When you own a cat, it is really important for you to know about the various different types of worms that can affect cats. Worms in cats can lead to some pretty serious health issues, so prevention and treatment is of the utmost importance. It is a little known fact that humans can also be affected by these worms, which makes it even more important for you to keep your cat free of worms.
First, we will look at some of the most common signs and symptoms of worms in cats. Just remember, there are several types, and not all types of worms will have similar symptoms. This is why a trip to the vet is ideal when worms are suspected. Here are symptoms you will want to be aware of:
- weight loss
- visible worms in feces
- bloody stool
- respiratory issues
The Different Types of Worms in Cats
Roundworms (also known as Nematoda) are probably the most common type of intestinal parasite that affects cats. They are typically anywhere from 2 to 4 inches in length, and are usually tan or white in appearance. They also have a spaghetti like appearance to them. If your cat has been affected with roundworms, a few of the signs that you might notice include vomiting and diarrhea. Cats that have a heavy roundworm infestation may actually pass whole roundworms in their feces. In extreme cases, it can even lead to intestinal blockages.
What you may not know is that roundworms often affect kittens while they are in utero. They may be born already infected with roundworms, or they may become infected when nursing. It is important to treat kittens for worms early on.
- Roundworms can grow to be up to 6 inches in length.
- Roundworm eggs can live for years on end and still be infectious.
Hookworms are not as common as roundworms, but they do occur. This type of worm actually sucks your cat’s blood inside of their intestines. They can cause anemia, and in severe cases can be fatal. While you may see roundworms in your cat’s stool, hookworms are typically not passed through their feces. That means that it takes a fecal test performed by your veterinarian to really diagnose hookworms. They will also be able to tell you the severity of the condition.
Typically, the larvae enters through the cat’s skin into their blood and to their lungs, and then they are coughed up and swallowed. They get their name from the hook like mouth parts, which they use to hook onto the inside of your cat’s intestines.
- Hookworms, like roundworms, can also travel through a mother cat’s milk.
- Female hookworms can produce up to 10,000 eggs each day.
Tapeworms (also known as Cestoda) look a lot like rice, and are often found in up to a 1/2 inch long segment, and they are white in color. Often times, they can be seen in your cat’s fecal matter. They live inside of your cat’s small intestines and they take the nutrients that your cat needs. Typically, cats are infected with tapeworms when they eat a flea that has been infected. These parasites then attach themselves to the inside of the intestinal wall with hook like attachments and begin to suck the vital nutrients from your cat’s meals. Small segments of these tapeworms can contain thousands of eggs, which is why this condition needs to be treated right away.
- Tapeworms continue to grow, while the older segments are shed and passed out through the stool.
- The largest tapeworm in history was nearly 60 feet in length!
Whipworm (also known as Trichuris Trichiura) also attach to the intestinal wall and begin to suck blood, much like the hookworms. Unlike other types of parasites, the whipworm is not passed through the cat’s skin. It must be ingested by the cat for an infection to occur. There are some pretty serious health issues that are related to whipworm, as it can lead to diarrhea, extreme weight loss, and loss of blood. It can also lead to anemia if you don’t have it treated early on.
- Whipworms get their name from their shape, which is much like a whip.
- Whipworm eggs can live for years in the soil in your yard.
As you can see, there are quite a few different types of worms that affect cats. So, what do you do if you suspect that your cat may have worms? Let’s take a look at diagnosis and treatment options.
Diagnosing and Treating Worms in Cats
If you suspect that your cat has worms, it is time to take them to the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to do some simple tests to determine whether or not your cat has worms, and what type of treatment will be best. Typically, they will test their fecal matter and determine what type of worm or parasite, if any, has affected your cat. They will then be able to let you know what type of treatment plan will work best. It is really important to follow through with the treatment plan to make sure that the worms are completely eradicated.
The best thing that cat owners can do is to prevent the worms from ever taking up residence in their cat’s body. Preventing worms is not difficult. There are many different types of preventative treatments for you to choose from. Some of these treatments go as far as to prevent not only intestinal parasites, but also fleas, ticks and other parasitic pests. It is worth discussing your options with your veterinarian, because monthly preventative treatment sure beats a hefty vet bill for testing and treatment of worms in cats.