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Report: Rockford No. 1 in US for hookworm in dogs, cats

Canine and feline hookworm can be lethal, particularly for puppies and kittens.
Courtesy: FEMA / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Courtesy: FEMA / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic(KNOE)
Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 11:32 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Pets living in Rockford may have been exposed to hookworm due to several risk factors, according to a report released on Thursday.

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s monthly HOOKWORM report, during the month of June, Rockford had the highest percentage increase in positive hookworm tests. The data is the result of tests conducted by veterinarians.

The new monthly report alerts pet parents, veterinarians and pet-related services about the emerging threat of hookworm — a zoonotic, parasitic disease threatening the health of both pets and people. The report identifies U.S. metro areas experiencing the highest percentage increase in positive hookworm tests in the last 30 days. Canine and feline hookworm can be lethal, particularly for puppies and kittens, according to the CAPC.

Some of the risk factors of hookworm include:

  • Pet owners who don’t pick up dog stools (40 percent don’t pick up dog stool)
  • Growing popularity of dog parks (stools left behind become potential source of hookworm infection)
  • Pet owners who don’t protect pets from parasites (with broad-spectrum, year-round parasite preventatives)

A recent study shows a 47 percent increase in the number of canine hookworm cases in the U.S. from 2012-2018 — with CAPC parasite maps reporting 212,863 positive cases of canine hookworm infections nationwide in 2018.

“An increase in hookworm prevalence not only alerts communities to a heightened threat to the health of dogs and cats, but it also warns of an increased threat to the health of children and families who can potentially contract hookworm infection,” Dr. Craig Prior, BVSC, CVJ, CAPC board member said.

Hookworms are parasites that live in contaminated soil and infect dogs and cats in all 50 states. Hookworm disease can cause debilitation or death, especially in puppies and kittens. Pets can become infected by hookworm larvae penetrating the skin, licking paws, chewing contaminated toys, or ingesting infected prey such as mice. Larvae migrate until they become adults in the intestines. Hookworm can also be transmitted from nursing mothers to puppies and kittens, according to the CAPC.

“This demonstrates how vital it is for dogs and cats to be protected against hookworm parasites with broad-spectrum, year-round preventatives and at a minimum bi-annual testing,” Prior added. “By protecting your pet, you are protecting other pets, your family, other families — and your entire community.”

In people, hookworm infection is generally displayed on the skin with itching at the infection site and appears as cutaneous larval migrans — a winding, threadlike, raised rash. People should avoid walking barefoot in areas of potential contamination and wear gloves and shoes when gardening, according to the CAPC.

CAPC recommends that all dogs and cats be protected with monthly broad-spectrum parasite control with efficacy against hookworms year-round. CAPC also recommends puppies and kittens be tested at least four times in the first year of life for hookworms and other intestinal parasites; and at least two times per year in adults — even if they are on year-round preventives. To more closely pinpoint risk areas for hookworm, CAPC Parasite Prevalence Maps provide hookworm parasite prevalence in every county across the U.S., according to the CAPC.

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