Let's talk about hookworms. Puppies are especially prone to parasites of all kinds, but this week, let us focus on just one of those parasites. What are hookworms exactly? To answer pointedly, they are intestinal parasites that live in the digestive system of either your dog or cat. They get their name "hook"worm because they literally hook themselves into the lining of your pet's digestive system and, using their hook-like mouthpieces, feed off of the blood vessels of the intestinal lining.
The hookworm has a 3-stage life cycle: egg, larvae, and adult. These parasites start their life as microscopic eggs nested in your pet's stool where they can grow into larvae and contaminate the environment. But how long can they live outside of the pet's body? The American Kennel Club tells us that, "the larvae can survive for weeks or even months before infecting your dog." Once your dog, or cat, is infected. The hookworms attach themselves to their intestinal lining and grow into adults. They then lay eggs and continue the cycle.
How can your pet get infected? Hookworms can be transmitted a couple of different ways. Paws are notorious for picking up transmittable parasites. If one infected pet has a bowel movement in the grass, then the next pet to pass by can simply contract the infection by walking through it. Another way a pet can pick up hookworms is through oral transfer. Either by sniffing, getting the stool on their nose and then licking it, or eating the stool directly. It is also commonly picked up when some fecal matter is accidentally in contact with food or water and therefore ingested. For puppies, it can also be transferred in the womb and through the mama's milk.
Hookworms are also classified as a zoonotic parasite. A zoonotic parasite or disease is one that can transfer from pet to human or visa versa. Though we may not be as likely to pick up the hookworms orally, we can pick it up by allowing an infected pet to lick our face, or by walking barefoot through an infected environment. Adult stage hookworms are not passed to humans, but the larvae can burrow under our skin. Migrating larvae can affect organs and even eyes. Thankfully, this is rare and can be avoided by bathing and washing hands regularly, and knowing how to keep your environment as clean as possible to help prevent infection.
What are some common symptoms of hookworms to look for? The American Kennel Club gives us these to look for:
* Pale gums
* Weight loss
* Bloody diarrhea
* Itchy paws
* Poor growth
These symptoms could also be signs of other diseases going on in your furry friend's body. Contact your local veterinarian if you notice any of these.
What can you do if your pet becomes infected? First off, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and have their stool tested to confirm diagnosis. Treatment usually involves an oral dewormer that is given to help kill adult stage hookworms. Because of this, your veterinarian will probably recommend treatment again in 2 to 4 weeks to target the existing larvae that may have survived into the adult stage. The second step would be to go home and clean up all the stool and clean your environment. Hookworms thrive in a warm, moist environment. We recommend cleaning up all stool immediately after each bowel movement is made. This will be the most effective way to keep larvae from having the chance to infect the environment. You will need to package all stool and discard in the trash to limit exposure to other pets. Lastly, you will want to speak to your veterinarian about getting your pet on a heartworm prevention that also targets hookworms and helps keep the infection from happening again.
If you suspect your pet may have hookworms, or you would like to have their stool tested for ease of mind, call your local veterinarian to set up an appointment.
So, you just brought home a new kitten, or maybe a cat with a few years behind her? How can you litter train them? Today we want to answer just that. No one wants to give their new, feline friend the uncomfortable and uneasy feeling of not having a place to go.
Let's start with the new kitties entering your home. For kittens, just starting off, their mom generally sets the tone for litter training. By two to three weeks of age, kittens start copying momma cat's litter box behavior habits. But you may not have the mom around, so what do you do? Since it is recommended that cats have a litter box that is about a length and a half longer than them, kittens can start off with a more compact litter box; graduating up to a larger size with growth.
For adult cats that may need that litter training, we recommend using the same guidelines, as mentioned above, for sizing: a length and a half longer than your furry feline. And if your adult cat is aging, keep in mind that with age comes some mobility issues per individual. With that in mind, make sure to keep those litter box walls short, maybe two to three inches in height, to allow for easy stepping.
For each cat, no matter the age, comes the question of - cover or no cover? Many owners may think that finding a litter box with a cover will provide the privacy their kitty desires. Being both a predator and prey, a cat's natural instinct is to find a place where they can make a quick getaway if needed. Not preferring to be cornered or trapped, some cats will prefer to have a litter box that is fully open. A covered litter box may also lead to the possibility of forgetting to clean the litter, therefore, building up fecal matter and odors. For older cats, entrance and exit may be difficult as well. Try to figure out what works best for your cat, but if they are urinating outside the box, it could be due to the desire to have that open box concept.
What kind of litter should you be using? Each cat will have their own preference with scented or unscented, as well as clumping or non-clumping, but, according to the Humane Society, research has found that most cats prefer the fine-grained litters, possibly due to the soft feel. Keep in mind, some cats will not prefer the corn or wheat-based litters because it smells like food, and they don't want to eliminate on food. But, once you find the litter that your feline loves, stick to it. Switching litters on cats can cause them to reject the litter box all together. If your cat ends up rejecting all commercial-based litters, try using sand. They may prefer the more natural approach. Do you have issues with your cat using your planting soil for a litter? If your cat is having trouble staying out of your plants, try putting rocks on top of the soil to prevent the mix up of plant soil and litter for your cat.
How many litter boxes should you have? And where should you put them? The typical rule-of-thumb, is to have one litter box per cat, plus one. Especially if you live in a two-story home, we recommend keeping one box on each story for easy access. And, like us, cats don't want to have to travel throughout the whole house, searching for a place to eliminate; try an easy to access place where your feline frequents and don't make them have to travel up or down stairs or through three doors, for example, to find their relief. Keep their litter boxes far from their food and water bowls and away from noisy appliances. If you are keeping the litter box in a closet or bathroom, the Human Society recommends keeping the door wedged open to prevent your feline friend from being trapped inside or locked out.
If your feline begins to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box, or urinates more frequently than normal, and changing litter or litter box does not help, please consult your veterinarian for further guidance and testing.
Litter training can be a difficult start, but once you find what your cat loves, you will be set! We love our furry friends, and we want to help make their business an easy one.