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C2005-12

Dear Christopher Cat

Abby and Smoky Joe, our indoor cats, crave grass, so we feed them grass from our yard. Now they both have hookworms, and our veterinarian said they probably got them from the grass. What is the story on hookworms?

Christopher Responds

Hookworms are double trouble because they cause problems for us pets and for you humans.

The hookworm’s mouth is surrounded by hooks, which secure the worm to our intestine while it drinks blood.

In youngsters, the blood loss can be fatal. But in healthy adult cats, hookworms cause inapparent infection or diarrhea.

You humans can be infected if you inadvertently ingest microscopic larvae or eggs when you handle the grass, or if the larvae penetrate your skin.

People’s symptoms are usually mild, although some humans develop itchy skin at the site of larval penetration, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headache and fatigue.

Hookworms are such prolific egg layers that an infected animal can spread millions of eggs on your property every day.

The eggs hatch and develop into infective larvae within a few days. In warm, moist, shady areas, larvae can survive for many weeks – just waiting for you to pick some grass for your cats.

Fortunately, the medications that kill hookworms are quite safe for us cats, and a monthly pill or topical liquid can prevent reinfection.

In the future, treat Abby and Smoky Joe to pest-free “cat grass” from the pet supply store, or grow your own indoors.

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