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Hookworm parasites in dogs are developing resistance to treatments

Experts worry about dogs’ long-term health and the parasites’ ability to infect humans

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Photo (c) NickyLloyd - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia explored the risks associated with the hookworm parasites that commonly infect dogs. Their findings showed that many of the traditional treatments used to help dogs recover from the hookworm parasite have become unsuccessful. 

The researchers focused their study on greyhounds from three different areas: an active racing kennel, adoption kennels, and vets offices that work with adoption organizations. They analyzed dogs’ fecal samples over the course of a year and also looked into the treatments they were given for the hookworm parasites and how well they responded to the treatments. 

The study showed that 80% of the dogs were infected by hookworm parasites. Typically, dogs are given one of three medications to treat this type of infection. However, in this study, the dogs still showed traces of the hookworm parasite even after receiving treatment. 

Resisting antibiotics

The researchers explained that when infected dogs are in close contact with other infected dogs, even when it’s not necessarily the same parasite, there’s a much greater chance of infection. The more the parasites spread, the more likely they are to mutate, and the more likely they are to become more resistant to antibiotics. 

Dogs can pass the infection in one of three ways: female dogs can pass it through their milk to puppies, they can eat infected worms, or they can come into contact with the worms in the ground. It’s also important to note that the hookworm parasite can be contagious to humans, leading to an itchy rash. The researchers say humans who are infected with hookworm parasites will also have a harder time treating the condition as antibiotic resistance increases.

“Personally, I would not take my dog to a dog park,” said researcher Ray Kaplan. “If your dog picks up these resistant hookworms, it’s not as easy as just treating them with medication anymore. Until new types of drugs are available, taking your dog to a dog park has to be considered a risky activity.” 

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