Hookworms in cats - Symptoms and treatment

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Hookworms are a group of blood-sucking intestinal parasites that can affect cats. They are known as "Hook worms " due to the characteristic teeth of its large mouth capsule that allows them to hook into the intestine of the feline.

Cats become parasitized when they ingest, penetrate through the skin or pass through the milk to kittens the L3 larva of these worms, developing to their adult stage located in the small intestine of the feline. Adult hookworms cause symptoms of chronic traumatic enteritis with blood loss, due to the damage caused by their eating style. Diagnosis is made using parasitological techniques and treatment is based on correcting possible anemia and electrolyte and nutritional imbalances, as well as eliminating parasites with anthelmintic drugs. In this AnimalWised article we will address parasitization by Hookworms in Cats, Their Symptoms and Treatment.

You may also be interested in: Hookworms in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment Index
  1. What is hookworm in cats?
  2. Causes of hookworm in cats
  3. Symptoms of feline hookworm
  4. Diagnosis of feline hookworm
  5. Treatment of feline hookworms
  6. Prevention of feline hookworm

What is hookworm in cats?

Feline hookworm is a parasitic disease caused by hookworms, helminth worms belonging to the Ancylostomatidae family and to the genus Ancylostoma. Cats in particular can be affected by Ancylostoma tubaeforme, the Ancylostoma braziliense and the Hookworm stenocephala.

They are parasitic worms that are characterized by having a very large mouth capsule in relation to the rest of its body, it also has teeth, which allows them to cause great damage to the intestinal mucosa when they get caught. The disease is characterized by the development of a ulcerative traumatic enteritis with characteristic clinical signs of an anemic process due to loss of blood and a progressive weakening and loss of weight.

Life cycle of feline hookworm

Gravid females shed their eggs in the animal's feces the one they have affected, where they evolve from larva 1 to larva 3 (L1-L3) in about a week. The optimum temperature for the development of these larvae is between 20 and 30 ºC.

Causes of hookworm in cats

Cats will become infected when that L3 enters your body. This larva can enter through the following transmission routes:

  • Percutaneous: through hairless areas.
  • Oral: where they migrate via the blood or lymphatic route to the lung, muscle or intestine. They evolve into adult worms in 2-3 weeks.
  • Breastmilk: through the milk of a parasitized mother to her kittens.

Transplacental transmission of parasites has not been seen in cats, as occurs in hookworm in dogs..

Pathogenesis of hookworm in cats

In the case of cutaneous transmission, L3 penetrates through an area of ​​the cat's skin where they cause itchy dermatitis. They then migrate to the lung to reach the bloodstream and reach the intestine, its final location. If there are many parasites it can be produced damage to the lung alveoli and even pneumonia.

In the intestine they carry out their pathogenic action due to their blood-sucking habits and the inflammatory reaction they produce. These parasites they catch on the intestinal mucosa with its large toothed mouth causing a traumatic intestinal inflammation of the ulcerative type with ingestion of blood, which causes the cat to lose blood little by little.

In addition, hookworms attach themselves to various sites, forming ulcers and releasing proteolytic substances with which they digest the attached tissue. They also segregate anticoagulant substances so that the blood does not clot, which causes that the blood does not stop and that constant loss can leave the cats anemic and very weak.

Symptoms of feline hookworm

The symptoms of feline hookworm are the consequence of the intestinal traumatic inflammatory process, being able to find the following clinical signs and organic lesions in cats affected by hookworms:

  • Dermatitis.
  • Itching.
  • Weight loss in adults or decreased growth in kittens.
  • Thickening of the intestinal mucosa.
  • Congestion and bleeding in the intestine.
  • Mesenteric lymph node infarction
  • Intestinal ulcers.
  • Bloody diarrhea.
  • Dehydration.
  • Electrolyte imbalances.
  • Nutritional deficits.
  • Hypoproteinemia.
  • Progressive anemia.
  • Pale mucous membranes.
  • Tachycardia.
  • Tachypnea.
  • Petechiae in the alveoli.

Parasitized kittens are the most susceptible, where parasitization can be very debilitating and deadly.

Diagnosis of feline hookworm

Diagnosis is achieved with parasitological tests rather than with the symptoms that the cat presents, since it is more nonspecific and can be due to various diseases or feline infections. However, it is useful to suspect parasitization and to pass parasitological tests that will detect hookworms, specifically:

  • Stool analysis (stool) using the flotation technique and then searching for the eggs present in the feline stool sample with the microscope.
  • Stool culture (stool culture) so that the eggs evolve to L3 and later they will be identified with the Baermann technique.

If your cat is sick and you suspect it may be hookworm, we recommend that you take him to the vet as soon as possible.

Treatment of feline hookworms

Faced with a cat weakened by this parasitization, the first thing is to stabilize it with adequate nutrition, fluid therapy to correct electrolyte imbalances or dehydration and assess whether a blood transfusion is necessary.

The determination of the cat blood group before a transfusion, as the transfusion reaction can be devastating if not performed properly.

Specific treatment includes the use of internal antiparasitics to end parasitization by these worms. Specifically, the following drugs can be used:

  • Macrocyclic lactones, such as milbemycin, ivermectin, selamectin, or moxidectin.
  • Benzimidazoles, such as fenbendazole, mebendazole, oxibendazole, or febantel.
  • Emodepsida.
  • Levamisole.

Prevention of feline hookworm

The way to prevent this parasite in cats is through deworming thereof. In this other article we explain how often I should deworm my cat.

In the case of a pregnant kitten, It must be dewormed at the end of its gestation with effective anthelmintics to reduce the transmission via galactogens through milk, as well as during its lactation. If so, prevention in kittens begins at 6 weeks, repeating every 2 weeks until they reach week 12 of life, from there every two or three months a internal and external deworming to prevent internal and external parasites.

¿Hookworms from cats spread to humans?

Yes, feline hookworms are zoonotic, are transmitted to people. Ancylostoma braziliense is the most responsible for "cutaneous larva migrans " in people, when larva 3 of this parasite enters the skin of a person who is in contact with a parasitized cat or with soil or soil contaminated by feces.

Once on the skin, it is responsible for causing mild dermatitis with itching, erythema, linear, tortuous or snake-shaped lesions that are fine reddish-brown and motile on the skin that are very itchy..

However, hookworms are not the only roundworms in cats that infect humans. In this other article, we talk about the diseases transmitted by cats and their symptoms.

This article is merely informative, at AnimalWised.com we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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