Taking care of our life companions, called pets, is a very important thing to do. They are animals and are supposed to resist certain things, but that doesn’t mean they are invincible and can eat anything in whatever state it may be. Like us, they may suffer complications if something harmful is consumed.
Depending on the type of worm, cats get infected by eating an infected organism or food (fleas or rodents), by licking a contaminated area of themselves, mother’s milk, or larvae penetrating the skin. The best prevention is keeping an indoor, flea-free clean environment.
A parasite lives in or at another creature’s expense to survive. Gastrointestinal parasitism is a problem in cats. The prevalence percentage can go as high as 45 percent. That is a considerable number, which makes it a serious but frequent condition. Luckily, most common illnesses have common treatments and prevention.
To pay more consideration to the importance of this condition, we have first to get to know all the details possible. Intestinal worms aren’t just a simple thing that can cause your cat discomfort. They produce mild to serious health risks to them.
Understanding how your cat can be exposed to parasites and how to treat them is vital to help minimize the risk. Just like us, prevention is vital, but if they got infected, then early discovery is the next important step.
Type of worms that cats can get
- Roundworms (Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina): White or cream, spaghetti-like, and long round bodies. These are some of the most popular intestinal parasites found in both dogs and cats. They are usually found in stool or soil and can enter the cat’s body orally. How it works is that cats step on dropped excrement filled with worm eggs and then lick themselves. The parasite enters the body that way. Kittens have double the risk because of a process called Trans-mammary or milk-borne infection. Immature roundworms called larvae are present in mommy cat mammary glands. The larvae are passed to the kittens in the milk during nursing. They can live in us humans too. Symptoms in adult cats may not be obvious. Still, kittens can be seriously affected with diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and poor coat condition. A potbelly and slow growth may also occur.
- Hookworms (Uncinaria stenocephala and Ancylostoma tubaeforme): These worms latch onto your pet’s intestine and feed on blood. Their size is less than half an inch long, slender, thread-like. Because of their size, they normally are not noticeable in the feces of infected animals. Hookworms are capable of lasting as long as your cat. It is a less common parasite than roundworms. Still, adult cats usually become infected in a very similar way by larvae penetrating their skin or by ingestion. Indoor cats can get sick by eating baby hookworms out of infected rodents, birds, lizards, or cockroaches. Once the larvae enter the cat, they move to the lungs and then to the intestines to grow into adult worms. Symptoms in adult cats may be diarrhea, anemia, vomiting, weight loss, or black, tarry stools.
- Tapeworms (Taenia taeniaeformis and Dipylidium caninum: Tapeworms are segmented worms that subsist in the small intestine of infected dogs and cats. They can sometimes be spotted in the cat’s feces, on the cat’s bed, or the hair around the anus of the cat resembling tiny, moving rice grains. Their bodies resemble a ribbon or tape because of their round and flattened shape, consisting of a little head connected to a series of segments loaded with eggs. They move by increasing and decreasing in length when alive. There is no need to panic if your cat gets tapeworms. Only in rare cases does it develop into a significant disease. Infection usually occurs by eating infected rodents or ingesting infected fleas while grooming. Modern medicines are very successful in treating this infection, but reinfection is normal. Keeping control of pests in the environment may reduce the risk of infection. Symptoms in cats are consistent vomiting, tapeworm segments around the anus, and weight loss.
- Whipworms resemble whips. They have a long, thin back end and a shorter, thicker front end. Whipworms are not a very common parasite of cats in the United States. They infect the large intestine of cats but do not cause severe disease.
- Stomach Worms (Ollanulus tricuspis and Physalopte): These can live in the cat’s stomach. Both are very rare in the United States and are more prevalent in free-roaming cats or multiple cat facilities. Infection occurs by ingesting the parasite-laden vomitus of another feline or eating an organism with the worm. Worms are attached to the stomach of a cockroach or cricket. Then a cat eats that insect or another animal that has eaten it (a transport host), such as a mouse, and gets infected. Symptoms are loss of appetite and vomiting. Microscopic detection is needed to see parasite eggs in the stool or vomitus. Some infected felines may not show any signs of disease. Effective treatment is unknown; Prevention is the safest way of treatment.
- Lungworm: Rodents, lizards, slugs, or snails can also be a source of lungworms. These are tiny worms that live within your cat’s lungs and damage them.
- Heartworm: A mosquito transmits these deadly worms. They are large and live in your cat’s heart and major vessels.
Can house cats get worms?
Yes. Indoor cats can get worms. That is related to ingesting small animals like rodents, lizards, or insects used as transport hosts.
How can you tell if your feline has worms?
Not all cats present symptoms, but the most common are vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tarry feces, weight loss, distended abdomen, skin lesions, generally poor body condition, a dull coat, and worms around the cat’s feces, bed, or anus.
How do I get rid of my cat’s worms?
Deworming your cat is suggested to help protect them from the likely damaging effects of parasites. Various powerful dewormers can help your cat. Ask your veterinarian.
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Preventive measures are always the best bet, and Parasite control begins with proper sanitation methods:
- Practice good hygiene.
- Use a flea or tick treatment according to your veterinarian’s advice.
- Only feed your cat cooked or prepared meat. Avoiding diets with raw meats
- Reduce exposure to full-traffic pet areas.
- Clean up pet feces frequently.
- Washing the litter box with a disinfectant.
- Visit your vet annually for checkups.
- Controlling pests or intermediate hosts (fleas, ticks, and rodents).
- Use deworming medication according to your vet’s recommendations.
- Regular stool analysis.
- Ask your vet about parasite infection to understand the signs of worm infection.
Parasite reinfections are very frequent. Following all the directions from your veterinarian will make it less likely to have them.
Veterinary treatment plans and diagnosis are the only solutions if your cat has already been infected with worms.
Keeping your cat healthy demands a lot of attention in many aspects. Nutrition is one of the most significant things you have to observe in your cat because they are hunters. Even if they have a plate filled with the most expensive and nutritious food, they will hunt, and there lies the big problem. Some of the prey are intermediate hosts that carry the worms and pass them to your pet. Intestines, hearts, and lungs can be affected depending on the type of parasite ingested. A lot of those parasites can infect humans, too, and that’s even worse. So, keep the cat’s environment clean and pest-free, and you will minimize the risk of worm infection and, therefore, your health.
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Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.