Cat Hookworm Diagnosis

A Hookworm is an intestinal parasite that anchor to the wall of the intestinal lining. They are named after their unique mouth parts, which are hook-like in appearance. The hooks allow them to attach themselves to the intestinal lining and suck blood. At the feeding site, the hookworm injects eggs into the digestive tract and the infection begins. There are treatments and preventions against hookworms. Due to the blood loss of having hookworms, it is a potentially fatal infection if left untreated. Early diagnosis can be essential to saving your cat's life.

What Causes Hookworms?

Hookworms are transmitted to cats through ingestion and penetration of the skin. Water, soil and feces can be contaminated with the hookworm larvae. If a cat grooms themselves while the larvae are present, they have just ingested the parasite. The larvae can also be spread through the ingestion of an infected rodent. Once the cat ingests the larvae, they will begin attaching themselves to the intestinal wall. However, hookworms do not need a host to infect your cat. They can penetrate the skin, usually through the belly or the feet, and continue on their journey to the digestive tract.

Unsanitary conditions and shelters are breeding grounds for hookworms. Shelters that are overcrowded or have unsanitary conditions are likely to have a large amount of cats infected with the parasite. Additionally, outside cats or hunters are at an increased risk due to the prey that they catch.

Signs of Hookworm Infection

When hookworms are present, they will inject an anti-coagulant into the cat's bloodstream to stop it from clotting. Therefore, they are provided with a constant flow of blood to feed on. Because hookworms live on blood, it essentially means that your cat is losing blood. When blood is lost throughout the body, organs and body parts start to become affected and symptoms become apparent. Some of the signs of hookworms include:

  • General weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Poor coat
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Lesion on the skin where hookworms have entered the body
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of appetite

Diagnosis of Hookworms

Diagnosis of hookworms is a simple process. A stool sample is mixed with a special solution. When the solution and the stool are mixed, the eggs will float to the top and are visible under a microscope. Hookworms reproduce themselves daily, so if the infection is present, it should be fairly easy to detect. Also, because of their unique hook-like mouths, they are very easily identified. 

Treatment of Hookworms

In order to treat hookworms, a deworming medication will need to be given to your cat to expel the hookworms from their body. Panacur, which uses fenbendazole as an active ingredient, is one of the more common medications used to treat hookworms. Typically, doses will be given over a 3 to 5 day span to ensure complete elimination. At times, fenbendazole will cause vomiting. As the worms are washed out of the cat’s system, it is not uncommon to see them in the stool.

Prevention of Hookworms

Because hookworms can be fatal if not detected early, prevention is the best method to ensure the safety of your cat's life. Keeping your cat's environment sanitary and free of stagnate water will help to reduce the possibility of hookworm larvae. Also, by having your cat's stool checked annually, there is a better chance of early detection. While there is no vaccination against hookworms, there are some monthly medications available to help prevent them. They include:

  • All Wormer Tablets for Cats and Kittens
  • Profender Allwormer for Cats
  • Valucat Wormer Paste for Cats

Hookworms are a serious and potentially fatal infection for cats. Early detection and proper treatment can help to save your cat's life.