Hookworms are very dangerous to puppies and kittens. They feed on blood by attaching themselves to the intestinal wall, can make a young animal anemic and in some cases are even fatal. Hookworms are particularly dangerous to the very young because they can be transmitted in utero, through the mother’s colostrum, and through ingestion or through skin contact… which means they can be infected before they’re even strong enough to stand or open their eyes.
The species that infects dogs is different from the species that infects cats, but the risks and symptoms are similar. Hookworms latch on to the wall of the intestines and feed on blood, and they are voracious feeders. Animals with hookworms can have stools that are dark with blood and can have decreased appetite. Coughing can even be a symptom of hookworms, as larvae can migrate to the lungs after penetrating the skin.
Transmission in adult dogs and cats can happen through ingestion of larvae or through skin penetration. So, for instance, larvae can infect your pet through the pads of her foot or through her skin if she lies in an area that has been contaminated.
Our standard protocol with pets that are experiencing gastrointestinal distress is to do a fecal exam looking for intestinal parasites like hookworms, because they are a common cause of gastroenteritis, and to do a fecal exam at the time of your annual wellness checkup so that we can catch any potential parasites before they become a problem. We also encourage every new member of your pet household to get a fecal exam, as we do not want your new family member to bring a parasite like hookworms into your home!