Hookworms are an unsavory intestinal parasite that feed off of the blood from your pet’s intestinal wall. Like most other diseases, prevention is much easier and more comfortable than treatment, but if your cat or dog already has hookworms, there are medications that will help them get back to feeling 100%.
There’s two ways to prevent hookworms. First, good sanitation practices can keep contaminated soil away from your pet’s skin and mouth. Hookworm larvae lives in feces from another contaminated animal. If you keep your cat’s litter box clean, and keep your dog away from the spot where they eliminate, you can keep them safer from a hookworm prevention.
Still, controlling your cat’s or dog’s movement 24/7 can be tough, and this method isn’t 100% effective. Instead, you can put your cat or dog on a worm-preventative medicine, often containing ivermectin, that keeps them from ever developing a problem. The same medications that prevent heartworm will also prevent hookworms. These medicines come in spot-on form, or more commonly in a once monthly flavored pill, like Trifexis, that will keep your pet happy and healthy.
Treatment for Hookworms
If you suspect that your pet has hookworms, your vet will want to check your pet’s stool for eggs to make sure that hookworms are the true cause. Because it takes a few weeks for hookworms to start shedding eggs, diagnosis in puppies and kittens can be a bit more difficult, and your vet may recommend having your puppy on deworming medication without confirmed diagnosis, as the effects can be much more severe in young animals. Some veterinarians treat puppies and kittens for hookworms every three weeks just as a preventative.
After proper diagnosis, there are medications your pet can take to kill adult worms currently living in the intestines. An appropriate medication will depend on your dog’s age, Drontal is often prescribed for young pets, whereas older pets might take Interceptor, Tri-Heart Plus chews or Iverhart Plus chewable tablets. Because treatment does not kill migrating larvae moving through the skin, you may have to keep your pet on medication after symptoms subside to ensure that the infection doesn’t resurface. Your pet’s feces will have hookworm eggs and larvae if they’re already infected, so keeping them away from their own waste can help ensure successful treatment.
Your veterinarian will then retest your pet's stool for eggs to make sure the treatment has worked or determine that more treatment is necessary.
If the case is particularly serious, your vet may want you to put your pet on iron therapy and blood transfusions, to make sure that they are able to continue normal function as the hookworms die.
Pregnant dogs and cats can be on hookworm medication, although you and your vet will want to adjust the medication and keep your pet on closer watch if this is the case. Hookworms can be much more dangerous to puppies and kittens, so pregnant pets should definitely seek close treatment.
No one wants to see their best friend get infected with hookworms. Worse, once your pet has hookworms, the infective larvae will be in your yard and environment. This increases the chances that you, your children, or someone else in the area might get this parasite. If your pet does have hookworms, you can help prevent an itchy human infection called creeping eruption by keeping feces out of the area and away from your skin. If you do develop a skin infection from hookworms, it should clear up on its own, since most hookworms can’t make it through the human body into the intestines.
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.