Roundworms and hookworms are two very common intestinal
parasites that infect and cause disease in dogs and cats – particularly young puppies and kittens. These parasites are also zoonotic, which means that these worms can be transmitted from pets to people.
Dogs and cats are infected with these worms through the fecal - oral route. It is a rather complicated cycle, but the bottom line is that the pet eats or licks stuff – dirt, grass, animal feces - that is contaminated with worm eggs. Your pet ingests these eggs, which then hatch and the larvae migrate through the animal’s body and eventually into the gastrointestinal tract where they mature into adult worms. The adult worms produce more eggs, which the infected dog or cat sheds in its feces, starting the cycle over again.
Click here for a cool diagram of the roundworm life cycle.
Small children, like our pets, tend to explore the world by putting things into their mouths. So young children are at highest risk of becoming infected with roundworms. Hookworm larvae can also enter both people and pet bodies by boring through the skin. So if you have an infected animal pooping in your yard, it is possible to get infected with hookworms just by walking barefoot in the grass! The worms cannot reproduce in the human body, but as the larvae migrate through the body’s tissues, they can cause significant symptoms, including coughing, skin rash, abdominal pain, vision impairment, tremors and seizures. This is called visceral larval migrans – Not Fun!
So what do these worms do to our pet? Hookworms latch onto the inner lining of the intestine causing blood loss and anemia. It's often life threatening in young puppies and kittens. Roundworms can become so numerous in the gut that they will cause vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, lethargy and even stunted growth in young puppies and kittens. Pregnant dogs and cats will pass both kinds of worms to their offspring through the placenta and through their milk after birth. Most of our pets have dormant “encysted” larvae in their muscle tissues that become active during pregnancy. Nearly all puppies and kittens are born with roundworms and hookworms, and they continue to get infected while nursing. This is why we de-worm them so often as youngsters.
Now for a little good news – oral and topical heartworm preventives also kill hookworms and roundworms! Every time you administer a dose of heartworm prevention to your dog or cat, you are also killing any hookworms or roundworms your pet may have picked up since the last dose.
So what's the bottom line? To protect your pets, your family, friends and neighbors from roundworms and hookworms, give your pets heartworm preventives all year round! We can help you choose the best product for your pets – in most cases, we prefer Interceptor Plus for dogs and Revolution Plus for cats for the most broad spectrum parasite control.