If you’re lucky enough to own a pet, nobody could blame you for being anxious about the daily dangers posed to your furry friend. One of these dangers is hookworm.
Hookworms are parasitic worms that get their name from their hook-like mouthparts used to attach to the lining of the intestines of unsuspecting cats and dogs. They are only about 2-3mm long but don’t be fooled, they can cause a lot of damage. Mostly invisible to the naked eye, if hookworms are allowed to find their way into your fur baby, they will ingest large amounts of blood from the minuscule blood vessels of the intestinal wall. A group of hookworms can cause dangerous inflammation in the intestines, while lowering the red blood cell count dramatically, resulting in anaemia. Once the hookworm has matured into an adult, it will produce eggs that pass through the stool of the infected animal to spread once more.
Hookworm is common in both cats and dogs who are subject to overcrowding and poor sanitisation, but they thrive in any warm and moist environment, posing a threat to pets in many different living situations and backgrounds.
Dogs and cats, both indoor and outdoor, can get hookworm through:
The nature of both dogs and cats in licking their paws, sleeping on warm patches of ground, and even sniffing faeces, unfortunately, makes hookworm easily spreadable.
The most significant signs of hookworm are distress and anaemia, which becomes especially suspicious in very young puppies and kittens. If left untreated for too long, the small bodies of young animals often can’t fight off the effects of hookworm and as a result are prone to succumbing to the infection. The hookworm will not only ingest the blood of the animal but release an anticoagulant to prevent the blood from clotting, putting the host in a world of worry.
Some physical signs of a hookworm infestation to look out for include:
Diagnosis will require laboratory testing as the parasites are invisible to the naked eye, so if you notice any of the above signs or suspect an infection for any reason, it’s integral to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. Additionally, if your pet is itching their paws excessively, this could be a sign of where the hookworm has originated, burrowing into the flesh from the ground.
Hookworm diagnosis involves the use of a microscope to examine the stool using a method called faecal flotation. The stool will be mixed with a solution that makes the eggs float to the surface, exposing them to a trained eye. This method may not work in cases of very young animals, in which case your vet may check the stool for hookworm antigens.
If an infection is present, further testing may be necessary to examine the levels of the blood and urine to determine the best treatment plan. Your vet will check for low haemoglobin levels or signs of dehydration to indicate the health of the blood and kidneys. The good news is that there is a wide range of treatment available for dogs and cats when it comes to hookworm infections. In many cases, simply treating the hookworms is enough to place the host animal out of danger, however, if there has been a substantial amount of blood loss some further treatment may be needed. This can include a blood transfusion plus iron and nutritional supplements.
The drugs that eliminate hookworms are called anthelmintics and are given orally with very few side effects. However, these drugs only kill adult hookworms; therefore, it is integral to treat your pet again in two to four weeks’ time to kill any more hookworms that have matured. Hookworm larvae can survive for weeks in cool, moist soil and faeces, so ensure you do a good clean of your yard with the poop-a-scoop before allowing your pet to roam. Make sure to wear gloves – while a human infection is rare it is possible, and the last thing you want is to make your pet’s health problem your own.
While it isn’t currently possible to treat your lawn for hookworms or remove the risk altogether, prevention is always better than a cure and is made simple with monthly hookworm preventative treatments.
Some extra measures you can take to prevent further infections include:
Thankfully, long term issues from a hookworm infection aren’t generally a concern, and with quick treatment, the prognosis is very positive.
After decades spent helping pets to live their happiest and healthiest lives, we have dealt with our fair share of hookworm infestations. Our location in Rossmore places us within easy proximity to many suburbs of Greater Sydney, so good help is never far away. We’ve truly seen it all and will know the best course of action the moment we assess your pet. When it comes to hookworm there isn’t a lot of time to mess around and thanks to our experience, we don’t have to. Our calm and confident nurses and vets will assess the damage and come up with the best treatment plan based on your pet’s breed, circumstance, background, age, and level of infection. Our personalised focus on your pet can provide a priceless peace of mind that the hookworm will be banished for good, and your pet allowed to thrive once more.
Contact us today to book a consultation or treatment with our vets. We have a fully equipped 24/7 vehicle with an emergency vet that can come to your door if disaster strikes after hours, so your pet doesn’t have to wait for a second longer for relief.