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Hookworm Infestation in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Hookworm infestation is the invasion and multiplication of the small intestine by a blood-sucking parasite. Ancylostoma caninum is the most important and common hookworm. Other less common species exist as well.

Infection can be acquired before birth or during nursing from an infected queen. Ingestion of larva can result in infection. The larva can also migrate through the skin.

Hookworm infestation is seen most commonly in kittens and the geriatric or chronically ill population. There is no breed or sex predilection, although it is seen commonly in cat colonies or shelters.

What to Watch For

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Pale mucus membranes
  • Anemia
  • Poor body condition
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss

    Diagnosis

    A thorough knowledge of history and clinical signs is always important and most helpful in making the diagnosis. Diagnostic tests necessary to confirm a diagnosis of hookworm infestation include:

  • Fecal flotation to document the eggs

  • Complete blood count (CBC) if anemia is suspected

    Treatment

    Kittens in an environment with a history of hookworm infections should be routinely treated at two week intervals until weaning. Multiple agents are available to deworm infected individuals such as pyrantel pamoate and fenbendazole.

    Hygiene and appropriate disinfection is extremely important in controlling/eliminating infections.

    Cats who show severe clinical signs are usually hospitalized and treated to restore fluid and electrolyte abnormalities and potentially may require blood transfusions if extreme anemia develops.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer prescribed medication. Be aware of pets who are severely affected and may need support and hospitalization.

    Prevention of hookworms can be achieved by administering monthly anthelmintics (dewormers) made specifically to prevent infection. Hygiene is extremely important in the prevention of infection.

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