From the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Zoonotic hookworms are hookworms that live in animals but can be transmitted to humans. Dogs and cats can become infected with several hookworm species, including Ancylostoma brazilense, A. caninum, A. ceylanicum, and Uncinaria stenocephala. The eggs of these parasites are shed in the feces of infected animals and can end up in the environment, contaminating the ground where the animal defecated. People become infected when the zoonotic hookworm larvae penetrate unprotected skin, especially when walking barefoot or sitting on contaminated soil or sand. This can result in a disease called cutaneous larva migrans (CLM), when the larvae migrate through the skin and cause inflammation.
What is animal (zoonotic) hookworm infection in people?
There are many different species of hookworms, some are human parasites and some are animal parasites. People can be infected by larvae of animal hookworms, usually dog and cat hookworms. The most common result of animal hookworm infection is a skin condition called cutaneous larva migrans.
What are the clinical manifestations of animal (zoonotic) hookworm in people?
Most animal hookworm infections result in a skin condition called cutaneous larva migrans. People are infected when animal hookworm larvae penetrate the skin, causing a local reaction that is red and itchy. Raised, red tracks appear in the skin where the larvae have been and these tracks may move in the skin day to day, following the larvae’s movements. The symptoms of itching and pain can last several weeks before the larvae die and the reaction to the larvae resolves. In rare cases, certain types of animal hookworm may infect the intestine and cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and diarrhea.
What should I do if I think I have hookworm infection?
See your health care provider to discuss the possibility of infection and, if necessary, to be examined. There is no blood test for animal hookworm infection.
What is the treatment for animal hookworm infection?
The animal hookworm larvae that cause cutaneous larva migrans (CLM) usually do not survive more than 5 – 6 weeks in the human host. In most patients with CLM, the signs and symptoms resolve without medical treatment. However, treatment may help control symptoms and help prevent secondary bacterial infections. Antiparasitic treatments may be prescribed by your health care provider.
Can I get hookworm from my pet?
Yes, but not directly. Puppies and kittens are especially likely to have hookworm infections. Animals that are infected pass hookworm eggs in their stools. The eggs can hatch into larvae, and both eggs and larvae may be found in dirt where animals have been. People may become infected while walking barefoot or when exposed skin comes in contact with contaminated soil or sand. The larvae in the contaminated soil or sand will burrow into the skin and cause the skin to become irritated in that area. For example, this can happen if a child is walking barefoot or playing in an area where dogs or cats have been (especially puppies or kittens).
How can I prevent animal hookworm infection?
Wearing shoes and taking other protective measures to avoid skin contact with sand or soil will prevent infection with zoonotic hookworms. Travelers to tropical and subtropical climates, especially where beach exposures are likely, should be advised to wear shoes and use protective mats or other coverings to prevent direct skin contact with sand or soil.
Routine veterinary care of dogs and cats, including regular deworming, will reduce environmental contamination with zoonotic hookworm eggs and larvae. Prompt disposal of animal feces prevents eggs from hatching and contaminating soil — which makes it important for control of this parasitic infection.