Hookworm in dogs on the increase

-- By Goutam Mukherjee

By Dr. Goutam Mukherjee

You’ve probably heard of MRSA, the bacteria that can cause staph infections that are difficult to treat because of resistance to some antibiotics. Now, researchers have found hookworms in dogs that are resistant to multiple drugs. 

Scientists at Kaplan Laboratory at the University of Georgia came to the conclusion of a multidrug-resistant hookworm after 2 years of study. We have been seeing this phenomenon in our own clinic! Many pets that have been treated at home with over the counter dewormers are still showing positive for hookworm parasite eggs from our in-house fecal testing.

Hookworm is the most common intestinal parasite of dogs in this country, and the numbers are increasing. A recent study of over 39 million fecal samples from 2012–2018 showed an overall increase of 47%. They are fairly small parasites, about 1/3-inch to ½-inch long and not easily visible by the naked eye.  

One of the best ways to prevent hookworm in your pet is to keep the yard clean.

Hookworm in dogs can cause bloody diarrhea, malnutrition, heart issues, and death. Hookworm eggs get into the soil, become larvae, and live for many weeks. Alarmingly, they can infect humans by penetrating the skin when walking barefooted! 

So what to do?

The MOST important thing is the simplest: pick up after your dog, every time! Make sure to do fecal testing yearly. It is best to bring a fresh stool sample. If one of your pets tests positive, start treatment right away, and follow through until fecal samples are clean.

Common drugs used for hookworms are Strongid, Panacur, and Interceptor. The good news is, so far they haven’t found hookworms which are resistant to all three drugs, but which are resistant to 2 of the 3 drugs.

It is interesting that the authors of another study believe the origin of the multidrug resistant hookworm may have started from Florida greyhound breeding facilities, where dogs are raised for the racing industry. They believe overcrowding and overuse of anthelmintic (anti-parasite) drugs may have been the cause. 

In my experience, some breeders tend to throw a dose of every dewormer to the puppies, instead of taking environmental control measures like clean facilities and fewer animals on the premises. If possible, rescue, don’t buy! Or, if you feel compelled to buy, then buy from a breeder where the facilities are meticulously cleaned and the kennel is not overpopulated.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works at his home as a holistic veterinarian and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative. Send pet-related questions to drg.vet@gmail.com.

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