Hookworms are rarely a problem for cats in the UK, but the parasite is more common in other parts of the world, where kittens in particular are most at risk.
Hookworms are parasites that attach themselves to the intestinal walls and feed off the animal’s blood and tissue fluid. Thankfully, hookworms that affect cats aren’t present in the UK, but it’s worth knowing that UK dogs can be affected by hookworms.
How do cats become infected?
The faeces of an infected cat contains hookworm eggs, which hatch into larvae that can survive in the soil for months. Other cats can either eat these larvae (for example if soil gets onto their paws and they groom themselves), or the larvae can migrate into the cat’s paws directly from the soil before making their way through the cat’s body to the intestine. There they mature into adult hookworms and the cycle starts all over again. Kittens can also become infected with hookworm from their mother’s milk.
The signs of hookworms in cats can vary. If cats carry low numbers of worms they may not show any signs at all, although higher worm numbers can be associated with anaemia (because the worms feed on blood), blood in the stool, poor hair coat and weight loss. These signs tend to be more common in affected kittens than adult cats. In heavy infestations skin irritation in the feet can be seen, as hookworm larvae can invade the skin in this region.
How is hookworm diagnosed?
Vets can diagnose hookworm by looking for hookworm eggs in cat poop under a microscope.
Although this particular worm does not affect UK cats, they are still at risk from other more common worms, including round and tapeworm, so regular worming for cats is advisable.
Did you know…
An American man claims that travelling to Africa and infecting himself with fifty hookworms cured him of his debilitating asthma and hay fever. There are scientific studies that support his claims, but he’s currently wanted by the US authorities for selling the ‘cure’ to other people with allergies.
To find out more about worms in cats, click here.