SAN ANTONIO - They are slimy, they are invasive and they can be harmful to your pets. We're talking about Hammerhead flatworms that are in the San Antonio and Austin area.
The distinct features include the hammerhead-shaped head and they usually have one or two stripes on them. The worm can be up to a foot long.
The Texas Invasive Species Institute says they are native to Southeast Asia but started getting reports of them in Texas in the 1980s. In the past couple of years, more and more people have been reporting sightings. The small "snake-like" looking worms can hide in potted plants and thrive in wet, humid weather conditions - much like they do in their native climate.
The flatworms attack earthworms by secreting a nasty neurotoxin paralyzing the earthworm prey, so they can also be dangerous for people and pets if eaten or touched.
"Yes, this worm does secret a neurotoxin, but it's something more to eat its prey, which is earthworms, so when humans come into contact with it, minimally it causes skin irritation," said Ashley Morgan-Olvera from the Texas Invasive Species Institute.
While the Hammerhead can cause you to have a rash on your hands, the flatworms can be far more harmful to your pets if they eat them. A local veterinarian we spoke to says it's vital that you take your dog or cat to the vet immediately if you see them eat a Hammerhead worm.
"If it happens within two hours they usually induce vomiting. They basically make the pet get this out of the system. That's one thing, that's to protect the stomach. Sometimes it's too late is to protect the stomach and treat the clinical science to make your pet stop the vomiting, stop the lethargy and put him on fluids, get him hydrated," said Dr. Mina Youssef from North Star Animal Hospital.
Do not cut them because the worms can regenerate. Experts say instead, pick it up with a stick or paper towel, seal it in a zip lock bag with salt, and throw it away.