Ancylostomiasis in Cats
Ancylostoma hookworms are parasites that can invade, inhabit, and live in the small intestines of animals. The specific hookworms that infects cats are the Ancylostoma ceylanicum, and the Ancylostoma tubaeforme worms. In their fourth-stage larvae, these blood-sucking parasites can cause anemia and inflammation of the small intestine. Active worms will leave bite sites, and those sites may continue to seep blood at the site of the lesion. Internal infestation can also result in intestinal blood loss. Hookworm infestation can be fatal, especially in kittens. As such, owners need to be vigilant for signs of hookworms in their cats.
The time between the initial infestation of this parasite and the time it becomes communicable to other cats is from two to four weeks.
Early symptoms include lesions on the bottoms of the feet and in between the toes, where the hookworm has entered the skin. If hookworm larvae gets into the lungs through ingestion, there may be coughing. Other symptoms that may present include dark and tarry stool, diarrhea, and constipation. A cat infected with hookworm will have an unhealthy appearance and a poor appetite; the linings of its nostrils, lips, and ears will be pale. Complications can come about suddenly, and may result in death if your cat is not immediately treated.
Conversely, an older cat might be carrying a small number of worms and not show symptoms, where a young animal would be sickened by it.
Hookworm infestations are always caused by ingestion, or by larval penetration of the skin, and are generally found in contaminated water or contaminated environments. The hookworm is shed through the feces, and passed into dirt, where it typically migrates into the body through the feet when an animal walks on the infected soil, sand, or litter. Kittens will usually acquire this condition through their mother's milk.
Hookworms cannot be seen with the naked eye. Your veterinarian will need to conduct a microscopic examination of a stool specimen; the presence of eggs will confirm the diagnosis. This examination will also help your veterinarian to determine which course of treatment to prescribe, which can depend heavily on the age, weight, and condition of your cat. If some of the kittens in a litter have died, hookworms should be suspected.