Even if you don't see worms in your
cat's stool, they could be an unwilling host to intestinal parasites
that threaten their health and can even sicken the people around them.
"Fecal examinations are an absolute
necessity for kittens and any pet that has diarrhea, vomiting, or other
Which Cats Are Most at Risk?
Two types of intestinal worms most frequently infect cats: roundworms and tapeworms.
Roundworms are primarily a problem for kittens.
They usually pick up these parasites from their mother by suckling milk
that contains roundworm larvae. Adult cats can also become infected
when they eat a small amount of dirt containing roundworm eggs or eat
an infected prey animal (e.g., a rodent).
Tapeworms tend to be found in adult cats or older kittens.
Cats get tapeworms either by ingesting a flea (e.g., through the grooming
process) or a prey animal (e.g., a rodent) that contains tapeworm larvae.
In either case, mature tapeworms in a cat's intestinal tract shed
pieces of their body that can be seen by the naked eye. They usually
look like squished pieces of rice that can be found, often still moving,
around a cat's anus or in her bedding.
Cats can also get hookworms and whipworms, but do so much less frequently than dogs.
Why Owners Should Be Concerned
Intestinal worms can make cats very
sick. Roundworms can cause diarrhea, vomiting, a bloated abdomen,
weight loss and poor growth, but some infected animals show no clinical
signs at all. Hookworms can also cause diarrhea and vomiting,
but because they suck their host's blood at their attachment site
in the intestinal tract, they can also lead to a potentially life-threatening
anemia. Tapeworms may cause anal irritation and "scooting"
when the worm segments wiggle around a cat's hind end.
People can also become sick when they
are infected with feline intestinal parasites. The biggest problem
revolves around roundworm eggs that are inadvertently eaten and then
hatch producing larvae that can migrate throughout the body. Hookworm
larvae in the environment can also invade the body through the skin.
Keeping your cat free of intestinal parasites and disposing of her feces
daily protects both feline and human health.
Veterinary and Home Care
There are two ways deal with the threat
of feline intestinal parasites. The first is through the use of
fecal examinations. A veterinarian will look at a sample of feces
that has been mixed with a particular type of solution that causes worm
eggs to float to the surface. This helps diagnose exactly which
parasites are present, including some like Coccidia and Giardia
that are not technically worms and are not killed by traditional dewormers.
Your vet can then pick exactly the right pet medication to treat your cat.
Fecal examinations are an absolute
necessity for kittens and any pet that has diarrhea, vomiting or other
gastrointestinal symptoms. The downside of fecal examinations
is that they are sometimes falsely negative, meaning that no eggs are
seen even when parasites are present. For this reason, your veterinarian
may run several fecal examinations over a period of a few days or elect
to deworm even if the tests are negative.
Pet owners and veterinarians may also
elect to deworm without running a fecal examination. The positives
of this approach include simplicity and the fact that cats that would
have a false negative fecal exam are still dewormed. The negative
side is that some cats that don't need to be dewormed will be and
some parasites that are not killed by traditional dewormers may go undiagnosed.
If you need to pick out a dewormer yourself, use one that kills the parasites
most likely to be infecting your cat. Some types of heartworm preventatives also help protect against intestinal parasites.
Look at the label to see if this is the case. Whichever dewormer you choose, make sure to follow the instructions
closely. Many products require multiple doses to completely eradicate
the parasites. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian which product
is right for your cat.
The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition.
This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not
be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of
your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.