June 24, 2017

Cat Worms… Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

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“All kittens are born with worms”, this is what the vet said to me while I was having a stray kitten treated for an upper respiratory infection. That little stray kitten turned out to be our Lydia, who originally made her way into our yard through the small holes (1¾ inch x 1¾ inch) in our cat fence. Apparently, our fence is “cat proof” but not “kitten proof”!

The Fecal Test… Eewww, Gross!
The vet recommended a fecal matter test for worms, which we promptly had performed on Lydia, and consequently, came back negative for any signs of worm eggs. The vet informed us that she is negative for worm eggs now, but that she probably has worms and it just indicates the eggs haven’t matured enough to show-up positive in the fecal test. This is when the vet said to me, “all kittens are born with worms” and they are passed to them from their mothers while in the uterus. Of course, for those who know me… you already know that the next thing I did was hit the internet to do some research. So, here is what I discovered about cat worms.

Thanks for the Worms Mom!
It has been reported that 95% of kittens contract worms in one way or another, either from inside the mother’s womb or while nursing on the mother’s milk. Even if a mother cat shows no signs of intestinal parasite infection, they may still have worms that lay dormant and get passed to their kittens. Also, if the mother has fleas or the kittens themselves have fleas they can be infected.

Apparently, there are several types of worms that can infect a cat. Here are the most common types of cat worms according to an article at WebMD.

Worms in Cats: An Infection of Intestinal Parasites
WebMD

Cat Worms Symptoms and TreatmentsWhat Are the Most Common Types of Worms in Cats?

  • Roundworms are the most common internal parasites in cats. Resembling spaghetti, adult worms are three to four inches long. There are several ways cats can become infected. Nursing kittens can get roundworms from an infected mother’s milk, while adult cats can acquire them by ingesting an infected rodent or the feces of an infected cat.
  • Hookworms are much smaller than roundworms-less than an inch long-and reside primarily in the small intestine. Because they feed on an animal’s blood, hookworms can cause life-threatening anemia, especially in kittens. Hookworm eggs are passed in the stool and hatch into larvae, and a cat can become infected either through ingestion or skin contact. Please note, hookworms are more common in dogs than in cats.
  • Long and flat, tapeworms are segmented parasites and range from 4 to 28 inches in length. An infestation can cause vomiting or weight loss. Cats acquire tapeworms by ingesting an intermediate host, like an infected flea or rodent. When cats are infected, tapeworm segments-actual pieces of the worm that resemble grains of rice-can often be seen on the fur around a cat’s hind end.

Unlike intestinal parasites, lungworms reside in the lungs of a cat. Most cats will not show any signs of having lungworms, but some can develop a cough. Snails and slugs are popular intermediate hosts of this type of parasite, but cats are usually infected after eating a bird or rodent who has ingested an intermediate host.

Read more: http://pets.webmd.com/cats/worms-cats-infection-intestinal-parasites

Signs and Symptoms of Cat Worms
Depending on the type and location of the parasitic worms that a cat has been infected, the signs and symptoms exhibited by the host cat will vary. Here are some clinical signs and symptoms associated with each type of cat worm. Note, some symptoms appear the same with different types of worms and this is not a comprehensive list.

Roundworms

  • Swollen belly (pot bellied)
  • Constantly hungry
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Dull or poor coat

Hookworms

  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Kittens, stunted growth

Tapeworms

  • Small white rice-like segments on fur near anus
  • Worm segments in cat’s feces
  • Constant hunger
  • Weight loss

Lungworms

  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing

Heartworms (less prevalent in cats)

  • Almost no symptoms
  • Diagnosis difficult 

How to Treat Parasitic Cat Worms
It’s very important that you don’t try to treat your cat for worms until you consult your veterinarian and have them tested for the type of parasitic worm infection before diagnosing and prescribing treatment. One solution to reducing the risk of your cat being infected with worms is to treat your cat properly for fleas. Cat World has an informative article on treatments for cat worms and a specific section on heartworms.

Part 1-Parasitic Worms
Cat World

Treatment of parasitic worms in cats:

“There are many excellent products on the market to treat the more common worms such as tapeworm, roundworm & hookworm including tablets & topical products which are applied to the back of the neck. Your veterinarian is the best person to speak to in regards to which product will suit your cat best.

There are no approved methods to treat heartworm in cats. The treatments which are available are themselves dangerous. A single dead worm can be fatal in cats as it can break away & cause a blockage of the pulmonary artery (pulmonary embolism).

 If there are no clinical symptoms your vet may decide not to treat the cat & wait for it to clear the parasite in its own time. As stated earlier, heartworms live for around 2-3 years in cats. If this is the chosen method, your veterinarian will want to monitor your cat every 6-12 months for signs of complications.

If the cat is displaying symptoms of heartworm disease supportive therapy may be recommended. Prednisone may be given to the cat to reduce the inflammation & reaction to the worm.

Cats with severe symptoms may require additional supportive therapy such as a bronchodilator to open the airways, oxygen therapy & intravenous fluids.

Adulticide treatment may be recommended for cats with clinical signs who are not responding to supportive care. Caparsolate is the drug used & kills the adult worms. This carries risks, as a dead worm can result in a pulmonary embolism. Around 1/3rd of cats receiving treatment will face life threatening complications as a result of the dying worms. Confinement will be necessary for a few weeks after treatment. Either way, if you choose to let nature take its course & hope that the worm lives out its lifespan within the cat, or if you use an adulticide there are risks. These must be weighed up by your veterinarian before a decision is made. Surgical removal of the worms has been used in some cases.”

Read more: http://www.cat-world.com.au/internal-parasites-in-cats

Cat Worms – Prevention Tips

  • If possible keep your cat indoors
  • Keep your cat away from other infected cats, rodents, fleas and feces
  • Keep your pets, home and yard flea free
  • Use good hygiene when cleaning litter or removing feces
  • Keep litter box clean from feces regularly
  • Use vet approved internal parasite treatment or preventative products

Personally, I take my cats to our regular veterinarian to be tested and treated for cat worms and internal parasites. I use a product recommended by my vet called, Revolution to maintain flea protection and it also contains a preventative dose of internal parasite treatment. We’ve had a lot of success with this product and my cats are flea free and free of cat worms.

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About Velita Livingston

Velita Livingston is the founder and editor of the Cat Lover's Diary blog. The site provides rich content with great advice on cat care tips and training, teaching you how to protect, pamper and live peacefully with your cat. Click here to watch the Cat Lover's Diary Movie created by Velita. It contains breathtaking images and heartwarming quotes... It will uplift and inspire you! Visit: www.CatLoversDiary.com to learn more about Velita or follow her on Twitter.