Cat worms are tenacious parasites, which are considered as one of the most common health problem that affects all cats at some stage in their life. Parasites are organisms that derive nutrients by feeding on or within other animals. Almost all cats acquire intestinal worms either before or shortly after birth and can cause damage to your cat’s health.
Types of cat worms:
There are several types of worms that can affect your cat’s health however; the most common parasites include roundworms, lungworms, stomach worms, tapeworms, hookworms and heartworms.
These worms can infect and create several health problems in your cat.
1. Round worms:
Roundworm infections in cats are caused by a parasite known as ascaridoid nematodes. The two species of ascaridoid nematodes that affect cats include Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina, in which T.cati is found commonly in cats. They are round and long, usually 3 to 5 inches in length. Roundworms are intestinal parasites and can cause serious health problems in your cats such as vomiting, diarrhoea, pneumonia and intestinal obstruction.
The three ways in which your cats become infected with roundworm are
a. By nursing from a mother cat that was already infected with roundworm during its late pregnancy.
b. By eating cat worm eggs from the soil
c. By eating a prey animal that is carrying developing roundworms.
Treating roundworm infection in cats does not kill the roundworms. Instead, paralyses the worms so that they are passed through in the cat’s feces.
The two lungworm species that affects cat are the aelurostrongylus abstrusus and capillaria aerophila. These parasitic nemodes are cat worms that infect the respiratory tract and by affecting the tissues in the airways thus causing an inflammatory reaction. They are very thin and only about 1 cm long.
Symptoms of lungworm infection in cats include persistent and dry cough, weight loss, lethargy, wheezing, fever, intolerance to exercise, and anal discharge. Anti-parasitic medications are usually prescribed by veterinarians to treat lungworm infections. For severe conditions, an anti-inflammatory may also be prescribed along with it. Should pneumonia or bacterial bronchitis develop, antibiotics are also prescribed.
Tapeworms are flat and segmented, and are white in color which can grow up to 20 cm long. The most common species of tape worm that affects most cat is the dipylidium caninum. This type of cat worms is found in the small intestine of the cats.
Tapeworm affected cats do not typically show any symptoms. When symptoms start occcurring, they may include poor coat quality, weight loss, stomach upset, diarrhoeas, irritability, lethargy, increased appetite with little weight gain, and anal itching. Eliminating tapeworms require deworming with an anti-parasitic medication and also flea control to prevent further infections.
Another common intestinal parasite that affects cat is the hookworm. The specific hookworm species that infects cats are ancylostoma tubaeforme and ancylostoma ceylanicum. They are tiny structures, and unlike other type of cat worms, hookworms are not seen through naked eyes. Hookworm infection can become fatal, especially in kittens.
Early hookworm infestation includes lesions in between the toes and in the bottom of the feet, where the larvae have entered the skin. Signs of cough may be present, if the larvae have entered through the cat’s lungs. Other symptoms of this type of cat worms are constipation, diarrhoea, dark tarry stool, poor appetite, unhealthy appearance, and pale ears, lips, or nostrils. If not treated immediately, hookworm infestation may lead to death.
Treatment for this type of cat worm includes deworming the cat with suitable medication to kill or expel the worms.
Heartworm parasites may be fatal for cats. Heartworms are a type of roundworms and are carried by mosquitos, which transmits them when they bite the animal. Although, the heartworm species, dirofilara immitis is not more common in cats, when infected they tend to cause serious health problems in them by infecting their heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Symptoms of this type of cat worms include coughing, interittent vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, breathing difficulties, and gagging. Preventive medicines are available for cats, which are administered once per month to prevent the larvae from developing into adult heartworms.
There is no approved treatment available for heartworms that have reached adult stage. Surgical extraction of heartworm is done in some cases. Prednisone id prescribed by the veterinarian, when the heartworms have affected the cat’s lungs and blood vessels. Survival is very difficult for cats that have been affected with adult heartworms.
Cat worms are a common problem in cats, but can be prevented when proper care is taken. It all begins with good sanitation procedures. They include cleaning litter box with a disinfectant, daily removal of feces, avoiding raw meat diet, avoiding overcrowded conditions, and controlling intermediate hosts like fleas, rodents, and ticks Cat worm control is the key to a healthier cat.