Hookworms: A veterinary practice's day of discovery

Hookworms: A veterinary practice's day of discovery

Jan 24, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

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It’s not every day a discovery gets the veterinary practice staff to line up to take a peek at the microscope. But this discovery was one for the books at Tampa Palms Animal Hospital.

In fact, a canine patient was brought in for routine vaccinations. Based on the dog’s history of hookworms, the attending veterinarian Glenn E. Farrell, Jr. and staff performed an extended fecal flotation. That's when veterinary technician Deborah Mason hit pay dirt, so to speak. She discovered these adult hookworms. The three images in this photo gallery were taken by veterinary assistant Ashlee Cogswell using an iPhone 4.

Photos by Tampa Palms Animal Hospital

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Adult hookworms live in the small intestine of its host, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Dogs and cats become infected through ingestion of third-stage larvae through a contaminated environment, ingestion of other contaminated animals or through the skin.

Migration of hookworms within the host is complex, CAPC states. After penetrating the skin, larvae are carried by the bloodstream to the lungs where they migrate up the respiratory tree to the trachea. Larvae are coughed up and then swallowed, and then make their way to the small intestine, where they mature, mate and produce eggs. Eggs are first found in the feces two to three weeks after infection, CAPC says.

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In this case, “When I saw the worm and the eggs, I just said ‘Oh my gosh, this is the coolest thing,” says Deborah Mason of Tampa Palms Animal Hospital. “I have never seen an entire worm make it’s way through the GI tract and not be dissolved.”

For hookworms, immature and adult worms attach to the mucosa of the small intestine, digest the tissue, inject anticoagulants and suck blood, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Adult worms may live for four to 24 months in the small intestine.