Hookworm and your pet
What are Hookworm?
There are 2 species of hookworm which affect dogs and cats in Australia – Ancylostoma spp and Uncinaria spp. The adult worms are tiny worms, 16mm long and very thin, which live attached to the intestine of dogs, cats and people. In reasonable numbers they can cause illness and even death.
How does my pet get Hookworm?
The eggs (or ova) can be directly ingested by mouth from faecal contaminated food or ground or transmitted to puppies and kittens via the mother’s placenta before birth, or in milk from their mother. Hatched larvae can penetrate directly through skin or eaten by a rodent, which is then eaten by your pet. The adult worms attach to the small intestine and feed off blood and the intestinal wall.
What are the clinical signs of Hookworm?
Young puppies are the most severely affected by hookworm although dogs and cats of any age can be carriers and/or become ill. The clinical signs are diarrhoea, often with blood and mucous, anaemia, lethargy and poor coat condition. Young puppies may fail to thrive, never reach their size potential and in severe cases will die. Puppies as young as 1-2 weeks old can be affected due to transmission of hookworm in colostrum from untreated mothers.
How is Hookworm diagnosed?
A faecal sample can be tested by your vet clinic for hookworm eggs. Hookworms produce a large number of eggs and can usually be easily identified.
How do you treat Hookworm?
Eliminating the worm with an effective wormer and then a regular worming regime is the treatment. This is because larval stages as well as newly picked up worms are not killed by the first dose. If your puppy is anaemic or very lethargic, then they may need to be hospitalised and given a life saving blood transfusion.
How is Hookworm prevented?
Preventing hookworm burdens is very important in Queensland and much more satisfactory for you and your pet than dealing with a hookworm infection. Hookworm can be easily prevented by worming with a good quality wormer (eg. Drontal) and following an appropriate regime
Pregnant cats and dogs should be wormed at mating then at about week 6 of pregnancy.
It is also important to prevent contamination of your yard. Picking up dog faeces and regularly cleaning your cat’s litter tray will prevent build up of eggs in your environment. Remember to always wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Also keep bowls and bedding clean and free of faecal contamination.
Am I at risk of catching Hookworm?
Hookworm can also infect people by burying through undamaged skin or by oral ingestion of contaminated material. Standard hygiene practices should be followed at all times ie. Wear gloves when cleaning up after your pet and wash your hands before eating.