Both indoor and outdoor cats can become infected with worms. Pets contract worms from eating feces, contaminated soil, rodents and fleas. Kittens can get them from their mother while in utero or via their milk while nursing. Sometimes, they can be infected with parasites without showing symptoms. Parasites can be harmful to your cat’s health, and severe infections of parasites can be fatal. Not only do they affect your cat but parasitic worms can also pose a risk to your family’s health as well. Regular deworming helps maintain your cat and your family’s health.
What are some types of parasites found in cats?
Internal parasites that can be found in cats are roundworms, heartworms, tapeworms and hookworms.
If my cat has worms, what symptoms should I look for?
Roundworms can cause a pot-bellied appearance, abdominal discomfort, depressed appetite, dull hair coat, vomiting and diarrhea and poor growth. You may notice adult roundworms in your cat’s stool or their vomit. Although, kittens and adult cats with a small number of worms may not show clinical signs of infection.
Hookworms can cause anemia, the presence of digested blood in the stool (black, tar-like appearance), poor hair coat and weight loss. Skin irritations and itching, especially of the paws, can also be signs of a heavily infested environment since larvae burrow into and along the skin.
Tapeworms can cause debilitation or weight loss in heavy infestations. You may notice the presence of tapeworms segments in your cat’s stool or vomit. Tapeworms segments (proglottids) look like grains of cooked white rice or cucumber seeds. Occasionally, a cat can also scoot or drag its anus across the ground or carpet due to irritation caused by proglottids.
Heartworm is hard to diagnose as there are no specific clinical signs. The most common symptoms are sudden onset of coughing and rapid breathing, but these can be signs caused by several other diseases as well.
Are worms dangerous to humans?
Yes, worms can be a health risk for humans as well. People can swallow roundworm eggs, and the larvae can invade the tissues and become encysted in various organs. Liver problems may result from roundworm larval migration or larvae can migrate into the eye causing blindness.
Hookworms do not infect humans internally. However, the tiny larvae can burrow into human skin causing a disease called cutaneous larval migrans a.k.a. ground itch. Tapeworms can also cause health risks for humans.
What is the deworming schedule?
All cats benefit from regular deworming. Your cat’s lifestyle will determine how frequently they may need to be dewormed. Kittens are given an oral deworming medication 2 weeks apart, usually starting at 8 weeks of age. It can be done during their first vaccination series or it can be done sooner depending on the type of medication. Outdoor cats may need more frequent treatment for internal parasites. Periodic, routine deworming may be appropriate for cats at risk of re-infection. Prompt treatment for worms should be given when any internal parasites are suspected/detected. Fecal flotations to screen for internal parasites are recommended annually. Contact your veterinarian about the most appropriate parasite control for your cat.
Are there any side effects of deworming medication?
There are many deworming medications available and are usually safe when administered at recommended doses. Your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate medication that is suitable for your cat. Depending on the type of medication and internal parasites your cat may have, side effects may occur such as worms in your pet’s stool.