Recently, dog-human hookworm transmission has been the order of the day.

Research has it that “canine hookworm infection is endemic in Southeast Asian countries with a prevalence ranging from 70% to 100%, with zoonotic transmission representing a potentially significant public health concern.” 

You can read the entire article here: PMC: Parasites and Vectors.

This information is troubling for dog parents because owning a susceptible dog puts them at risk of infection.

The good news is that you can take preventive measures and stay safe while petting your favorite dog breed. 

Read on to know more.

How Contagious Is Hookworm From Dog To Humans?

Hookworms as adults are unable to survive in the human body, but their larvae can. Isn’t it striking?

Hookworm larvae burrowing into the skin can produce cutaneous larva migrans, which is a skin disorder caused by hookworm larvae burrowing into the skin.

If left untreated, the larvae will continue to migrate about the body, causing respiratory and gastrointestinal issues, as well as iron deficiency anemia from the blood loss.

Hookworms are a zoonotic illness, meaning they can be passed from one animal to another.

Hookworms cannot be transmitted directly from your dog to you, but hookworm eggs can move through his feces and into the environment.

The larvae will penetrate the skin if humans get the disease from the environment, resulting in cutaneous larva migrans.

The presence of larva migrans in the eyes might result in blindness in little infants. By piercing the skin, some canine hookworms can infect humans.

When strolling barefoot on the beach, working in the garden, or in other places where pets may deposit feces, this is most likely to happen.

An itching sensation and visible tracks on the skin are common signs of infection at the spot where the larvae enter the skin.

The ailment is simple to treat, although it can cause mild to severe discomfort in those who are affected.

A type of hookworm that infects canines is known to develop in the human intestine, too, where it may cause disease.

It is unusual for hookworms to cause extreme damage to a human’s health, but as soon as spring gardening is in full swing, always wash your hands after working in the soil and wear protective footwear outdoors.

To reduce your risk, make sure your pets are vaccinated and dewormed by your veterinarian. Also, avoid walking barefoot in areas where your dog has defecated.

Especially if you are likely to get in contact with feces from pets whose health conditions are unknown, in a place like a park.

If you feel insecure about your health and think you may have contracted hookworms from your dog, consult your doctor.

What Are The Signs Of Hookworms In Humans?

Hookworm infection does not cause symptoms in everyone.

Itching or a rash at the spot where the larvae penetrated the skin (usually on the bottom of the foot) is commonly the result of an allergic reaction in the area where the larvae entered your skin.

A person with a mild infection may have no symptoms if they are healthy, have a low parasite burden, and eat foods high in iron.

Those who are severely infected may experience:

As the hookworms proliferate in the bowel, such a person will experience diarrhea. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Stomach ache
  • Cramps in the stomach
  • Nausea
  • Fever, 
  • Blood in your stool, and 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Itchiness
  • Weight loss  
  • Fatigue
  • In newborns, colic, or cramping and excessive sobbing is a common occurrence.

Children’s physical and cognitive development can be harmed.

While most people who are infected have no symptoms, the condition can be fatal if left untreated, especially in pregnant women and small children.

The worms feed on blood over time, causing internal bleeding, starvation, and anemia.

This has the potential to have major long-term effects on children’s physical growth and cognitive development.

How Do Humans Get Rid Of Hookworms?

Hookworm infections are usually treated with medication given by your doctor for 1-3 days.

The medications appear to be effective and have few negative effects. Treatment is determined by the severity of your hookworm infection.

If you don’t get treatment, your body may eliminate the infection on its own, but it could take a long time.

The following are some examples of medications:

  • Anthelmintic drugs are used to treat worms

These medications help to eliminate parasitic worms from the body. Albendazole, mebendazole, and pyrantel pamoate are all common drugs for intestinal hookworm.

To cure hookworm larvae infestation, apply thiabendazole to your skin or take an oral treatment like albendazole or ivermectin.

These medications are given to children as young as one-year-old and are taken by mouth over one or three days, depending on the type of medication and its amount.

Because of the potential for fetal harm, these medications are only given to pregnant women if the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks.

  • Iron-contained supplements 

Healthcare practitioners will commonly recommend an iron supplement besides an anti-worm drug for children, pregnant women, and others who develop anemia because of hookworm infection.

These supplements aid in the replenishment of the body’s iron stores, which are required for the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body.

Nutritional support and additional supplements, including folate, will be part of your treatment if you have anemia and malnutrition.

  • Hospitalization

Hookworms can cause severe anemia and congestive heart failure on rare occasions. Such situations may cause hospitalization.

  • Mass Drug Administration

Another strategy for treating hookworm and other worms spread by polluted soil is to preemptively administer treatments to entire populations.

The medications used to treat these illnesses are low cost, frequently donated, and have few side effects.

As a result, by delivering medication regularly, such as once a year, countries can reduce or stop the spread of the worm in a specific population.

Households are visited one by one by healthcare providers, community health workers, or others to offer hookworm and other neglected tropical illnesses treatment.

Cutaneous larva migrans go on their own after a while.

People are usually treated with albendazole once a day for 3 or 7 days or ivermectin in a single dosage because symptoms can last 5 to 6 weeks. These medications can help you get rid of the infection.

What Is The Preventive Treatment?

In underdeveloped nations, those who are more susceptible to soil-transmitted helminth infections (hookworm, Ascaris, and whipworm) are frequently treated without having their stool examined beforehand.

Preventive treatment, often known as “preventive chemotherapy,” is the name given to this method of treatment.

Preschool and school-aged children, women of childbearing age, including pregnant women in the second and third trimesters and nursing women, and adults in occupations with a high risk of heavy infections are among the high-risk groups designated by the World Health Organization.

School-aged children, as well as preschool children and pregnant women, are frequently treated through school-based health programs.

Preventing new infections is a crucial component of treating hookworms. Hookworm, unlike viruses or other bacteria, may make you sick repeatedly throughout your life.

Most heartworm preventatives also include medication to treat hookworm infections.

Adult worms are killed by some of these products, while larval stages are killed by others, preventing infestations.

The range of activity for the product given to your dog can be determined by your veterinarian.

Take the following measures if you live, travel, or play in an area where hookworms may be present in the soil:

  • Have shoes on when you are outside.
  • Avoid skin contact with potentially polluted dirt.
  • Avoid tainted food.
  • Avoid skin contact with dog feces, particularly in parks, where you can’t be sure what other people’s pets have eaten.
  • At two to three weeks, all puppies should be treated with a veterinary-approved anthelmintic.
  • If parasites are found, pets should be dewormed as soon as possible. Deworming regularly may be necessary for pets who are at high risk of infection.
  • Dog excrement should be disposed of promptly, especially in yards, playgrounds, and public parks.
  • Ensure strict hygiene, especially for children.

Allowing children to play in potentially hazardous areas is not a good idea. Hand cleaning and bathing regularly are critical in preventing human illnesses.

Female dogs who are nursing should be dewormed at the same time as their puppies.

The female dog’s dormant hookworm infection may be reactivated during pregnancy and nursing, infecting her offspring.

  • Always use a clean toilet

Ensure to defecate in toilets or outhouses rather than open soil to avoid hookworm and avoid using human feces as fertilizer. However, in other areas, this isn’t always feasible.

  • In locations where human hookworm infection is frequent, public health professionals may administer a single dosage of albendazole to people who are at risk of becoming infected with hookworms and other roundworms spread through contaminated soil (such as Ascaris and whipworm). This medication aids in the prevention of infection.

As popularly known, prevention is better than cure. The above-stated points should help you handle the situation better, dissolve any fear whatsoever, and live healthily with your dog.

References:

Small door vet: Hookworms in Dogs

Pets and Parasites: Hookworms

Grantsburg Animal Hospitals: What all pet parents should know about hookworms

VCA hospitals: Hookworm Infection in Dogs

Health line: Hookworm Symptoms 

WebMD: Hookworm Infection 

Merck manuals: Parasitic Infections

Very well health: Hookworm overview

CDC: Parasite – Hookworm