Hookworms on rise for dogs in south Minneapolis

Hookworms, intestinal blood-sucking parasites most commonly found in dogs, are on the rise in south Minneapolis.

The news has moved Westgate Pet Clinic veterinarians to suggest dog owners increase the number of times they have their canines screened for intestinal parasites.

The clinic’s most frequently diagnosed intestinal parasites are hookworms, roundworms, and giardia, with hookworms being the most prevalent by far.

Hookworms not only cause problems for dogs, like diarrhea, weight loss and anemia, but they can be transmitted through skin contact to people as well.

Westgate Pet Clinic last week informed patients via e-mail it has adopted the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s latest recommendation for fecal parasite screenings. In the past, the clinic recommended screening for intestinal parasites once a year. CAPC now suggests owners screen adult dogs for the problem twice a year.

“In Hennepin County, the average is about two out of 100 stool samples positive for hookworms, but here in our corner of southwest Minneapolis we’re seeing about three out of every 100,” Dr. Teresa Hershey, a Westgate Pet Clinic veterinarian  told Fox 9.

Dr. Hershey adds the large concentration of dogs in south Minneapolis contributes to the increased instances of the disease.

“So if one animal has it and they contaminate the environment the likelihood of other animals getting exposed is high,” she said. “We are definitely seeing more at our clinic and in this corner of Minneapolis than what’s reported for the county and for the state as a whole.”

Hookworms are predominantly spread through the stool. If a dog is infected with hookworm, he or she will pass eggs in their stool. After two to nine days, the eggs hatch into infective larvae which can mix with the soil. Hookworm larvae can live for months in the soil, and one variety can even survive freezing which means it can be found during the winter.

Extra screening of the stool for parasites help manage the problem, Dr. Hershey says, because dogs can be shedding hookworm eggs for a long time before they become symptomatic for the disease.

Hershey suggests dog owners follow these tips to help control intestinal parasites:

1. Pick up your dog’s stool and throw it away immediately.
2. Keep your dog leashed on a walk to prevent him from eating soil.
3. Screen your pet’s stool regularly for intestinal parasites.
4. Give a monthly heartworm preventative to your pet, even during winter months. The medication can help control and treat hookworms.

According to the CDC, itching and localized rash are often the first signs of hookworm infections in people. The symptoms occur when the larvae penetrate the skin.

“The larvae only have to be on the skin for five minutes, then they’ll penetrate the skin, and in people the most common symptom is this red itchy rash,” Dr. Hershey confirmed.

To prevent infection, the CDC recommends people do not walk barefoot in areas where hookworm is common and where there may be fecal contamination of the soil. Avoid other skin-to-soil contact and avoid ingesting such soil.

More information on hookworms can be found on on the following sites: