Have You Contracted Hookworms from Your Dog?
Have you ever wondered if you could contract hookworms from your dog? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. That’s why it’s very important for pet parents of dogs to make sure they’re worm-free. However, since you’re more likely to get hookworms indirectly, you can easily keep yourself and your pooch from becoming infected. There are a few simple everyday practices you can do as well as a few preventative measures you can take.
What Are Hookworms and What Do They Do?
Hookworms appear as small, almost transparent, worms that live in the gastrointestinal tract. They literally hook themselves to the intestinal wall using their hook-like mouthpieces and feed on their host’s blood and nutrients through the tiny blood vessels found in the intestinal lining. They may not be the largest of worms, but they’re more than capable of causing damage. Untreated hookworm infestation in animals can lead to severe anemia.
There are many different species of hookworms. Those that only infect animals, and some that mainly infect humans, and others that are classified as zoonotic hookworms, meaning they can infect both.
Zoonotic hookworms are species of hookworms that primarily live in animals but can be transmitted to humans. But, it’s extremely rare for adult zoonotic hookworms to actually thrive in human hosts. They can, however, infect humans during their larval stage.
How Are Hookworms Transmitted from Dog to Human?
Like with many other types of parasitic worms, hookworms are spread in the environment when infected dogs shed hookworm eggs through their feces. These eggs will stay in the ground, remaining infective as they slowly turn into larvae.
Humans can then contract hookworm larvae when they come into contact with contaminated sand or soil, perhaps while gardening, walking barefoot on a beach or sitting on the ground. Hookworm larvae enter the human body by burrowing into unprotected human skin, causing a condition known as cutaneous larva migrans. Cutaneous larva migrans appear as a red, slightly raised patch of skin that’s itchy and painful.
How Do I Know If I’m Infected?
Since most hookworms will only be able to penetrate the skin, the appearance of cutaneous larva migrans is commonly the first sign of hookworm infection. However, some species of hookworms can migrate into the human intestines, too. When this happens, you’ll most likely experience diarrhea, blood in your stool, abdominal pain or cramping, loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness or fatigue, breathing difficulties, fever, or nausea.
How Do I Get Rid of It?
If you suspect that you’ve contracted hookworms, get yourself checked by a doctor immediately. Mild cases usually resolve on their own after a few weeks, but it’s best to be safe than sorry. Timely medical attention will help get rid of the worms faster and keep the infection from possibly getting worse.
Treatment for hookworm infections typically involve medications that help get rid of the parasites and combat anemia. Your doctor will most likely prescribe you an anthelmintic, such as Albendazole or Mebendazole, to help kill and expel the worms. If you have anemia, you may also be advised to take iron supplements.
How Can I Prevent Hookworm Infections?
You can reduce your chances of contracting hookworms by:
- always wearing shoes or flip-flops when walking outside, especially on beaches or areas that can potentially be contaminated with infected dog feces
- making a habit of washing your hands with soap and water after going outside or handling animals and dirt
- wearing gloves when cleaning up your backyard or gardening
- immediately cleaning up after your dog and getting rid of dog feces around your yard
- getting your dog dewormed
- refraining from allowing your dog to drink from communal water bowls