Worms in Cats
There is a wide variety of types of worms that can infect your cat. Common symptoms of most intestinal parasites are diarrhea, changes in appetite, lethargy and weight loss. If the worms grow into adults, they can be visible in your cat’s feces or in the fur around your cat’s rear end. When you bring your cat to the veterinarian they usually will ask you to bring in a fecal sample. The purpose of the fecal sample is to check it for worm eggs under the microscope. The veterinarian or vet tech will take a small sample of feces and mix it with a sugar solution, then let it rest in a test tube for about 10 minutes. Any eggs in the stool will float to the top and stick to a microscope slide cover so the vet can then examine the slide under the microscope. The species of worm can be identified by the shape, size and color of the egg. If your cat does have worms most types are easily treated with some oral medication from your vet.
The most common type of worm in kittens and cats is roundworm, also known as ascarids. Roundworms are very hardy and can live in soil for months or years! Adult worms present in the cat’s feces look like spaghetti. Sometimes roundworms migrate up the GI tract causing your cat to cough. Kittens with bloated potbellies are usually loaded with Roundworms. Humans can contract Roundworms from handling infected litterboxes.
The most common type of worm in adult cats is the tapeworm. Tapeworm larva live in the intestines of fleas and lice so when a cat has fleas and ingests a flea while grooming, the tapeworm larva are introduced to the cat’s system. The body of a tapeworm is segmented so when the adult worms appear in feces they look like rice. Humans can also get Tapeworms from accidentally swallowing a flea.
Dogs are more likely to pick up hookworms than cats, but cats are still susceptible. Hookworms are similar to Roundworms, but smaller and they live in the small intestines. Serious Hookworm infestations can lead to anemia because they feed off the cat’s blood.
Not surprisingly, these worms infect the cat’s lungs. The usual host for lungworms are snails and slugs, but lungworms work their way up the food chain when a bird eats a slug then a cat eats the bird. Since the worms take root in the lungs, coughing is a symptom.
Contracted from the bite of a mosquito, heartworm was always a condition thought to affect dogs, but cases of feline heartworm are becoming more common as well. Since cats are not naturals hosts for heartworm, the worms do not tend to live out a complete life cycle in the cat or spread to the heart. Instead they create lung problems. Heartworm in cats is diagnosed through a serious of blood tests and a thorough exam. There is no treatment for heartworm in cats, but in many cases cats are able to fight it off.
While not actually a worm, Coccidia is another intestinal parasite that can infect cats and cause major diarrhea.
Cats can get worms from sharing a living environment with infected animals, from raw meat (including eating mice) and even from fleas. Regular veterinary exams will help protect your cat from serious parasite infection because your vet will be able to detect any problems before they get too large. As you can see, there are many different types of worms, so it is best to let your vet determine treatment and select the proper deworming medication for your cat.