Drug-resistant hookworms are spreading in dogs

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Parasitologists are now warning us about multi-drug resistant hookworms that are spreading from dog to dog in the United States. This is mostly an issue in retired racing greyhounds. There is also a concern that these hookworms are spreading from greyhounds to the general dog population. It is a rare but well-known problem that hookworms can also threaten human health by releasing larvae that can penetrate our skin and cause infection.

Some of these hookworm isolates are resistant to all three classes of de-wormer. The three medications that are typically prescribed are: fenbendazole (panacur), pyrantel (strongid), and moxidectin (advantage multi). Racetrack workers are able to buy these medications without prescriptions and have produced drug-resistant hookworms from improper dosing. There are also poor husbandry practices at these facilities. Most of the resistant parasites have been discovered in Georgia and Florida. Racetracks have closed in Florida and elsewhere. There are only five remaining tracks operating in the United States: two in West Virginia and one each in Arizona, Iowa and Texas.

There is one de-wormer that is showing some promise for eliminating hookworm called emodepside (profender). This product is an oral medication that is available in Europe for canine hookworm. Unfortunately, emodepside is only licensed as a topical product for cats in the U.S. Some off-label use of this medication has been effective when given orally in the dog as a last resort.

Hookworms are spread by ingesting stool in contaminated areas such as pet day cares and dog parks. It is always important to pick up and dispose of stool from your dog. Owners that use heartgard and interceptor as monthly heartworm preventatives are also preventing intestinal parasites that include hookworm.

Remember to have your dog’s fecal sample checked at least annually to be sure your pet doesn’t have worms. If you have a retired greyhound, be sure to check the fecal at least twice a year.