Similar to tapeworms and roundworms, hookworms are intestinal parasites that live in the digestive system of your cat (or dog). The hookworm attaches to the lining of the intestinal wall and feeds on your cat’s blood. Its eggs are ejected into the digestive tract and pass into the environment through your cat’s feces.
Larvae (young hookworms) that hatch from hookworm eggs live in the soil and can infect your cat directly through the skin or feet and also by being ingested during the cat’s routine licking (cleaning.)
Hookworms will cause bleeding into the intestinal tract resulting in internal blood loss. Severe infections can result in death in young kittens. Blood transfusions may be necessary to keep young animals alive long enough for medications that kill the worms to take effect. Adult cats may also suffer blood loss from hookworms and can have diarrhea and show weight loss.
If you think your cat is infected with hookworms, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment for evaluation, diagnosis, and safe, effective treatment.
Kittens should be treated for hookworms every 2 weeks between 3 and 9 weeks of age, followed by administration of a monthly treatment. This frequent treatment schedule is due to the very high rate of infection found in kittens. Fecal examinations should be conducted 2 to 4 times during the first year of life and 1 to 2 times per year in adults. Nursing mothers should be treated along with their kittens.
Similar to steps for prevention of other intestinal parasites, it is essential to keep your cat’s surroundings clean and prevent the cat from being in contaminated areas. Keeping cats indoors will reduce the risk of infection.
Several heartworm medications also treat hookworms so if your cat is receiving a heartworm preventive, this may help reduce the risk of hookworm infection. Consult your veterinarian for safe and effective prevention and treatment options.
Some hookworms of cats can infect humans by penetrating the skin. This is most likely to occur when walking barefoot on the beach or other areas where pets deposit feces. Infection usually results in an itching sensation at the point where the larvae enter the skin and visible tracks on the skin. The condition is easily treated but can cause mild to extreme discomfort in the affected person.