Hookworms are an intestinal parasite that feed off of the blood of your cat or dog. The symptoms of an infection can vary from subtle to overt, depending upon your pet’s age and the number of hookworms in your pet’s body.
Puppies and Kittens
Because hookworms can be transmitted during pregnancy or through a mother’s breast milk, puppies and kittens can be infected with hookworms from day one. The first symptoms will start to show at about two weeks of age in your pet, and it’s important that you take action immediately, otherwise these little worms can cause your newborn pet a lot of trouble.
Hookworms can cause malabsorption, protein deficiencies, dehydration, and diarrhea, so aside from these symptoms, infected puppies and kittens will often have stunted growth, less energy, and lower weight. Additionally, affected puppies and kittens will have blood in their stool, which will appear in a dark reddish brown or even black color. Be on the look out for these signs, as the infection can be fatal if you and your vet don’t take immediate action.
Adult Dogs and Cats
If your pet becomes infected with hookworms later in life, there’s a chance the parasite entered through the skin. Look for signs of dermatitis and pruritus; while these two conditions can have a wide array of causes, hookworm dermatitis almost always appears on the pads of the paws and disappears within five days.
After infection through the skin or ingestion of hookworms, internal symptoms can appear after 13-17 days. If your dog or cat only has a few hookworms, they may have no symptoms. Still, if they’re harboring more of this nasty worm, then they’ll show heavier symptoms.
Hookworms release an anticoagulant when they dig into the intestines, which can cause anemia in some cats and dogs. This little worm also detaches and reattaches to a new spot on your pet’s intestine every few hours. This means that your pet’s intestines will be bleeding in many spots, and that their bodies will not be able to clot blood as well. This results in bloody or black stool and diarrhea. Adult dogs and cats with larger numbers of hookworms may also begin to lose weight, become lethargic, and show greater dehydration.
Pregnant Dogs and Cats
While scientists still aren’t sure if cats can pass hookworms to their kittens in utero and through breastmilk, it’s important that you screen any dog or cat for worms before breeding. Hookworms can live dormant in your adult pet’s lungs, and a few can live in the intestines with no symptoms. Testing and treatment are relatively straightforward, and the effects on an adorable litter of puppies or kittens can be devastating.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.