Hook worms can not only invade your family pet, but can also infect people. Hook worms infect both pets and people in the same way, by penetrating the skin. It begins at a larvae stage and will find its way through the skin, the liver and on to the lungs of whomever it invades. The hook worm, a 1/4- to 1/2-inch long parasite, will also attach to the small intestine and continue to mature.
There are several species of hook worm. The Necator Americanus is found in 90 percent of the cases in humans. This hook worm is commonly found in tropical regions around the world. Another type is the Ancylostoma Duodenale which can grow slightly longer than 1/4 inches; it is found all over the world but most commonly found in warmer regions. The type of hook worm found in dogs and cats is the Ancylostoma Braziliense hook worm. It can also be transferred to humans and is found in the United States, Asia, and South America. A type known as Ancylostoma Duodenale is usually found in dogs and occasionally in humans and has hook-like teeth.
Hook worms are not a pleasant thing to have. A female hook worm will attach to the small intestine and lay several thousand eggs in one day. These eggs will then pass with fecal matter where the eggs will later hatch. The larvae can then penetrate a human’s or pet’s skin which can then starts the cycle all over again. These parasites have quite a long lifespan, some living beyond 10 years. The first symptoms of hook worm in humans will be itchy and irritated feet where the parasite entered the skin. Once the parasite is fully attached to the intestine, it can cause coughing, fever, and anemia. If someone goes untreated, the problems can worsen causing fluid retention, abdominal tenderness, an appetite for strange substances (such as clay), and stunted growth.
So what can be done to overcome this parasite in both you and your pet? First be aware of how hook worm can spread. Avoid taking your pets to sandy beaches. Hook worms love the warmth and dampness of the sandy beach. This is why many beaches post signs saying “No dogs allowed.” Since these small parasites can enter the human body through your feet, walking barefoot through contaminated sand or even stepping in infected feces can infect you with hook worms. Avoiding hook worms is your first step to staying healthy, not just for you, but also for your pet.
There are many medications available to rid the hook worm and its eggs. As soon as you notice that your pet has worms, you can use an oral treatment to get rid of them. The “wormers” for pets are available in pet shops and from your veterinarian. These medications are made specifically to get rid of the hook worm infestation. If you believe you or family members have become infected with hook worms, the first thing you should do is see a physician. The physician can prescribe an oral medication or may even tell you which medication to purchase over the counter. Be aware that if you have contracted hook worms, then most likely you received them from an infected pet.
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