Ring around the rosy isn’t fun with worms, and these parasites can cause serious harm to your pet and your family. The roundworm is a common pest that can try to make a new home inside the family cat, and we explain what you need to know.
What They Are
Roundworms and tapeworms are parasites that infect cats and kittens. Roundworms are string-like parasites that are typically white in color and can grow up to 6 inches long. Tapeworms are wider, resemble tape or ribbon and can grow much longer to 2 feet long. The parasites live in the intestines and feed off the food passing through the cat.
These parasites can cause loss of blood, competition for food resulting in malnutrition, diarrhea, constipation, stunted growth in kittens and dehydration, and can weaken the cat’s immune system.
Severe infections may add other symptoms, such as coughing or weight loss, and in some cases an extreme infestation can cause pneumonia or death.
Kittens are more at risk for death from an infection and can get the worms from their mother’s milk. There is also a possibility that the roundworms can lay eggs and multiply so large that the intestine is completely blocked. The eggs are released into the feces and wait to infect another animal.
Eggs can also hatch inside rodents or people until passed to a new host. Eggs are also commonly found in dirt that may have mixed with feces in the environment.
Tapeworms are attached at the head inside the intestines and grow in connected segments with eggs inside. These parasites are most commonly distributed by fleas picking it up from feces. Cats can swallow a flea during grooming and become infected. Certain stages of the worms might also leave them infectious but lying dormant for years.
[contextly_sidebar id="33ced3f6841e42374c5b6dbc5813c632"]Ascariasis is the term given to intestinal parasites in humans. This is typically transmitted by handling soil that may have been infected by feces of an infected animal or human. It is especially common for children to be exposed to ascariasis because they are more likely to play outside.
The canine version of this parasite can cause serious discomfort and blindness in some cases, so proper and regular hand washing is essential for children and adults.
Consult your veterinarian as soon as you acquire a cat for immunizations and required preventive treatments. Worming treatments are given once or twice a year, but more frequent treatments can reduce the risk of infection. Kittens require more frequent treatments, and your veterinarian can suggest a schedule for the remaining applications.
If your cat does have roundworms, medicine from your vet should be administered in two applications over a two-month period. Adult roundworms are affected by the medication, but eggs are larvae are not. The additional treatment at a later date allows time for those to mature and grow into adult worms. The second treatment should eliminate the roundworms, but continue to pay close attention to your cat for symptoms as a precaution.
Many over-the-counter products for home use kill different types of worms. While this fast and simple solution may be appealing, you may end up administering medication that is ineffective for the type of worms your cat is hosting. If that doesn’t work, you’ll end up at the vet anyway. Save yourself the time and expense and make the vet your first stop.
Treatment for parasites in humans is in drug form; you can get it from your doctor. The drugs usually remove the infection within a few days. Do not ingest animal treatments or any other form of parasite removal products. Not all products are designed for specific worms or species, and taking the wrong medication can cause injury or even death.
Proper hand washing, steering clear of feces and teaching children sanitary habits can help reduce the risk of being infected. Always have a schedule for your cat’s immunizations and treatments and stick to them. Your cat and your body will thank you.