The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) this week issued the CAPC Top 10 Cities Monthly Hookworm Report for the past month, with Rockford, IL, at No. 1 across the country reporting the highest percentage increase in positive hookworm tests in June
The new monthly report alerts pet parents, veterinarians and pet-related services about the emerging threat of hookworm — a zoonotic, parasitic disease threatening the health of both pets and people. The report identifies US metro areas experiencing the highest percentage increase in positive hookworm tests in the last 30 days.
“The recent outbreak of COVID-19, with its animal origin, has made people acutely aware of the close relationship between animal and human health and the need to regularly monitor disease at the local level,” said Dr. Chris Carpenter, DVM and CAPC’s CEO. “With the growing threat of hookworm, CAPC expands its decade-long mission to regularly monitor parasitic diseases in communities across the US with its new CAPC Top 10 Cities Monthly Hookworm Report.”
In June, these 10 US cities had the highest percentage increase in positive hookworm tests:
- Rockford, IL
- Brownsville, TX
- Reno, NV
- Cheyenne, WY
- Bakersfield, CA
- Jackson, MS
- Spokane, WA
- Salinas, CA
- Cape Coral, FL
- Billings, MT
“An increase in hookworm prevalence not only alerts communities to a heightened threat to the health of dogs and cats, but it also warns of an increased threat to the health of children and families who can potentially contract hookworm infection,” said Dr. Craig Prior, BVSC, CVJ, CAPC board member.
Hookworms are parasites that live in contaminated soil and infect dogs and cats in all 50 states. Hookworm disease can cause debilitation or death, especially in puppies and kittens. Pets can become infected by hookworm larvae penetrating the skin, licking paws, chewing contaminated toys, or ingesting infected prey such as mice. Larvae migrate until they become adults in the intestines. Hookworm can also be transmitted from nursing mothers to puppies and kittens.
In dogs, signs of hookworm infection may include dark, tarry diarrhea, anemia, loss of appetite, weight loss and skin lesions. Puppies infected with hookworms are at greater risk due to blood loss.
In cats, signs of hookworm infection may include diarrhea or anemia. Respiratory disease and pneumonia may occur as larvae migrate through the lungs. In kittens, hookworms can be fatal due to blood loss.
In people, hookworm infection is generally displayed on the skin with itching at the infection site and appears as cutaneous larval migrans — a winding, threadlike, raised rash. People should avoid walking barefoot in areas of potential contamination and wear gloves and shoes when gardening.
Pets living in cities on this month’s CAPC Top 10 Cities Hookworm Report may have been exposed due to several risk factors, including environmental contamination from pet owners who don’t pick up dog stools, the growing popularity of dog parks, and pet owners’ noncompliance in administering year-round, broad-spectrum parasite control preventatives.
Hookworms produce a massive number of eggs on a daily basis, heightening the risk of environmental contamination. Any outdoor area where dogs and cats have access can become reservoirs of hookworm larvae. Typical areas of contamination include neighborhood streets, common areas, backyards, gardens, sandboxes, beaches and rest areas. Regularly removing feces is critical to preventing the spread of hookworms.
“The popularity of dog parks is probably a major factor in the increased number of hookworm cases. Unlike boarding or day care facilities, dog parks don’t require proof of immunization and parasite protection,” Prior said. “And while dog parks provide a unique opportunity for dogs to exercise, it’s not uncommon for dog owners to socialize, and while not paying close attention — even for a few minutes — their dog defecates, leaving stool behind as a potential source of infection.”
CAPC recommends that all dogs and cats be protected with monthly broad-spectrum parasite control with efficacy against hookworms year-round. CAPC also recommends puppies and kittens be tested at least four times in the first year of life for hookworms and other intestinal parasites; and at least two times per year in adults — even if they are on year-round preventives.
To more closely pinpoint risk areas for hookworm, CAPC Parasite Prevalence Maps provide hookworm parasite prevalence in every county across the US.