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Health & care

Everything you need to know about cat worms

Date created: 17 11 2017

Young or old, indoors or outdoors, any cat can be affected by worms at any time. You can help your buddy out by getting to know these unwelcome visitors a little better, finding out how to spot the symptoms of a worm infestation and by regular worming...

Cat worms: what are we talking about?
By ‘worms’, we mean an assortment of parasites that have a habit of finding a home in your buddy’s stomach or intestine. All types can lead to serious health issues, they’re easily passed on - and some can cause problems for humans, too.

Fortunately, with the right de-worming treatment, stopping an outbreak in its tracks is usually pretty simple.

Here’s a closer look at the main culprits…

Roundworms
These are the little nasties you’re most likely to come across. They make their home in the intestine and their eggs find their way into the wider environment through passing in the faeces. So a cat can ‘catch’ roundworms by eating these eggs directly or by eating rodents, birds and earthworms that have the eggs inside them.

Kittens are especially prone to becoming infected by a particular type of roundworm (Toxicara cati). The larvae of these worms can be present in a mother-cat’s mammary glands - so members of the litter can become infected through their mother’s milk.

Tapeworms
Cats are most likely to get tapeworms through swallowing fleas - so you may find yourself having to deal with this alongside a flea infestation. These long, thin worms stick to the intestinal lining of your cat. Tapeworm segments are often seen in the fur around the anus and look like grains of rice.

Hookworms
These tiny translucent parasites are invisible to the naked eye. They make their home in the small intestine and lung and are contracted through coming into contact with eggs and larvae through contaminated dirt. The hookworm will feed off the cat’s blood and the worse the infestation gets, the more likely it is that the cat will develop anaemia. Healthy adult cats can usually fend off a hookworm infestation without showing any symptoms. For kittens, this is a lot harder; they’re much more susceptible to developing anaemia - and this can be fatal if not sorted quickly.

Humans can get hookworms, too. Walk barefoot through an infected area and the worm can actually burrow into your skin and find its way into your digestive tract - so watch your step!

Stomach worms
Although less common than tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms, these parasites can arise  - especially if a few cats share the same home. Less than half an inch long, they live in the stomach and are only very rarely visible in the cat’s stools. Most stomach worm infestations are caused by a cat eating the vomit of another infected animal.

How do I know if my cat has worms?
With roundworms, you might see small white strands in the stools. Your buddy might also be lacking in energy, and suffering from regular vomiting or diarrhoea. Cats with roundworm can also develop a pot belly.

Tapeworms feast on the nutrients a cat ingests - basically taking away the benefit of its food. So they might be eating the same amount, or more, but still losing weight. You might also see tapeworm segments in the stools (they look like long strands of rice).

Hookworm symptoms are most likely to be found in kittens rather than adult cats. These can include blood in the stool, diarrhoea, lack of energy and a reluctance to be touched around the abdomen.

Prevention: Why worming makes sense
Obviously, neither you nor your cat wants to have to deal with a worm infestation. So a worm prevention program is one of the best things you can do to keep these parasites at bay.

Your vet will advise you on this; exactly what you’ll need will depend on things like the age and breed of your cat, whether it’s a multi-cat household, what types of parasites occur where you live and any pre-existing health issues.

Worm prevention starts right at the start of your cat’s life. You should assume that your kitten is at risk of being infected with roundworm through their mother’s milk - so they should be treated for it every couple of week up until 8 weeks of age. After that, it’s usually a case of monthly treatments up to the age of 6 months - and for adult cats, treatments once every 1-3 months.

Like hookworm, roundworm can be transmitted to humans. In rare cases, this can cause serious problems including blindness, with children being most at risk; another reason why it’s vital to keep on top of treatments.

Tapeworms are most often seen in older cats, so the common recommendation is to treat adult cats every 1-3 months. Treatment for kittens might also be a good idea; where there’s a flea infestation, for instance - or where another cat in the household has been affected.

Worming treatments come in different forms including tablets, drops, paste and injections - and it’s also possible to get hold of combined solutions that can address multiple types of worm in a single course.

But don’t just guess and grab a solution from the shelf. It’s important to check with your vet - who should be able to point you to the safest and most suitable treatments available for your buddy.

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