My Cat Has Worms! Gastrointestinal Parasites in Felines
I hate to tell you this but most cats will suffer from gastrointestinal parasites (also known as worms) at some point during their lives. In fact, worms are very common and TREATABLE…so there is no need to be alarmed! There are many ways that cats can contract worms including flea and mosquito bites as well as infected mice. Kittens too can develop worms (they get them when they nurse, through their mother's milk). Even if your feline is an indoor only pet all it takes is for one worm infected mosquito to get into the house and BAM…the next thing you know, your kitty has a worm problem.
If caught and killed early, worms will not harm your cat or kitten. However, if a feline that has worms goes untreated, he or she will eventually develop serious health problems. Once the worm population that is living inside your pet reaches a certain number clinical signs of illness will become apparent. Worms can cause problems such as loss of appetite (which in turn will cause weight loss), diarrhea, blood and or mucus in your cat's stool and anemia.
Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasites to be found in not only cats but dogs as well. If you think your pet has worms, it is very important that you take them to the veterinarian and have them treated (it is important to note that kittens must be at least three to four weeks old before they can safely start their first de-worming cycle). So what exactly is a de-wormer? Well, there are several medications that your veterinarian may use in order to rid your cat of gastrointestinal parasites. Unfortunately, there is not one medication that treats all worm types, therefore, your vet will have to run a test or two to figure out the best and most effective medication to use. De-worming medications are, in fact, poison so it is very important that you work closely with your vet so that you know what to expect and what side effects to be on the look-out for. The most common side effects include diarrhea and vomiting.
Ways to Control Worms
So you have gotten rid of your cat's worm problem…good for you! Before you get too excited, it is important to note that the possibility of reinfestation is great. To keep worms under control you must destroy the eggs and or larvae BEFORE they reinfest your pretty puss. One way to keep the worms away is to keep your cat's living space clean and dry. It is also important to control the things that infect your cat in the first place so fleas, mosquitos and rodents must be shown the door and not invited back! Other critters that can possibly infect your cat with worms include roaches, lice, waterbugs and beetles. For many reasons, cats should be kept as indoor only pets…especially if you wish to control worms. Cats that are allowed to wander outdoors have a much greater risk of contracting diseases and parasites than those that live safely inside a home (AT ALL TIMES!).
Litter box maintenance plays a very important role when it comes to worm control. It is very important that you scoop the poop (and urine) that is in your cat's box EVERYDAY (a thorough cleaning should be done every week or two – use a bleach and hot water solution and be sure to dry the box completely before re-filling with litter).
Though the thought of your cat being infested with worms is not a pretty one, the good news is that worms can be treated, killed and controlled. If you suspect that your kitty is infested with worms take him or her to the veterinarian and get a diagnosis. It is very important to figure out what type of worm your cat has so the correct treatment can be prescribed. Caring for your kitten or cat is easy….even when it comes to yucky parasites such as worms. The important thing is for you to be pro-active and take simple steps to keep the worms away (scoop the poop, keep the litter box clean and keep your cat indoors!). Here's to a happy, healthy and worm-free cat!