cat12The threat of parasites and worms is a reality for your cat. Affecting particular breeds as well as cats that have access to the outdoors, parasites and worms can cause a range of problems from small ailments, like an upset stomach, to bigger problems, such as death in extreme cases. The most common type of parasites and worms that affect cats are hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. The effects of worms are particularly pervasive since they can lay dormant in your cat’s system for quite some time before physical symptoms manifest. If your cat is experiencing rapid and random weight loss, diarrhea that isn’t remedied via diet modification, anemia, scratching of the anal opening, unexplained vomiting, severe bad breath that can’t be cured by regular brushing, or severe coughing, then it is recommended that you take your cat to a veterinarian because it is a very real possibility that your cat is experiencing some sort of parasitic invasion.

Why is a stool sample required? Some parasites are very evident, with adult roundworm and tapeworm being easily visible in stools. However, if they are observable to the naked human eye, then your cat is likely experiencing advanced stages of sickness. A stool sample allows us to analyze feces to check for worms as well as for disconnected segments. A stool sample is also required to discover eggs, which tend to be microscopic in size.

Learning about the common parasites and worms that affect your cats

Whipworms tend to affect dogs, but it is not uncommon for cats to be infected by whipworms. Resembling small pieces of thread, whipworms tend to occupy your cat’s intestine. Whipworms do not lay many eggs, so several stool samples need to be examined to determine if whipworms are the potential culprit. Symptoms such as stool that is encased in mucus or extreme weight loss are usually attributed to whipworm infestation. Fortunately, whipworms rarely cause death.

Roundworms tend to affect puppies, especially those living in close quarters. Puppies that come from puppy mills and cat shops tend to be inundated with this parasite. Roundworms tend to be very common in puppies and kittens due to the way they are spread. The roundworm larvae can migrate between the mother and the developing fetus. They can also be spread during nursing time. Once the larvae migrate, they grow up to 5-inches long in the cat’s intestine. There they start to absorb nutrients from the intestinal tract, and then they will start laying eggs. Roundworms can lay up to 1 million eggs over the span of a couple of weeks. Due to this number, many kittens and puppies with advanced stages of infestation tend to have large bellies and mid sections. Severe infestations can cause a blockage, killing the host. Not only are puppies and kittens in danger of roundworm infestation, but also adults can be exposed as well.

Tapeworms come from fleas, which puts cats in danger. Cats that have access to the outdoors, especially outdoor areas where tall grass grows, are all exposed to fleas that can be infected with tapeworms. Tapeworms look like several pieces of tape secured together with distinct, tiny, brick-like sections. Although tapeworms can grow up to 5 to 6 inches in length, the first visible signs of tapeworm infestations are usually tiny segments attached to the fur around the cat’s anus. Resembling small pieces of rice, these tapeworm segments move when agitated. The segments also contain tapeworm eggs. Tapeworm infestations tend to be aggressive, and most over-the-counter medications cannot help. It is important that you visit a veterinarian as soon as possible

Preventing parasites and worms in your cats

The key to a long canine and feline life is prevention. Make sure that your cat visits a veterinarian on a regular basis. Most seemingly healthy cats can go with yearly visits, but outdoor cats should be examined at least twice a year. Dewormers that are formulated with active ingredients like piperazine work by paralyzing parasites and worms, halting their assault on your cat’s intestinal tract. Stronger dewormers can be given to you by your veterinarian. To reduce your cat’s exposure to fleas that may have parasites clinging to them, it is recommended that you do not allow your cat to wander in marshes and areas with tall grass. These places tend to be breeding grounds for parasites, worms, and bacteria that can infect your cat.

Even though most cat owners follow this rule, it is still important to be able to pinpoint symptoms. For outdoor cats, consider converting them to indoor cats. Outdoor cats are exposed to the elements, predators, aggressive cats, and parasites. An outdoor cat generally lives a much shorter life than an indoor cat.