Nickname: “Vampires of the parasite world”
Who: Hookworms are notorious for being lethal to puppies and hurting humans!
How: Adult hookworms live in the small intestines of their host attached to the intestinal wall where they feed off the blood they suck and absorb the nutrients meant for their host. The adult worms reproduce and their eggs leave in fecal material. In the environment, the eggs hatch into larvae and look for a new host. The larvae are not super picky and can infest our pets, us, and other animals through direct skin contact (like bare feet) or ingestion of fecal material (from unwashed vegetables for us or pets cleaning themselves). Once in their new home, the larvae then migrate to the intestines and sometimes take the long way, moving through the lungs to get to the intestines. Hookworms can “stall out” and bury into the tissue they are in and “reactivate” later whenever they please.
A common time for hookworms to “reactivate” is during pregnancy in their host. Puppies get hookworms from their mother and their mother’s milk. In puppies, hookworms feed on blood so efficiently, puppies become severely anemic and often die even with treatment.
The Plan: The best plan is prevention. Regular deworming of your pets (cats too) with products recommended by your veterinarian allows for the prevention of these problems, especially in females that are not spayed. Many products combine deworming medications for numerous parasites and heartworm disease. Be careful, the internet has a lot of poor and simply incorrect information on it. A quick call to your vet can make all the difference for your pets! Remember, the risk to people is significant (check out www.cdc.gov/parasites/hookworm/index.html).