As a pet owner, you need to take the threat of worms in your kitten/cat very seriously. This is because worms in cats are a dangerous intestinal parasite and can cause a host of problems for your pet. Some kittens and cats don’t show signs of the symptoms though, and this can go undetected even though the pet is infected. This is still a problem because the feline parasitic worms can affect you as well.
Now you can’t prevent your cat from getting worms if she is exposed to them because there is no preventative treatment. But there are products which will kill the worms and eliminate them.
The thing to remember about oral cat dewormers and other worming solutions for cats is that they are effective, but it is not a prolonged solution to worms in cats, which means that your feline is not given immunity to parasites after being dewormed.
You should always have your kitten or cat professionally checked by a veterinarian for worms. Your vet has tests specifically for worms in cats.
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How to Deal with Worms in Cats
What are the symptoms of worms in cats?
There are some worms in cats which more common. Symptoms of worms depend upon the type of parasite involved and where the infection is located will tell you about the parasite that is causing the problems.
Some common symptoms of worms in cats are:
- Diarrhea and/or bloody stool
- Noticeable weight loss
- Vomiting that isn’t a hairball
- Trouble with breathing
- Worms visible either in the feces, or near cat’s anus
- A potbellied appearance in the abdomen giving your kitten or adult cat a round or bloated appearance.
As far as the worms that infect cats and kittens, they can get tapeworms from feces of an infected cat, or accidentally eating an infected flea or by eating an infested rodent.
“Cats can also get heartworms after being bitten by an infected mosquito, although they are not as susceptible to infection as dogs.” – FDA (source)
Also, a mother cat can also pass roundworms onto her kittens that are nursing. Hookworms are passed through the eggs which hatch into larvae and cats can become infected by contact or ingestion.
Make sure to frequently check for symptoms of worms in cats. If you notice any of the above symptoms, take your pet to the vet immediately.
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More on the common types of worms in cats
There are several types of worms which can be found in infested kittens/cats. However, the most common are these three: roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms. All of them can make your pet sick and cause a potentially serious health issue in your kitten or cat.
“Internal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms, affect the gastrointestinal tract and can be wormlike or single-celled microscopic organisms called protozoans,” says Dr. Sina Marsilio, DVM at Texas Veterinary Medicine College (source)
These internal parasites are the most common ones that your cat can pick up. Toxocars cati is one kind, and Toxascaris leonina is the other one. With these worms, the eggs are passed through the cat’s feces which then can be eaten by another cat from grooming or contaminated food causing worms.
Or, if a cat eats a rodent which is infected a worm infection can be passed to the cat. The worms look like spaghetti with the adult worms being three to four inches long.
In addition, kittens which are nursing from affected cat get the worms from the mother cat’s milk. This happens because even if a mother cat has been infected and cured, some of the immature larvae can remain dormant in some of the mother cat’s tissues in her body.
These don’t harm the cat, but when she gives birth, the larvae will move to the mammary glands because the pregnancy activates them. The kittens are infected then through the milk from nursing and can be infected before they are even born regardless of ingesting the mother’s milk.
Hookworms reside mostly in the small intestine and are less than an inch long. These worms are especially life threatening because they feed on blood. They attach to the surface of the small intestine and can cause damage to the lining additionally.
This can result in bleeding, weight loss and anemia. Your cat can become infected here by accidently eating the eggs of the worm. Your pet can also become infected from eating an infected rodent. Too, your pet can become infected if the larvae burrows through her skin if your cat is exposed to them.
Tapeworms in cats
A tapeworm is a parasite which is segmented and about 4 to 28 inches in length. When a segment is mature, it contains eggs which are released from the end of the tapeworm and then spread through the feces.
The segments look like grains of rice and can sometimes be seen around your cat’s hind end. So, when you cat lays down for a nap, her cat bed (or yours) can become infested with these parasites because the segments with eggs were on the feline’s body and fall on bedding.
To finish a tapeworm’s life cycle, each tapeworm requires an intermediate host. This host eats the eggs and becomes infected by eating the host. The intermediate host depends upon the species of the tapeworm. The most common tapeworms are Dipylidium caninum and Taenia taeniaeformis.
Here’s what you need to know about these two common tapeworms in cats:
Dipylidium caninum is transmitted by fleas to cats. The larvae of the immature flea ingest the eggs of the tapeworm. Then the infection is passed to your cat when your cat swallows an infected flea when your pet is grooming. So, if your cat has fleas, you can assume that Dipylidium caninum is also present.
Taenia taeniaeformis shows up when your cat eats mice and rodents. The rodents have acquired the fleas from the surrounding environment. So, this kind of tapeworm is common in cats that hunt.
A worm infestation in your cat or kitten should be taken seriously. No matter how careful you are in caring for your cat, the chances of your pet getting worms can be high. Cat dewormers are usually effective, but a consultation with a vet is a must.
When to deworm a cat or kitten
Also note the below:
- For kittens that do have roundworms, they should be treated every 2 to three weeks of age until they are eight weeks of age. After that, they will need to be treated once a month until they are six months of age.
- For adult cats that are older than 6 months, your cat needs to be treated every 1-3 months.
For tapeworm treatment, it’s needed usually only in older cats. Kittens would only need dewormed for tapeworms if the kitten has had fleas.
In these cases:
- Your adult cat should be older than 6 months old, and the product needs to be effective against roundworms and tapeworms.
- If your kitten has a flea infestation, then a product should be used that’s effective against Dipylidium caninum.
Be sure to use the right dewormer for cats for the correct worm infestation. Also, be sure to use the right product for your kitten or cat’s age range, because not every cat dewormer is designed for every cat age. Your vet will let you know better.
Can worms in cats infest people?
Now roundworms can build up where a cat defecates laying eggs. If a person or a child ingests these eggs by not washing hands after handling a kitten, for example, and then eating, it can cause serious health problems too.
Because when roundworms eggs are ingested, the larva migrate through body tissues. This causes inflammation wherever they go. If the larva ends up in the liver or any other abdominal organs, it can produce inflammation and fever which are hard to diagnose. If the larva enters a person’s eye, the retina can be damaged as well with a loss of vision.
In addition, the cat coccidia, Toxoplasma is especially dangerous to pregnant women. If a pregnant woman was never exposed to this parasite before; or if her resistance to it is low, she can develop toxoplasmosis. This can cause medical problems with her unborn child and affect the child severely.
Always use proper hygiene when cleaning your cat’s litter boxes. Also, be sure that children who are handling kittens which haven’t been dewormed wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water. It is a good practice to do regardless.
Medications for treating worms in cats and kittens
First, never attempt to treat your cat for worms yourself. Each medication kills a specific worm and over the counter medications can be harmful when administered for the wrong worm because your cat is still infected.
Your vet’s office is the proper place to find out what kind of parasite is present and to get the proper medication to treat it. You can find some great cat dewormers here and also see what other pet owners are saying in terms of their effectiveness.
Below are some commonly used cat dewormers that have been prove to be effective to treating worms in cats:
- Panacur (Intervet): This contains fenbendazole. It’s used for gastrointestinal roundworms, Taenia tapeworms and lungworms. It can be used in pregnant cats and in kittens from 2 weeks old and on. It comes in liquid, paste, granules and tablets.
- Drontal cat (Bayer): This mediation is active against roundworms and contains pyrantel and praziquantel which is active against tapeworm. It’s in tablet form.
- Droncit injection (Bayer): This medication contains praziquantel and is used against tapeworms only.
- Droncit spot-on (Bayer): This medication contains praziquantel and is used against tapeworms only.
- Stronghold spot-on (Pfizer): This medication contains selamectin. It is used for roundworm only. But it’s also used against ear mites, fleas and mange.
- Milbemax for cats and Milbemax for small cats and kittens (Novartis): This medication contains milbemycin oxime which is effective against roundworms. It additionally contains praziquantel which is used against tapeworms. It comes in small tablets which are easier to use to dose your cat or kitten.
- Profender spot-on (Bayer): This medication treats roundworm, tapeworm and hookworm.
It’s generally recommended that when it comes to dewormers for cats, that you only use any type of medication for parasites in cats after consulting with your vet. Medication for worms bought over the counter can be harmful to your cat or kitten on occasion.
How to prevent worms in cats
There are some ways to help prevent an infestation of worms in cat or kitten.
One is to keep your cat indoors. This will help your cat or kitten to avoid exposure to rodents, or a flea infested cat or infested feces. Also, be sure to keep your home, pets and yard as flea free as possible. In addition, practice good hygiene when changing litter boxes or handling feces. Wear gloves and dispose of stool often in litter boxes.
Ask your vet about recommending a prevention program so that your cat or kitten won’t develop internal parasites from being exposed to them. If your cat is plagued with a particular parasite regularly, then your vet may suggest one product over another where your cat receives regular doses.
When giving medication such as a cat dewormer to your cat or kitten, be sure to read and follow the directions on the label exactly to the letter. The correct dosage will rid your cat or kitten of parasitic pests. Too much medication can harm them also.
Your cat or kitten can’t prevent getting parasites; it’s up to you to do this for them.
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