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Hookworm infestation, known also as ancylostomiasis, is the most common and most serious endoparasitic infection of dogs in the tropics, and affects cats as well, although to a lesser extent. Adult hookworms attach to small arteries within the intestines of the host and take blood meals directly. As a truly prolific egg producer, the female canine hookworm lays up to 30,000 ova per day, which are then passed into the environment via the animal's droppings.
View a second image of a canine hookworm.
The canine hookworm larvae hatch in soil where they develop and await a passing host that is susceptible to infestation. A dog may ingest soil containing the larvae, or more commonly, the larval hookworms enter the animal by penetrating the paws. Over time, the larvae migrate within the body to the lungs, ascend the respiratory tract, and eventually are swallowed. They move through the digestive system until they reach the lining of the small intestine, where they attach and feed, starting the cycle once again.
With a typical three-week life cycle, infestation becomes particularly problematic in tropical or sub-tropical environs. Dogs suffering from hookworm loadings in their guts often experience weight loss, diarrhea, black and tarry stools, and severe anemia. Significant infestations may be fatal for puppies. Unlike some other hookworm species and other endoparasites, the canine hookworm can also infest humans.
Cynthia D. Kelly, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.
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