Posts Tagged ‘Hookworms’

We’ve seen a spate of Hookworm cases lately, which afforded me the opportunity to capture the following photos of actual worms, rather than just eggs.
A pup was brought in to see us after vomiting the worms, which is pretty unusual. But what I caught on (digital) film proves the nature of these nasties. Check it out.
(Note: all photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Hookworm eggs in vomitus.

Hookworm eggs in vomitus.

Hookworms A and B on a microscope slide.

Hookworms A and B on a microscope slide.

Hookworm "A" under magnification.

Hookworm A under magnification.

Section of Hookworm A under magnification.

Section of Hookworm A under magnification.

Hookworm A, with a bubble in its mouth, shows off its hooks. They latch onto your pet's intestinal walls.

Hookworm A, with a bubble in its mouth, shows off its hooks. They latch onto your pet’s intestinal walls.

Detail of the guts of Hookworm B.

Detail of the guts of Hookworm B.

Check out the fangs on this guy! Hookworm B looks ready for lunch.

Check out the fangs on this guy! Hookworm B looks ready for lunch.

Tech note: The appearance of the hooks identifies these worms as Ancylostoma caninum.

To learn about Hookworm infection in people, click here.

To learn more about Hookworm in pets, click here.

All photos by Jennifer Miele, at Little Creek Veterinary Clinic.

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     Many puppies will enter their new homes with extra baggage:  intestinal worms.  Roundworms and Hookworms are not only dangerous for your pets, they can also harm people.

     All new pets, whether young or old, should be examined for intestinal parasites and treated as necessary.  Some pets, especially pups and kittens, may need two or three rounds of medication to rid the body of all worms.

     Protect your family from Roundworms and Hookworms by promptly cleaning up your pet’s feces in the house and in the yard.  Follow these “rules” when housebreaking your pet:

  • Designate one small area of the yard as your pet’s potty spot. 
  • Choose an area that is off-limits for gardening and playing.
  • Do not let the puppy dig, eat grass, or play in the potty spot.
  • Do not walk barefoot in or around the bathroom area.
  • Clean up all feces promptly.  Do not let waste stay in the yard just because it is in the bathroom spot (think of it as akin to flushing the toilet.)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning the potty spot and after any time spent working in the yard.
  • Teach children to wash their hands after playing with the dog or cat.
  • Teach children to avoid putting their hands near their mouth, eyes, or nose when playing with the pet.
  • Do not allow cats or dogs to soil in children’s sandboxes.

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     If you’ve been following along with our Under the ‘Scope series, you know I’ve blogged about Tapeworms, Hookworms, and Roundworms.  (If you haven’t read those posts, click on the links and read them now.) 
     I mentioned in the last post that I’ve been hoping to show you photos of Coccidiae and Whipworms, as well.  As it turns out, we’ve had a recent spate of dogs, both young and old, battling Coccidiae.  This is what we’ve seen under the microscope:

This is what we see at "medium" magnification. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

     Not too helpful, is it?  Coccidiae (that’s the plural of “coccidia”) are among the tiniest parasites we search for in your pet’s fecal sample.  Now look at this photo with some of the coccidia oocysts (spores) labeled for identification:

Click to enlarge and read the labels. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

     Now look at the oocysts under higher magnification:

Two highly magnified coccidia spores. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

     Now look at the coccidia as seen under an electron microscope:

     If you’re thinking that looks an awful lot like a jellyfish at the Virginia Aquarium, you’re right.  I have no idea how that snuck in there.  My apologies to everyone who reads this blog.  Anyway, now you know where I spent my Sunday. 

     Okay, let’s try this again.  Coccidia spore under super-intense hyper-fraznik electron microscope:

EEEEEEEEK! Photo by Jennifer Miele

     All right, all right, I’m messing with you.  Little tiny coccidia spores do not grow up to become sharks.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, if your cat or dog is infected with these protozoan parasites, it may suffer chronic or intermittent diarrhea.  Left untreated, the infection may progress to the point that your pet has bloody stools, vomiting, and loss of appetite.  In rare cases, death may occur.

     Treatment for coccidiosis (the disease cause by the coccidia infection) is effective and uncomplicated, provided the illness has not progressed to a serious level.

     Coccidia species tend to stick to dogs and cats as their hosts.  A notable exception is Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis in humans.  Many women are familiar with this disease, as it is to be avoided at all costs during pregnancy. 
     Toxoplasmosis can be contracted by handling cat fecal matter or contaminated litter.  For this reason, a pregnant woman should ask someone else to clean the cat’s litterbox, or she should wear thick gloves and wash well after the task is completed.

     There is no preventative product on the market for coccidiosis.  Your pet should remain on its heartworm/intestinal worm preventative year-round, even though it will not protect against protozoan parasites. 
     Be vigilant in noticing whether your pet’s bathroom habits have changed.  If you suspect a parasite infection, notify our clinic so that we may examine a specimen under the microscope.  Who knows?  Your pet’s parasites could be the next ones featured on Under the ‘Scope!  ~~  Jen

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     If you’ve been following along lately, you know I have worms on the brain.  No, not literally, but we’ve seen several wormy dogs lately and that has provided me the opportunity to share with you photos of intestinal worm eggs as seen through our microscope.  First, I shared pictures of the elusive Tapeworm egg, then I followed up with a post on Hookworm eggs.

     I’d hate for the Roundworm bunch to feel left out, and today they don’t have to.  Our microscopic exam of a puppy’s stool sample yielded bunches of Hookworms and a few Roundworms.  I was surprised at how few Rounds we were seeing, especially since the owner had a camera-phone pic of an adult worm that the puppy had passed the night before.  Still, I was able to capture one of the little fellas on “film.”

Roundworm egg outnumbered by Hookworm eggs. Photo by Jennifer Miele

     And a close-up of our subject:

Single Roundworm egg with two Hookworm egg buddies. Photo by Jennifer Miele

     As I mentioned in previous posts on the topic, we do find it significant that both untreated adult dogs and puppies are showing intestinal worm infestation during the winter months.  This means it is not safe to let one’s guard down and discontinue heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medications in the cold-weather.  Visit the Tapeworm post and scroll down to learn about the types of heartworm/intestinal worm preventatives we carry.

     Like Hookworms, Roundworms are zoonotic, meaning they prefer animal hosts but will infect humans when possible.  Children are most likely to become infected because they may play in dirt and sandboxes where animals have relieved themselves.  During play, a child may stick his fingers in his mouth and ingest the worm eggs. 

     Take steps to protect your family: 

  • Sandboxes should be kept covered when not in use so that cats and other animals do not use them as a toilet. 
  • Dogs should be trained to defecate in one area of the yard, which is then off-limits for play by both animals and people and off-limits for gardening. 
  • Children and adults should not walk barefoot through contaminated yards, and gardeners should wear gloves while working. 
  • Remove fecal waste from the yard as soon as it is deposited, and do not use it in compost. 
  • Wash well after handling your cat or dog and after working in the yard, especially before preparing meals. 
  • Clean your pet’s outdoor toys and dishes daily.

     Now, if we’re all very lucky, I will bring you future posts featuring photographs of Whipworm eggs and Coccidiae.  Fingers crossed!   ~~  Jen

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     Most pet owners are familiar with the decidedly unglamorous chore of collecting their pet’s stool sample at the request of their veterinarian.  It is not uncommon for the squeamish to try to find a loophole that will allow them to sidestep such an onerous (not to mention odiferous) task.  I can’t say I blame them.  But of all the excuses one could use, this one is the least effective:  “I check my pet’s stool every day and I never see any worms.”

     My typical response is:  “Of all the parasites your pet can have, you may only ever see the adult versions of Tapeworms and Roundworms.  But you won’t see Hookworms, Whipworms, Giardia, or Coccidia, which are shed in microscopic egg form.” 

     The only way for us to discover a microscopic parasite, of course, is to examine the stool under a microscope.  And trust me, it is equally glamorous – if not more so – than your job of collecting, bagging, and transporting the sample. 

     A few weeks ago, I blogged about The Holy Grail of Microscope Slides, i.e. Tapeworm eggs.  I mentioned that Tapeworm eggs are a rarity on fecal exams, as compared to Roundworms and Hookworms.  I then posted a photo of a single lonely, lost little Hookworm egg from the same sample and noted how unusual it was that the Tapes outnumbered the Hooks.

     Today, I am pleased to present you with a photograph of a more typical sight.  Behold:

Hookworm eggs from a dog that is not on a heartworm/intestinal worm preventative.

     That’s a lot of Hookworm eggs for an adult dog.  However, if this were a puppy’s sample, the entire slide would be covered by those eggs.  Stop eating your dinner and think about that for a minute.

     Hookworms attach to your pet’s intestinal walls with – what else? – hooks in their disgusting little mouths.  A Hookworm infestation can lead to severe blood loss (fatal in untreated pups and kittens), bloody diarrhea, anemia and dehydration.  And if that weren’t bad enough, Hookworms are a zoonotic parasite, meaning people can get them, too.

     Dr. Miele has long been a proponent of year-round heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medication.  Why?  The proof is in the stool sample.  It is cold outside, but not cold enough to freeze the parasites.  The Hookworm eggs shown above were photographed at our office on February 4th.  

     Heartworm preventative medications are proven safe for year-round use.  When given as directed, the medications serve to protect your pets and your family from dangerous parasites.  As always, your dog must have a blood test to rule out active heartworm infestation before beginning a preventative medication.  ~~  Jen

     Just For Fun
     What do you think these round things might be?  Click the photo to enlarge and take your best guess.  I’ll post the answer in the comments sections tomorrow.

Click on photo to enlarge

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A single Tapeworm egg packet. Photo by Jennifer Miele.

Of  all the worm eggs we search for under a microscope, the elusive Tapeworm egg is the most difficult to detect.  Not because of its size, mind you – these things are huge compared to other worm eggs.  The problem is, there tend to be so darn few Tapeworm eggs, we rarely see them.  By contrast, a mild Roundworm or Hookworm infestation can result in a slide saturated with eggs.  You are more likely to see Tapeworm segments on your pet’s fur than we are to find eggs in a fecal sample.

In fact, the segments you see on your pet’s fur are called proglottids, and they function as egg sacs. As these pieces detach from the larger worm still inside your pet (yuck), they may start releasing their eggs, which then appear (microscopically speaking) in your pet’s stool. Because of this, you will often see the proglottids before the vet has a chance to check a stool sample and find the eggs.

     Recently, though, we got lucky.  A pet presented with an infestation of Tapeworms, which provided me the opportunity to photograph the egg packet shown above.  Below, you will see something even more rare.

Five Tapeworm eggs as viewed through a microscope. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Okay, I admit it’s pretty silly to get excited over something so gross.  In fact, I hope you’re not eating lunch or dinner as you read this.  After the worming we gave, these little guys won’t be eating lunch or dinner, either.  Meanwhile, we seldom see so many egg packets together in one frame, which is why I consider this slide “rare.”

     The fun didn’t end there, however.  Once the sample had time to float all eggs to the surface, we found a couple of these guys trying to sneak by:


Mystery slide. Photo by Jennifer Miele

What’s that?  A little hard to see, compared to the Tapeworm eggs?  This little dude is shown at the same magnification as his giant neighbors.  To make it easy on you, I’ll crop it and show you what we’re looking at.

Hookworm egg. Photo by Jennifer Miele

       It’s a Hookworm egg.  How adorable.  I found only a couple of these eggs on the slide.  All I can figure is that the Tapeworms had a head start and were beating up on the hapless Hookworms that showed up late to dinner.

     Imagine the Worm Wars taking place inside your pet.  Not a pretty picture, is it?  If your pet is not already on a monthly heartworm/intestinal worm preventative medication, now is the time to act.  Have your dog’s blood tested first; it should be free of heartworm disease before starting any of the preventatives.  Cats and dogs should have their stool tested for intestinal worms, as well.  Any adult worm infestations should be treated by the vet.

     Check out our favorite heartworm and intestinal worm preventative medications:

Revolution for Cats……….treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, fleas, ear mites

Iverhart Plus for Dogs……treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms

Iverhart Max for Dogs……treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms

HeartGard Plus for Dogs……treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms

Sentinel for Dogs…….treats and prevents heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, fleas

     Questions?  Call Jennifer at 583-2619.  Happy worming!


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