It is fairly common for a cat to become infected with internal parasites at some point in its lifetime. Most of these worms live in the intestines and feed on the digesting food that is found in the gut or attach to the gut wall and feed on the animal’s blood.
Internal parasites in cats can be acquired in many different ways:
- The fetus can be infected by larvae passing through the placenta of the mother;
- kittens can be infected by larvae transferred in the mother’s milk;
- By ingesting parasite eggs from the environment, for example, other animals’ feces, catching and eating small rodents and birds, or by ingesting fleas while grooming. Some parasites, like hookworms, can penetrate a cat’s skin.
Because these worms come in all shapes and sizes, a fecal analysis may be recommended by your veterinarian in order to determine the exact nature of the intestinal parasite affecting your pet.
What are some internal cat parasites?
Roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms are the most common intestinal parasites of cats. Cats that hunt or are exposed to fleas are also likely to become infected with tapeworms.
What are worm infestation symptoms in cats?
Many cats with a low burden of parasites have little or no clinical signs. Evidence of some types of intestinal worm infections, such as tapeworms, can sometimes be seen in the stool or on the fur around the anus. In these cases usually, small segments of the tapeworms can be seen. However, the majority of intestinal parasite eggs and larvae cannot be seen with the naked eye. Infection of internal parasites can result in poor body condition, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and in more severe cases anemia, liver disease, kidney disease, or neurological disorders.
Do worm affect humans?
Some of the worms can be passed on to people. This is referred to as zoonosis. The risk of infection is higher in children due to the amount of time spent outdoors where animals defecate. Young children are also more likely to put their dirty hands in their mouths after playing in the dirt, grass or sand that might be contaminated. Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are also at greater risk. When zoonotic roundworms and hookworms infect humans, the parasites rarely mature in the intestine; rather, the larval worms migrate in the host’s tissues (larva migrants).
People become infected with roundworms by accidentally ingesting eggs or larvae that are shed in the feces of infected animals. People can become infected with hookworms through direct skin contact with hookworm larvae in soil contaminated with the feces of infected animals.
When roundworm eggs are accidentally ingested, they hatch, and infective-stage larvae migrate through the human liver, lungs, and other organs and tissues where they produce damage and induce allergic responses. Infection may leave children with permanent visual or neurologic damage. Infection with hookworms causes a cutaneous larva migrants syndrome, which is characterized by progressive, intensely itchy, lesions in the skin.
What is the deworming schedule?
Kittens and their dams are the most susceptible to intestinal parasite infection and thus they are likely to harbour the most worms and produce the most infective-stage larvae. Therefore, they require a more intensive deworming schedule compared to an adult cat. The recommended deworming schedule for kittens is to begin deworming at 6 weeks of age and repeat deworming at 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age. Nursing dams should also be treated concurrently. Kittens should then be dewormed every month until 6 months of age. For adult cats, it is recommended that cats receive monthly dewormers in combination with their flea and heartworm prevention during the summer months, as well as have an annual fecal examination. For all outdoor cats, it is also recommended that they are dewormed 1-2 times a year for tapeworms.
Any deworming medication side effects?
Deworming products are quite safe and rarely have side effects when used at the correct dose. The most common side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, and hair loss at the site of application if a topical product is used. If you notice any unusual behaviours in your cat after administering a dewormer, please contact your veterinarian.