Hookworms are parasites that live in and actually attach to the lining of the small intestines, with their hook-like mouths. They can live there for up to 24 months. When the hookworm attaches to the intestinal wall, it injects an anti-coagulant substance. If the hookworm infestation is bad enough, continual bleeding into the bowel can occue and anemia will occur. Adult Hookworms shed their eggs through the host’s feces. Within 2-9 days, the eggs become infective larvae. The scientific names for the most common feline Hookworms are Ancylostoma tubaeforme and Ancylostoma braziliense.
How are Hookworms contracted?
Your cat may become infected by simply standing where larvae are present and then grooming itself, or by ingesting feces from a contaminated animal. The larvae can also penetrate the skin and migrate to the intestines. Nursing queens can pass the parasites to their kittens. Cats may also ingest hookworm larvae through the lungs by breathing in the larvae. If this happens there may be coughing. Hookworm larvae are more commonly found in warm, moist, overcrowded, or unsanitary environments. Larvae can live in the soil for weeks or even months.
Some signs of Hookworms include failing to properly gain weight or weight loss, poor appetite and/or vomiting, and diarrhea. Hookworms can also cause anemia leading to pale colored gums, ears, or the lining of the nostrils. If severe enough, the anemia can be life-threatening. These symptoms create an overall, unhealthy, appearance to your cat.
Testing for Hookworms
Hookworm eggs are microscopic in size and typically the only test to identify them is a veterinarian using a fecal floatation.
Treatment and prevention
A routine deworming schedule is very important for the health of your cat, whether it is an outdoor cat or if your cat comes in contact with an outdoor pet on a regular basis. There are several ways to administer treatment for Hookworms. Orally, by injection, or topically. Some heartworm preventatives such as Revolution or Profender, have deworming components in them. Depending on which dewormer you choose, give it more than once as some only kill adult Hookworms and not the eggs. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian to see what would be the best preventative for your feline.