hookworm teethHookworms are a very common intestinal parasite of dogs. They get their nickname from the hook-like mouth parts (teeth) that they use to anchor themselves to the wall of the intestinal tract.  Once they have attached, they feed on the blood of their host. Hookworms are very small and are difficult to see with the naked eye, but the damage and the amount of blood they consume can be massive. Large numbers of hookworms in young puppies can cause severe anemia from the blood loss and many puppies can die without a blood transfusion.

Dogs can get hookworms many different ways. Young puppies can be infected while still in their mother’s womb directly through the placenta as well as through the milk when nursing. Because of this early infection, puppies should be de-wormed when they are just 2 weeks old and repeated every 2 weeks for the first few months of their lives. Monthly de-worming is recommended as a regular prevention.



Adult dogs can become infected by walking through contaminated soil where active larvae hatched from eggs deposited in fecal matter can penetrate directly through the pads of their feet. Once the larvae enter the skin, they then migrate through the body until they reach the lungs, at which time they are coughed up and swallowed. While the hookworms are migrating through the body, many can encyst in the muscle and lay dormant for many years. These are the source of hookworms that infect puppies while in the womb. After the hookworms are swallowed, they reach the intestinal tract and latch on to the wall of the intestine and start feeding on blood. The adult worms also mate and lay thousands of eggs that are passed in the feces. The eggs hatch into
larvae in moist warm environments which start the life cycle again. 11. Ancylostoma adults Hookworms

Humans can also become infected if walking barefoot through contaminated areas, however, the hookworms cannot complete their life cycle, but do cause a localized dermatitis where they penetrate the skin and can cause other problems while trying to migrate through the body.
Some people can have allergic reactions to the migrating worms.

Dogs can also be infected by ingesting the larvae, either by cleaning their feet or fur, or when drinking water or licking contaminated surfaces.


Because of the prevalence of hookworms in dogs, many veterinarians and the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) recommend routine de-worming with anthelmintics. Several of the newer flea and heartworm preventatives also include ingredients to remove hookworms and other parasites as well. Your puppy should be tested for hookworms as soon as your get him and follow your veterinarians recommendations for maintenance. Breeders should have the mother dog and young puppies dewormed every 2 weeks. Anthelmintics do not affect the dormant hookworms in the muscle.  Studies have shown that these hookworms can release during gestation and infect the puppies for up to seven
consecutive litters.

Signs of hookworm infection can include pale gums, a dark ,tarry stool, diarrhea, weight loss and failure to thrive.  Older dogs can develop diarrhea or dark, tarry stools.

You can limit the amount of hookworms deposited in your yard by cleaning up the fecal material and disposing of it. Fecal waste from dogs should not be used in compost bins, but there are special compost bins to handle the waste.

Toxoplasmosis in Cats


You may have heard that Toxoplasmosis is a disease that is dangerous for pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals. Beyond this basic information, many myths abound. Does it mean you need to give up your feline friend? Do you need to get tested? Is it safe to clean the litter box? A little knowledge can go along way towards addressing your concerns and fears.

What It Is
Toxoplasma gondii is a tiny protozoan that can infect any mammal. Cats are considered the main host, since they are the only animal in which the organism can complete its entire life cycle.

How People Get It
Although cats are frequently blamed as the primary source of infection, this is a misconception. More commonly, people are exposed when they eat undercooked meat. Scientific studies show that the organism can be found in up to 20% of meat samples tested.

Cats can be a source of infection, but it is less common. Cats get the organism by hunting outdoors and eating other infected animals. When a cat first becomes infected, it goes through a brief period in which it can pass the organism in its feces. This only lasts for a few weeks. When the organism is passed in the cats feces, it is not immediately infectious to humans; it must sit for several days first. If the litter box is cleaned out daily, it is quite unlikely for cat owners to directly contract the organism from their own cats.

cat face

Its more likely for a person to be infected if they garden in soil in which cats have defecated. The organism can survive in the soil for years. The organism still must be swallowed. This could happen if a person put his hands in his mouth without washing or ate unwashed vegetables that were grown in the contaminated soil.

The final method of infection is congenital, when a pregnant woman with an active case of Toxoplasmosis passes the organism to her fetus while it is in the uterus. Women are only likely to be infectious to their fetuses when they initially become infected.

Toxoplasmosis in People
In the United States, only 1-2% of people show evidence of exposure to Toxoplasma. The organism does not cause any symptoms at all in most people. Immunosuppressed individuals are much more likely to become infected by Toxoplasma and may suffer serious consequences such as encephalitis. Infection of a fetus with Toxoplasma can result in miscarriage, congenital brain disorders, or congenital eye disorders.

Symptoms in Cats
Symptoms in cats are rare, but are more likely to occur in young cats with weak immune systems and in cats that are immunosuppressed as a result of infection with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) or Feline Immunodeciency Virus (FIV). Symptoms can include weight loss, pneumonia, and eye disorders.


Whether it is necessary to be tested for Toxoplasmosis is a decision that you should make with your physician. There are blood tests available that can detect if you have a current, active infection or if you have been exposed in the past, but do not have a current infection.

Preventing Toxoplasmosis
To minimize the chance of exposure to Toxoplasma, always cook meat thoroughly. Wash your hands, cutting boards, and utensils after working with raw meat. Wear gloves when gardening outdoors. Clean litter pans every day. The need for pregnant women and immunocompromised people to avoid cleaning litter boxes is controversial. Women who test positive for exposure prior to pregnancy are unlikely to pass the disease to their fetus, so it is probably safe for them to clean the litter box. Women who have not been previously exposed and immunocompromised individuals should probably avoid cleaning litter boxes if possible, especially if their cats hunt.