I got a puppy this week! His name: Mojo Risin’! Tweet
He is SOO cute… a black boxer puppy, a rare color among boxers. His ears are floppy, he runs like a dear, and he has the sweetest demeanor I’ve ever witnessed in a dog. For the first time, I went out and bought my puppy all of his ‘gear’: a bed, Science Diet, an LSU collar! For the first time, I became the proud owner of a playful and beautiful boxer!
But this week involved more than one ‘for the first time’ occurrences: I went to the (dreaded) vet’s office for the first time. I had to get my little puppy his 12-week vaccinations, against Rabies, an RNA genome virus that upon infection cause the infamous rabid symptoms of increased salivation and confused behavior (CDC), and Bordetella, a genus of gram negative bacteria, certain strains of which cause whooping cough in humans.
We just got our puppy, and it looks to us as if the previous owners were rather neglectful… Mojo’s ribs are clearly visible, and the vet mentioned the possibility of worms. She gave Mojo a de-wormer (he took the liquid oral medicine like a champ) – I thought, no big deal.
I wondered if my boyfriend was just being silly when he asked if we should be concerned ourselves, about contracting worms from Mojo, if he ended up being infected. Us, get his worms?! Surely not!
Think again. Dogs can become infected with heartworms, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms, among others. Some hookworms and roundworms can be contracted by not only your dog, but also you and your family members, according to my ‘Congratulations on your new puppy!’ brochure. Scary thought.
Hookworms, with their shark-like teeth as viewed through an electron microscope, are terribly ugly-looking creatures, and what’s worse, are widespread in the United States. An estimated 576-740 million people in the world are infected with hookworms (CDC). The impacts of contracting these parasites are as bad as these creatures look under a microscope. For the dog, a hookworm infection can cause weight loss, blood loss, diarrhea and eventually, if left untreated, death. Hookworms live in the small intestine, feeding on the puppy’s (or the human’s) blood, often causing anemia.
The hookworm is a soil-transmitted helmnith, meaning that this nasty worm proliferates in the soil, hatching from eggs passed there from the intestines of an infected animal through its feces (as I said… nasty). From there, your puppy can pick up the growing worm larva on the pads of his feet and, even worse, transmit them to you as you walk around barefoot in your home or outdoors. Hookworms can penetrate through the skin and make their way to their final home in your intestines. Their route to yours or your puppy’s intestines include passage through blood vessels to the heart, to the lungs, through the pulmonary alveoli, and finally to the pharynx by way of the bronchial tree (CDC). Here – you guessed it – those nasty worms are swallowed.
The good news is that drugs of choice for the treatment of hookworms can get rid of these worms within days – and that there is actually some evidence that these nasty worms may alleviate allergies in humans (what?!). The bad news is that the worms can be hard to self-diagnose until the infestation has become severe. A doctor can check stool samples for worms under a microscope… That is, of course, if you miss the tell-tale signs of visible worm ‘tracks’ on your skin as the worms burrow their way to your blood vessels (shiver)!
Hookworms are especially a threat for children. If you have children and a puppy, make sure you maintain a clean and safe environment for both… avoiding contaminated areas, cleaning your puppy and your home properly, and making sure your puppy is de-wormed regularly are great ways to safeguard against infection.
So, are you taking your dog to the vet yet?
CDC – The Rabies Virus (Figure 2)
CDC – Parasites – Hookworm (Figure 4)
BBC News – Are worms vital to human health? (Figure 3)