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Hookworms in Dogs and Cats

By Rebecca Kelley. August 20, 2012 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

    DVM

Hookworms in Dogs and Cats

Hookworms are nasty intestinal parasites that use your pet's blood as a meal. Learn more here and keep these gross worms away from your best friend.

Hookworms are intestinal parasites that survive off of your pet’s blood. Symptoms of hookworms range from serious to subtle, so you’ll want to keep yourself educated to keep these worms away from your best friend.

Causes of Hookworms

Your pet can get hookworms four ways. First, moms can pass the infection on to puppies in utero and in their breast milk. Although scientists still aren’t sure if hookworms can be passed from cats to kittens in this way, the devastating effect of hookworms on puppies and kittens is enough to convince most vets that screening necessary for all newborns.

Aside from these two causes, your pet cat get hookworms from ingesting larvae. Adult hookworms shed eggs that pass out into the host’s feces, if your pet consumes any soil or food that comes into contact with contaminated feces, they will ingest the larvae and can suffer an infection.

Lastly, hookworms can travel from contaminated soil into your pet’s skin. Most commonly, hookworms will enter through the pads of your pet’s paws, where they will travel into their vessels and veins, eventually landing in the lungs. Dogs and cats will inadvertently swallow hookworms from the lungs, where they travel into their final home in your pet’s intestines.

Symptoms of Hookworms

Symptoms of hookworms depend largely upon your pets age and the severity of the infection. When hookworms bite, they release an anticoagulant that keeps your pet’s blood from clotting. Additionally, they detach and reattach to a different spot in your dog or cat’s intestines every few hours. The more hookworms in your pet’s intestines, the more loose blood flowing through their digestive tract. This hookworm habit gives your dog bloody diarrhea, so look out for dark red, or even black stool in your pet.

Additionally, hookworms can cause malabsorption, leaving your pet dehydrated, protein deficient, weak, and lethargic. These symptoms will be stronger in younger dogs and cats; affected puppies and kittens may even show stunted growth.

Treatment for Hookworms

The best treatment for hookworms is prevention. Heartworm prevention medications that have ivermectin can also prevent hookworms. These once monthly pills are a great way to protect your pet from unhappy infections.

If your pet already has hookworms, treatment will depend upon your pet’s age. Puppies and kittens may need a medication like Drontal Plus, whereas adult dogs might need a different medication like Interceptor Plus. Talking to your vet about the best medication for your pet is the best solution, as your dog or cat may need additional medications like iron treatments to keep them healthy as the worms die.

Lastly, hookworm treatment only kills adult hookworms living in the intestines. Your pet may also have migrating larvae that survive treatment, so it’s important that you keep your pet on medication as long as your vet describes, even if their symptoms subside. Oftentimes veterinarians will run a test after treatment to make sure there are no more eggs present.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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