Hookworms are common intestinal parasites in dogs and cats, causing most harm to puppies and kittens. Preferring moist, warm environments, they spread when their eggs are shed in the stool of infected animals. When soil or sand conditions are just right, hookworm eggs hatch into microscopic, mobile baby worms looking for a suitable host to offer them a home. They infect pets by burrowing directly into the skin or being swallowed.
Hookworms feed by attaching (or hooking) their sharp mouths to your pet’s intestinal lining to suck your cat’s or dog’s blood. Hookworms enjoy their meals and a severe hookworm infection may result in blood loss amounts that can lead to death. But don't panic, there are effective dewormer products available from veterinarians and pet retailers.
How do cats and dogs get hookworms?
- Many puppies contract hookworms soon after birth through their mother’s milk
- Kittens are commonly infected from a contaminated environment
- Pets may ingest hookworm larvae by directly eating dirt, stools or grass, or grooming their paws
- Hookworm larvae can burrow into the skin when paws or other areas of the body come in contact with contaminated soil
- When pets eat prey, such as rodents and insects, already infected with hookworm larvae
What are the symptoms of hookworms?
Once hookworms start feeding, you may notice:
- Bloody or tarry diarrhea
- Breathing difficulties
- Itchy paws
- Pale gums
- Poor growth
- Progressive weakness
- Weight loss
What do hookworms look like?
Hookworms are white or reddish-brown, very thin — like a strand of hair — and not very long, less than an inch in length. Although they may be present in your pet’s stool, they are difficult to see with the naked eye.
Can humans get hookworms from pets?
Yes. We can contract hookworms the same way our pets do if they shed hookworm eggs. You can accidentally ingest the larvae (always wash hands after touching dirt) or they can burrow into your skin when you have extended contact with contaminated soil with your bare hands or feet, such as when gardening or going barefoot.
Fight worm infections
Bayer offers a wide range of effective intestinal dewormers. Find them at pet specialty stores and veterinarian offices. You can continue to help reduce the risk of hookworms by keeping pet areas clean, and regularly removing pet waste in your yard or litter box.