About Zoonotic Hookworm

Key points

  • Zoonotic hookworm is a parasite common in cats and dogs.
  • It lives in soil contaminated with animal feces (poop).
  • It burrows into people's skin, leaving red, itchy tracks.
  • Most people who are infected recover without treatment.
Two dogs playing.


Zoonotic hookworms are parasites that normally live in animals like dogs or cats. However, they can spread to humans through the skin. When they infect people, the hookworms can cause a disease called cutaneous larva migrans (CLM).

People become infected when young hookworms, known as larvae, burrow into unprotected skin. This can happen when people are walking barefoot or sitting (with exposed skin) on soil or sand contaminated by animal feces.

Signs and symptoms

Zoonotic hookworm larva cause CLM by burrowing into the skin of a person's foot or body. This burrowing can cause:

  • Severe itching
  • Raised red lines on skin, also called tracks

These symptoms will go away after several weeks as the parasite dies.

In rare cases, some types of hookworm may infect deeper tissue in the intestine, lungs, or possibly the eye.

Risk factors

Cases of CLM often occur in people who have traveled to tropical regions where dog and cat hookworm larvae can survive in the soil.

If you walk barefoot in soil or sand in these regions, you can get zoonotic hookworm. However, you can find zoonotic hookworms anywhere in the world. In the United States, they're more common on the East Coast than the West Coast.

How it spreads

  • Animals infected with hookworm pass the parasites' eggs out of their body in their feces.
  • The eggs mature and hatch, releasing young hookworms, or larvae, into the soil or sand.
  • When you step on or sit in that soil with your bare skin, hookworm larvae can latch onto you and begin to burrow into your skin.


  • Dispose of animal waste quickly to keep eggs from getting into soil and hatching.
  • Make sure dogs and cats get regular veterinary care, including deworming if needed.
  • Wear shoes and avoid skin contact with contaminated sand or soil.
  • If you travel to tropical or subtropical climates, especially where there are beaches, wear shoes and use protective mats or other coverings to keep your skin from touching sand or soil directly.


If you have symptoms of CLM, speak with your healthcare provider. Your provider will examine your skin for itchy, red tracks made by hookworms, usually on the legs or feet.

There is no blood test for zoonotic hookworm infection. But your provider may ask you about recent travel and can help provide an accurate diagnosis.


Most people with a zoonotic hookworm infection recover without medical treatment in 5 – 6 weeks, as the parasites that cause CLM die.

But in some cases, a healthcare provider might prescribe

  • Antiparasitic drugs to help kill hookworms
  • Antibiotics to help treat any bacterial infections in the damaged skin