Cats can get a variety of intestinal parasites. Some of these are often referred to as “worms.” Outdoor cats and indoor/outdoor cats who are exposed to soil where other animals defecate are at risk for infection. While worms are usually easily treated, cats who do not receive regular veterinary care, especially kittens, can develop complications from internal parasites.
Types of parasites
The most common type of worm found in cats is roundworm. Adult worms look like spaghetti and are three to four inches long. Cats can become infected by eating infected prey or eating the stool of an infected cats. Kittens can acquire the worms through their infected mother’s milk.
Tapeworms are 4 to 28 inches long. Their segments look like grains of rice, which is what cat guardians most often see in an infected cat’s stool, around the cat’s anus or on bedding. Cats become infected by eating infected prey or a flea.
Hookworms are more common in dogs than in cats, but can be life threatening in kittens because they feed on the animal’s blood, which can lead to anemia if left untreated. Cats become infected through ingestion or skin contact.
Lungworms reside in the lungs rather than the intestines. Most cats will not show any symptoms, but some may develop a cough. Cats become infected by eating prey that has ingested an intermediate host such as a slug or snail.
Symptoms of parasite infection
Symptoms vary depending on the type of worm, but include diarrhea, visible worms in the stool, bloated abdomen, vomiting, weight loss, coughing or trouble breathing. Most worms are diagnosed by testing a fecal sample.
Treatment of parasites
Different types of worms will require different treatment. Your vet will prescribe the appropriate deworming medication after properly diagnosing your cat. Do not use over the counter dewormers as some can be toxic to cats.
Some parasites are zoonotic
Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms are zoonotic infections, which means that they can be transmitted from cat to human and vice versa.
Keep your cat indoors to prevent exposure to infected prey, fleas and feces. Annual fecal exams, even for indoor cats, can ensure that your cat is parasite free. Refer to this article for information about non-toxic, natural flea control: http://consciouscat.net/2016/03/28/natural-non-toxic-flea-control/
This article was previously published on Answers.com with the title Worms in Cats and How to Treat Them and is republished with permission.