Is your pet eating well but still not hale and hearty? Is she not gaining weight inspite of good feeding and care? Is your pet dog’s faeces foul smelling and tarry coloured? Then it is obvious that your pet is serving as a host to the most dangerous hookworms which are fatal especially in pups.
What are hookworms?
Hookworms are endoparasites which invade, inhabit and live in the small intestine of dogs. These weaken the pets by sucking blood from them continuously. They also impair the digestive process and thus the dog is deprived of her nutrition. The adult worms in the intestine pass on their eggs in the faeces of the infected dogs. The egg develops into larva in the environment and becomes infective within few days. Pets get the infection by skin penetration of the infective larvae, contaminated food and water with infected dog faeces in unhygienic conditions. The most important feature of these worms is that if the female dog is infected, then she can transmit the infection to her pups through the placenta and also through her milk. The newborn puppies can even succumb to death soon after birth if they have a heavy burden of these worms.
Symptoms to watch: Common symptoms which are exhibited by the infected dog include poor appetite, paleness of the nostrils, lips and ears. The pet will void faeces which will have a foul odour and will be tarry in colour due to the presence of digested blood.
Dangerous to humans: These worms are of zoonotic importance (i.e., they are transmissible to human from animals). The larval stages (developmental stages) of these parasites may penetrate the skin of human. It causes a skin affection medically termed as ‘Cutaneous larva migrans’. It is characterised by itching, redness of the skin where the larva penetrates. This causes a mild inflammatory response which may last for 1-4 weeks.
Pawfect solution: The only solution to solve all this menace is regular deworming of the pet dogs to get rid of these worms. The following deworming schedule is to be strictly followed:
- Deworm pups at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th week after birth.
- Pet dogs (<2 months and adults) are to be dewormed once in 2-3 months.
- Female dogs are to be dewormed just before mating and by 42nd day of gestation.
- Lactating female dogs on the 14th and 28th day after whelping (delivery of pups).
Tips to follow
- Good diet with high protein and vitamin will help infected pets to recover soon.
- Good hygiene and certain managemental practices like proper disposal of dog faeces, housing of dogs on concrete floors and washing the floor of pet’s kennel with bleach solution will help in eliminating the developing stages in the environment.
- Human can protect themselves from zoonotic infection by avoiding close contact with pets, wearing footwear where the pets are kept like the kennel, or where the stray dogs frequent such as the public parks, beaches, etc.
- Washing of hands and feet after contact with pets is also useful.
(Dr Dhivya Bhoopathy is a Veterinary Parasitologist at Madras Veterinary College in Chennai with her research focused on control of ticks and other parasites).