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Types of Worms in Cats

A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Treating Infestations

Dealing with the various types of worms in cats is a common concern for pet owners. These internal parasites can affect cats of all ages and breeds, potentially leading to health complications if left untreated. Often, these troublesome parasites go unnoticed, as not all worms exhibit obvious signs until the infestation is well underway. The spread of these worms in cats can occur through microscopic eggs, larvae, and 'intermediate host' insects. Let us look at the most common types of worms in cats, their symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures to equip cat parents with the knowledge to protect their beloved feline companions.

What are Worms in Cats?

Worms in cats are internal parasites that infest their digestive system, heart, or lungs, feeding on the cat's nutrients. These parasites come in various forms, each with its unique life cycle, influencing their location in the cat's system, mode of transmission, and resulting symptoms.

Types of Worms in Cats

Roundworms in Cats

These are one of the common most worms found in cats. Roundworms in cats freely swim in the digestive system, stealing nutrients from partially digested food. They do not attach to intestinal walls. After hatching in the intestines, the larvae migrate to other tissues before maturing into adult worms. Transmission to newborn kittens can occur through infested breast milk or from contaminated stool, soil, or prey. Symptoms include diarrhoea, dull hair, weight loss, worms in poop.

Tapeworms in Cats

Tapeworms, another commonly prevalent worm that infest cats, typically resides in the small intestines, attaching themselves to the intestinal lining. They feed on digesting food and rarely migrate to other organs. The most common species, Dipylidium caninum, requires an intermediate host - the flea for its development. Transmission occurs when tapeworm eggs are ingested by a flea larva, which upon maturation into an adult flea then becomes capable of transmitting tapeworms. Cats can get infested with tapeworms most commonly, by ingesting a tapeworm-infested flea during grooming. Symptoms include white tapeworm segments in the poop or in-&-around the pet’s bedding, anal itching or rubbing the anal portion along a carpet or floor , weight loss, and occasional vomiting.

Hookworms in Cats

Hookworms anchor themselves to the intestinal wall, feeding on the cat's blood. Some larvae can migrate to the lungs through the bloodstream, expelled through coughing and swallowed back to the intestines. Transmission can occur through infected stool, prey animals, or contaminated soil. Symptoms include lethargy, weight loss, pale gums, anaemia, heavy breathing, and bloody or dark stools.

Heartworms in Cats

Heartworms occupy the lungs, heart, and blood vessels, posing severe threats due to potential obstruction of these vital organs.. Transmitted through mosquito bites, heartworms can affect indoor cats. Symptoms include weight loss, reduced appetite, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, nosebleeds, aversion to exercise, and a swollen abdomen.

Lungworms in Cats

Lungworms can be found in respiratory airways or lungs, causing symptoms such as poor appetite, fever, weight loss, coughing, wheezing, sneezing, and heavy breathing. Transmission to cats occurs by consumption of infested prey. Prompt treatment is crucial to prevent serious damage to the respiratory system.

Diagnosing Worms in Cats

While pet owners can watch for symptoms and risk factors, only a licensed veterinarian can conclusively diagnose the different types of worms in cats. Diagnosis involves clinical assessment and laboratory testing, including  microscopic examination of faecal samples and blood testing. Chest X-rays or endoscopy may further aid in diagnosing heartworm  infestations.

Are Worms in Cats Life Threatening?

The potential for serious symptoms and fatal consequences exists with the parasites mentioned above. Factors such as age, overall health, worm burden, infestation duration, and worm species influence the danger. Kittens, older cats, and immune-compromised cats are particularly vulnerable. Prolonged infestations with a substantial worm burden often lead to more complications. Some parasites, like heartworm, have a high potential to be life-threatening, even for otherwise healthy cats.

Deworming Kittens

It is essential to deworm kittens because they can acquire parasites either before birth or during nursing. Due to their developing immune systems, kittens are more susceptible to worm infestations and are prone to showing serious symptoms. Typically, the deworming process entails administering oral treatment according to a prescribed schedule spanning several weeks. The schedule ideally recommended is a once a month deworming until 6 months of age.

Give Heartworm Preventives to Your Pet

There is currently no approved anti-heartworm medication for treating infected cats. Medication can manage symptoms, but preventive measures are crucial. Preventives can kill larval-stage heartworms but not adult heartworms. Regular administration within a scheduled interval is necessary to kill larval heartworms before reaching adulthood.

Check & Treat External Parasites Promptly

Tapeworms in cats are transmitted through infected fleas. Prevent exposure to fleas and promptly treat flea infestations. Ticks also pose a threat, harbouring bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Cats are less susceptible to tick-borne diseases but not entirely immune.

Regular Wellness Exams

Wellness exams play a vital role in preventing illnesses, including parasites. Early identification of worms in cats allows for prompt treatment, preventing complications.
Consult your vet for a high quality dewormer to periodically administer to your cat. For cats that have outdoor access and demonstrate hunting behaviour, deworming every 1 to 2 months is recommended. For indoor cats, it is best to deworm at least once every 3 months.
Given how tricky it can be to administer medication to cats, ask your vet for a suitable option that is easier to administer. A small-sized, extremely palatable dewormer tablet is a good option.

To Conclude

Understanding the signs of worms in cats and addressing various types of worms in cats is crucial for pet owners. Staying informed, taking preventive measures, and seeking prompt veterinary help for the right cat worm treatment can ensure the health and happiness of our feline friends.