Hookworm in Cats
Hookworms are a kind of worm that lives in the digestive system of animals, and in the intestines of cats. They have a little hook-shaped mouth that attaches to the side of the intestine, and that's how they get their pleasant name.
How do cats get hook worms?
Cats get them from ingesting soil that contains tiny larva of the worms. The soil gets it from the feces of infested animals - eggs are in their stool, and larva hatch from them and are then in the dirt for a few weeks. They can also burrow through the cat's skin at that stage and get into their digestive system even without being eaten. Cats do not usually directly eat the soil, but they step in it, getting dirt on the pads of their paws, and they then ingest this when they are grooming themselves.
What are the symptoms in cats?
The cat may begin to lose weight, as the hookworms will be consuming nutrients that the cat would otherwise digest. It may start to have problems with the quality of the hair coat of the cat, as the cat would not be getting enough nutrients. Finally, the worms cause bleeding internally, so you may see dried up blood in the cat stool or in severe cases feline anemia. Your vet will be able to do a test on the cat's stool to see if hookworm eggs are in it.
What is the treatment?
You will need to get your cat dewormed. Deworming them is actually not that bad, and the medications your vet will give you generally get rid of the worms with no real problems. If you have a multiple cat household, you may need to deworm all your cats, or at the very least get them all tested. It is also a good idea to get the cats using separate litter boxes. Finally, you need to do something about the cat's environment - when a cat gets hookworms, it is a sign that they are infesting the soil of your yard or somewhere the cat is allowed to walk. You may need to keep your cat indoors or spray the yard to kill off the hookworms.
Can feline hook worms infest people or dogs?
YES. In dogs you will have pretty much the same problems as with your cat. In people it is more of a skin condition that the hookworms cause. They cannot infest any further than the outer layer of your skin, so you won't have the same symptoms as your cat. It is also pretty rare if you take sanitary precautions, as you have to directly contact moist earth or feces with your skin. However, you will still want to take precautions against this, and you should make sure that you keep the area around the cat's litterbox sanitized. Touching the feces is the way this would get transmitted to people. Most importantly, make sure that your children know not to play near the litter or touch it. Go get some plastic gloves to use when cleaning out the litterbox as well.
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