What You Need to Know About Hookworms

The name ‘hookworm’ sounds like something you’d want to avoid at all costs. Hookworms don’t even sound appealing to fishermen. But what exactly are hookworms and why do we want to avoid them at all costs? Most importantly, how can you get rid of hookworms? Let’s find out!

What are hookworms?

In order to know how to get rid of hookworms, it is important to know what they are. Hookworms, much like tapeworms, are parasites that basically thrive by living off another organism. These worms have mouths with small hooks inside that allow the worm to attach itself to the inside of the small intestine of humans and animals. However, hookworms can live in the open without a host. Hookworms are transmitted through the fecal matter of dogs and cats. The eggs of the hookworm hatch in the grass and can infect any human or animal that comes in direct contact with the larvae (baby worms that have hatched from the eggs). It is for that reason that people are encouraged to not make direct contact with areas that have bad sanitation, to keep your animals and pets away from such areas and to clean up after your pets promptly.

Close-up view of a parasitic hookworm

Kateryna Kon//Shutterstock.com

If a human or a pet does get infected by a hookworm, there will be a skin irritation along with a rash that resembles an allergic reaction which is localized to the point of entry where the larvae entered the body. It then travels to the small intestine where it attaches itself and feeds off the blood cells. While some people may not show any symptoms of being infected by hookworms (they may be asymptomatic), severe cases of hookworm infections can cause itchiness where the larvae entered the skin, a fever as the body tries to fight off the infection, abdominal pains where the hookworm attaches itself to the intestinal wall and, in cases where there is an infestation of hookworms in the body and a large number of hookworms are present in the body, an individual may suffer from severe anaemia. This is due to the fact that the hookworms cause the host to lose blood at such a rapid rate. In pets, symptoms of a hookworm infection are weight loss, a dulling or a loss of their fur, erratic appetites and blood in their stool.

Why are hookworms dangerous?

Hookworms are especially dangerous to pets, specifically dogs and puppies. In young puppies, hookworms can cause rapid blood loss, diarrhea and even death. It is therefore vital to prevent and intervene if a pet is suspected to have hookworms. If you have any concerns about your cat or dog having hookworms, it is of vital importance to see a vet.

How to get rid of hookworms?

The best way to get rid of any infection would firstly be prevention. And the best way to prevent hookworms is to be extremely sanitary especially in your pet’s surroundings. Hookworms tend to thrive in tropical and subtropical environments which are generally warm areas and they are mostly found in areas with poor sanitation. Due to the fact that hookworms are transferred through feces, it is important to clean up after your pets and avoid using manure as a fertilizer as this provides an environment for hookworms to thrive. Keeping the environment around your pets as clean as possible is one way of preventing hookworms. While another way of preventing hookworms is to take your pet for the recommended vaccinations throughout the course of your pet’s lifespan. This includes multiple deworming vaccinations from as young as 8 weeks old, which should be continued at least once a year for the rest of their lives.

While these means of intervention are of great importance to keep our fur babies happy and healthy, they are also important to keep you and your family happy and healthy. If your pets are dewormed, it minimizes the risk of you or any member of your family contracting hookworms. However, if you live in an area where you are susceptible to getting hookworms, certain precautions need to be taken. It would be best to avoid walking barefoot or coming into direct contact with areas where any pets may have relieved themselves or areas that are known to have poor sanitation. Routine deworming for your family members is also highly recommended. Another method of ridding your property and surrounding areas of hookworms is to use pesticides on your lawn and gardens which is safe for your family but a nightmare to parasites.

While these means of prevention are ideal in avoiding hookworms, we cannot keep our families and pets in bubbles. This means that they could come into contact with hookworms regardless of your intervention and in such cases, you would need to know how to get rid of hookworms. In severe cases where your pets or family members have been infected by hookworms and are showing symptoms, the best solution would be to take your pets to a vet and your family members to a doctor. Your pets will get dewormed by vets through medication and doctors may prescribe mebendazole which is a human deworming medication. This medication can also be purchased over the counter at pharmacies and is commercially and most commonly known as Vermox. Vermox is safe to use and is generally used as a deworming medication in adults as well as kids. Another surprising and more organic treatment for hookworms is garlic. By ingesting garlic, hookworms, tapeworms, and other parasitic organisms may be passed out of the intestines.

Overall, routine check-ups are extremely important because, as mentioned above, just because there are no symptoms does not mean that a parasite has not crept in. It is important to stay clean and keep your surrounding areas clean and do not ignore yearly vaccinations for your fur babies. They are, after all, a special part of the family.


Kaye Maye

If your dog has been on Heartgard, can it still have hookworms?


    As we don’t specialize in animals, I can’t say for sure. Did you use Heartgard or Heartgard Plus? The first one only protect against heartworms, while the ”Plus” would also protect against hookworms (and some others). Still, the product is mainly for prevention, which means it might not have treated the worms properly, if they were already there. But, like I said before, we’re not specialists in this field, so I’d advise you to ask such questions to your vet, cause he’ll be able to give you a more accurate answer.

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