Parasite found in dogs developing drug resistance

One of the most common parasites found in the pet world, hookworms, have become resistant to several drugs, according to new search from the University of Georgia. Animals infected with hookworms can experience dramatic weight loss, bloody stools, anemia, and lethargy, among other potential problems.

Currently, researchers say, US veterinarians use three types of drugs to kill hookworms, but the parasites appear to be becoming resistant to all of them. New research published recently in the International Journal of Parasitology shows how serious the problem is.

For the present study, the researchers focused on current and former racing greyhounds. Dog racetracks are particularly conducive to the spread of the parasite because of the sandy soil in the facilities, ideal breeding ground for hookworms. Due to the conditions, all dogs are dewormed approximately every three to four weeks.

After analyzing stool samples from adopted greyhound kennels, three veterinary offices working with adoption groups, and an active racing kennel, the researchers found that the parasites were very common in the breed. Four out of five greyhounds tested tested positive for hookworms. And those who tested negative are probably also infected, said Ray Kaplan, study correspondent author and former UGA professor of veterinary parasitology, because hookworms can “hide” in tissues, where they do not. will not reproduce or shed eggs until infected. getting worse.

Perhaps more alarming, the dogs still exhibited high levels of hookworm infection even after being treated for them, according to the study. The study marks the first demonstration of widespread drug resistance in a dog parasite reported worldwide.

In situations where many dogs are infected with many parasites, such as breeding farms and kennels, the parasites have more opportunities to develop rare mutations that allow them to survive deworming treatments. With dewormers applied frequently, the new resistant worms that emerge will survive and pass on the mutation that allowed this survival.

With repeated treatments, resistant worms will predominate.

“There is a very engaged greyhound adoption industry because they are lovable dogs,” Kaplan said in a statement. “I used to own one. But as these dogs are adopted, drug resistant hookworms will appear in other companion dogs.”

A breeding ground for a possible hookworm epidemic may be dog parks.

“Personally, I wouldn’t take my dog ​​to a dog park,” Kaplan said. “If your dog catches these resistant hookworms, it’s not as easy as just treating them with medication. Until new types of medication become available, taking your dog to a dog park should be considered. a risky activity. “

Hookworm larvae can live in the soil and burrow through the skin and paws of the dog. Female dogs can also pass the parasite to their puppies through milk.

Hookworms in dogs are also known to infect humans, causing a red, very itchy rash when they travel under the skin, researchers say. As the number of drug resistant worms increases, they will pose a risk to humans.

However, Kaplan and Pablo Jimenez Castro, lead author of the study and recent PhD from Kaplan’s lab, found in another recent study that these multi-drug resistant dog hookworms appear to be susceptible to emodepside, a dewormer currently only. approved for use in cats in the United States But use of this cat medication on dogs should only be performed by a veterinarian, as it requires veterinary expertise and supervision.

Based in part on Castro’s work, the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists recently formed a national task force to address the problem of drug resistance in canine hookworms.

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