.
Humans: Human infection can be treated with medicine if it's detected early. If it's not detected early, serious medical complications can develop. Be sure to contact your physician or pediatrician, especially if it's a child that you believe is infected.
How to avoid hookworms
Treating and controlling hookworms in your dog is as easy as ensuring that the heartworm preventive you give your dog also treats and controls hookworms. Maintaining clean environments, cleaning your yard of dog waste, and preventing dogs from eating fecal contaminated material will help provide added protection.
Treating your dog with a veterinarian-recommended product can eliminate pre-existing populations of hookworms and reduce the incidence of re-infection by these parasites. Monthly administration can reduce the risk of re-infection by reducing the burden of hookworm larvae in your dog's environment.