Worms Affecting Cats
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As endoparasites, worms live in the body of cats, with the fact that they feed themselves at the expense of their host testament to their parasitic nature. Worms feed off the nutrients that cats consume through food, meaning that our cats are then left with an insufficient quantity of said nutrients. Along with worms appearing in the faeces, one of the first indications of a worm infestation is unkempt fur and other signs of nutrient deficiency. When a severe worm infestation is afoot, the cat loses a great deal of weight and bloating can occur. In such cases, it is common that entire worms can be seen in the litter box or the cat's anus, not just the eggs. Caution is advised here, because worms can also be transmitted to humans, as well as causing severe damage to the cat's health.
Are worms always the same?
Worms aren't always the same – along with well-known roundworms and tapeworms, there are also heart and pulmonary worms, as well as single-celled parasites like giardia.
Roundworms are the most common endoparasites affecting cats, since they can be transmitted through the mother's milk. Hookworms, roundworms and nematodes are examples of this type of worm.
Tapeworms: When most people think of worms affecting cats, they often have tapeworms in mind. For instance, these include the fox tapeworm. Tapeworms are made up of several limbs that separate of their own accord and can be found in the faeces of your cat.
Heart worms live inside the cat's heart, where they gradually clog like blood vessels... What sounds like something from a sci-fi film is actually reality. These parasites can be transmitted by insect bites and mainly occur within the Mediterranean countries in Europe, as well as in many regions of North America.
Typical signs of pulmonary worms are a wheezing cough and nasal discharge, which is hardly surprising since the parasites live deep within the cat's lungs. Fully-grown worms lay their eggs there, with the larvae migrating from small pulmonary alveoli to the cat's digestive tract, where they are expelled with the faeces.
Giardia are single-celled intestinal parasites rather than worms. These microscopically small single cells are often to blame for cats suffering from diarrhoea. In addition, they can be transferred to humans.
Prevention and Treatment
Deworming unfortunately doesn't prevent the matter, but should only be prescribed by a vet after testing positive for worms. When it comes to minor worm infestations, cats do show signs and parasites can still be transmitted to humans. Small children or elderly people are particularly at risk. Regularly testing for worms and deworming treatments in case of infestation are therefore absolutely essential and should be part of the cat's annual preventive medical check-up.
How to deworm a cat?
It's not the end of the world if the test is positive: deworming treatments are absolutely reliable and available in many forms. Many vets have different treatments available as tablets, a paste or even drops that can be applied to the skin on the neck.
Nevertheless, caution is advised, since not all methods are effective against all types of worms and the dose should be adapted to the weight of the cat. Some worms resist certain medications. Hence, it can be an advantage to occasionally change the treatment used. It should also be explicitly permitted for cats. Dogs and cats don't just have a different metabolism, but dogs are also often bigger than the average cat, which has an impact upon the dosage to be applied. It's particularly important to bear in mind that the ingredients used in deworming treatments for dogs can cause severe and potentially fatal intoxication for cats. Self-medication can be deadly! Your vet can put together a sensible deworming plan tailor-made to your cat's age and lifestyle.
As you can see, worms are no rare occurrence for cats and no cause for shame. Timely diagnosis and early treatment are the key to recovery. Your vet can advise you regarding tests and potential deworming treatments!