Hookworms In Dogs And Humans

Information about hookworms in dogs and humans. Can a dog infected with the zoonotic parasitic hookworms cause an infection in children?

There are few sights more appealing than a child and a puppy rolling around in the yard and having fun. Smiles and giggles from the child while happy grins and wagging tails dominate the puppy.

A child can learn so much from owning a dog. Younger children learn to consider the feelings, both physical and emotional from repeated cautions by parents to "be easy" with the pet. Older children learn the responsibilities of dog ownership and provide the physical needs of another living being. They learn empathy, social skills and gentleness while finding the friendship and unconditional love we all need. If the child decides to train the dog to do any types of tricks or in basic obedience the child will learn patience and tenacity to stick with an issue.

With all these wonderful things a puppy or dog can teach a child, it is hard to imagine the possibility of a worry that many parents and health care professionals overlook. This worry is the zoonotic parasites a pet may carry and pass on to their new best friend.

Zoonotic simply means a condition or parasite that is transmittable to a different species of host and although the transmission of these parasites is rare, it is still a cause for care to be taken by both parent and child. One such zoonotic parasite is the common hookworm in dogs.

Hookworms are an intestinal parasite that attaches to the inside of the intestinal wall and literally drains the blood from the host animal. It is an extremely common parasite seen in the majority of all puppies that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stools, anemia and even death in its host.

Usually an observant owner will notice the diarrhea and take the dog into their regular veterinarian to be checked out. To verify the infestation of hookworms (as well as other intestinal parasites), a veterinarian will take a stool sample and mix it with a special solution. A slide is then placed over the container for about five minutes. The solution breaks the eggs free from the feces and allows them to float to the top of the container, where they attach the slide. The slide is then examined under a microscope. The eggs of hookworms look like clear, oblong bubbles with smaller bubbles inside. When these are seen, it is a simple procedure to give the dog an oral medication to eradicate the problem.

Some owners will attempt to treat their dog without consulting a veterinarian and buy a wormer from a grocery or department store. By doing so, the owner risks the problem that the majority of these "over the counter" wormers have, they usually are only for roundworms and won't phase the various other intestinal parasites.

The common hookworm is passed through the dog's feces and deposited into the soil. The parasites then stay in the soil where they will eventually hatch into larvae that can penetrate through the skin or be ingested. These worms are not usually affected by extreme environmental conditions so they can be a problem in any area of the world. Hookworms become a problem for children when the child plays with the infected dog and comes into contact with the feces. This can occur when the dog has defecated and some of the feces is still on the hair or skin. This feces is then transmitted to the mouth by way of unwashed hands.

Another way children can become infected is if they walk barefoot in grass or sand where a dog has defecated. Younger children are at risk when they put dirt or sand into their mouths while playing.

In children (or adults) who walk barefoot, the hookworm can penetrate the sole of the foot and cause a lesion. The larva will then begin to mature while it moves towards the intestines. As in dogs, the hookworm will attach to the intestinal wall. Humans who have become infected will show symptoms of intestinal bleeding, abdominal pains, anemia, sever diarrhea and malnutrition.

The chances of human hookworm infection become very slim it the owner of the pet gets proper veterinary care for the puppy and teaches sensible, personal hygiene (hand washing) to the child.

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