Parasites are one of the main causes of problems in our pets. Cats, for example, might contain a number of ‘freeloaders’ inside their body at any given point in time. Kittens are probably the most at risk with parasites which is why it is important to deworm them as early as possible. It is important to take all the necessary health precautions when it comes to your beloved feline, especially during the early point of their life wherein their immune systems are not as strong.
Telltale Signs that Your Cat has Worm/Parasites
Several intestinal parasites are actually quite common and do not pose any sort of risk to your cat. For example, tapeworms and roundworms absorb nutrient through their skin, unlike the hookworm which latches on to the intestine causing damage over time. In fact, your pet definitely has some worms inside of them right now but since they are at a manageable rate, your pet’s health is not affected at all.
Cats can pretty much shrug off tapeworm and roundworm infestation as long as the parasite count does not reach dangerously high levels. However, if the intestinal parasite infestation is at an abnormally high rate, your cat will show symptoms to indicate the problem. Below are ways on how to tell if your cat is suffering from intestinal parasite infestation.
- The cat’s stool has some traces of blood on it.
- Excessively licks their hindquarter.
- Develops a potbelly.
- Small, rice-like pieces are found under the tail base.
- Weight loss.
- Worms are visible in their vomit.
If you find any of these signs apply to your cat then I suggest you take the necessary steps and start treatment as soon as possible to avoid further degradation of health.
The Types of Worms that can Infect Cats
Let us start with the two most common types of worms that can affect cats. Chances are you are probably familiar with these two: the roundworm and tapeworm.
This is the most common type to be found inside the intestines of cats. There are two types of roundworms to contend with: the Toxascaris leinina and the Toxocara cati. This parasite is passed to another host via ingestion.
Roundworm eggs are passed through the feces and can actually infect hosts even after months or years of hibernation. Roundworm can also be passed by rodents to cats if they are eaten and are carriers of this parasite. Roundworms also have an extremely high chance of infecting kittens from birth.
As the name suggests, these parasites have a flat tape-like appearance. The eggs of tapeworms have a rice-like appearance and can be found around the anus or tail base of the infected cats. There are two types of tapeworm that can infect your cat: the Dipylidium caninum and the Taenia taeniaeformis.
First one, Dipylidium can be passed to cat by fleas if the cat ingests them during grooming. It is safe to assume that any cat with fleas could be infected by the Dipylidium tapeworm. The other tapeworm type, Taenia taeniaeformis, mostly infects cats that are active hunters. This is because this type of tapeworm is primarily passed if the cat eats a rodent which is infected by it.
Now, let us move on to worms that can actually pose some serious risks to your cat’s health. The hookworm is extremely small and is almost invisible to the naked eye. There are a variety of hookworms that can infect cats. Unfortunately, the most common cases of hookworm infestation involve the most dangerous ones, specifically, the Ancylostoma tubaeforme.
Hookworms can infect cats by ingesting the larva. Hookworm eggs (found in feces of cats infected by the parasite) tend to latch to the ground, waiting for a cat to pass by letting it attach itself to its fur. It would then be ingested by the cat during grooming.
The hookworm larva and egg thrive in regions that are warm and humid. However, places that are dry and cold will immediately kill the eggs. The main cause of concern with the hookworm is the fact that they latch onto the sensitive internal intestine tissues. They also have a habit of moving around which increases the amount of damage they can do in the intestine.
Whipworms are known to deliver severe damage to the cat’s internal organs in a short amount of time. Adult whipworms can grow up to ¼ inch long and burrows deep in the colon and cecum of the cat. Whipworm infestation is extremely serious and cats infected by this parasite will need immediate medical care. The silver lining here is that whipworms can only be found in remote parts of the world.
As the name implies, this parasitic worm attaches itself to the heart and pulmonary arteries. This parasite is transmitted by mosquito bites. The heartworm takes roughly 6 months to reach the circulatory system. While treatable, it is vital that you treat the infection before it manages to reach the circulatory system. Cases wherein heartworms manage to reach the circulatory system are highly fatal.
Causes of Worm Infection in Cats
There are many variables that can affect the risk of your cat being infected by parasites. While it is virtually impossible to avoid parasite infection, the best thing we can do is to take the necessary safety precautions and ensure that the parasite stays at a manageable level.
In order for your cat to avoid being infected by dangerous parasites, it is best to understand what are the factors that increase the risk. Below are the most common ways your cat can contract parasite infections:
- Getting into contact with infected soil.
- Drinking milk from the infected mother during nursery.
- Digesting prey that is infected by the parasite.
- Transferred via mosquito and flea bites.
- Transferred through contact with other infected animals.
- Coming into contact with infected vomit or feces.
Parasitic worm infection in cats is not something to balk at. It is best to give your feline friend all the vaccinations recommended by the veterinarian as well as discussing the deworming process. If your cat displays any sort of strange behavior or symptoms, it is best not to take this lightly and consult with an expert to know whether medical care will be needed.
Treatments for Parasite Infection in Cats
The good news you can take away here is that cat worm infections are completely treatable as long as the infection was diagnosed early. The veterinarian can give you a prescription for several types of deworming medications as well as additional administration protocols. The medication will be based on what type of parasite has infected your cat so don’t just administer any kind of deworming product.
Tapeworms – the medication used will break up the tapeworm into segments making it easy for the digestive system to flush them out of the body.
Roundworms – the medication will force the roundworm to detach from the intestines which allows them to be expelled outside the body along with the stool.
Hookworms – treatment for this parasite will take longer. The medication that will be given to you is designed to eliminate adult hookworms only. A second treatment procedure will be scheduled within the next month to ensure that the eggs and larvae left behind are eliminated as well.
Ringworms – while not technically a worm, ringworms can cause a lot of headaches and can be quite painful. Treatment will involve antifungal medications, lime-sulfur dips, and shaving of the infected area. Treatment can be quite a painful process for cats so it is best to treat ringworm infection during the early stages.
Whipworms – whipworm infection is considered to be extremely dangerous and can be fatal to cats if left untreated. Treatment of this infection will have you giving prescribed medication to your cat in 3 to 4-week intervals. You will also need to give treatment every 3 or 4 months in order to prevent infection from returning.
Heartworms – treatment will depend on the stage of infection. You might be ordered to give your cat oral medication or the veterinarian might need to inject the medicine. You will also need to give your cat antibiotics as well as changes in their diet. Late stage infection might call for the need to administer maintenance heart medications for your cat.
When it comes to parasitic infection, I highly recommend that you first consult with a vet before buying any kind of OTC deworming medications. Knowing what type of worm has infected your cat will help in formulating the best possible treatment process and guarantee full recovery.
Cat Worm Infection Prevention Tips
Don’t start despairing and acting all paranoid when it comes to your cat’s health though. As I have said before, all worm infections are treatable as long as it is diagnosed during its early stages. Even late-stage infection can be treated but might take a while and will require a more expensive list of medications. The good news is that you can take the necessary safety precautions to significantly lower the risk of infection in your beloved pet cat.
- Here are some safety tips you can do to help lower worm infection from affecting your pet cat:
- Give your kitten all the recommended treatments starting at 3 weeks old.
- Give the proper treatment to both mother and their litter to ensure that worms won’t slip by during medical examinations.
- Give worm prevention medication to your cat throughout the year or as instructed by your veterinarian.
- Have your cat undergo fecal examinations several times a year.
- Cleanliness will always be appreciated and reduce the risk of parasitic infection.
- Immediately dispose of feces using sanitary gloves and place them in biodegradable sealable bags.
- Proper hygiene in both cats and humans are important.
Intestinal worms have been around for as long as there are animals. While we can’t completely eradicate worm infections in our cats, we can take the vital steps to ensure it won’t cause any harm to their health. Remember, it is always best to consult with a vet whenever you notice any of the symptoms above. That is the one guaranteed way our feline companion stays healthy and safe.