Overview of Feline Intestinal Worms
A parasite is a plant or animal that lives upon or within another living organism. There are a variety of parasites that infect various organs or body systems. Parasites can be either internal or external parasites – living primarily on the skin (fleas), in the respiratory tract (lungworms), or in the blood vessels and heart (heartworms).
Some gastrointestinal parasites are microscopic, and the only way to diagnose them is by microscopic examination of your cat’s feces for the eggs shed by the adult worms. Others are large enough to be observed in your cat’s bowel movements or after he vomits. Moreover, some tapeworms produce proglottids, which are the segments making up their body. These segments can be seen around the hair on the anus or in the stool, appearing as bits of moving “white rice.”
Among the important gastrointestinal parasites of cats are roundworms (Toxocara species), hookworms (Ancylostoma tubaeforme, Ancylostoma braziliense and Uncinaria stenocephala), stomach worms (Physaloptera spp.), tapeworms (Diplylidium caninum, Taenia taeniaeformis) and microscopic parasites Coccidia, Giardia and Strongyloides species.
How Feline Parasites Are Acquired
It should be emphasized that some parasites – especially roundworms and hookworms – can also affect people, especially children. For that reason, it is essential to prevent intestinal parasites in our pets and to treat any resultant infection.
Parasitic diseases range from trivial to fatal disease. Parasites can cause severe disease in immature kittens, sick or debilitated pets, or in pets with a suppressed immune system. Younger pets often get acute disease (vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and anemia) whereas older pets get chronic disease such as intermittent diarrhea.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Feline Intestinal Parasites
Because parasitism is easily confused with other debilitating conditions, diagnosis depends on the following:
Treatment of Feline Intestinal Parasites
Treatments for intestinal parasites may include one or more of the following:
Home Care and Prevention
At home administer any prescribed medications and follow-up with your veterinarian for examinations and repeated fecal (stool) tests as needed.
Some microscopic eggs can live in the environment (such as the yard) for weeks to months and cause re-infection. Clean up yard weekly and minimize roaming of pets in places like parks where exposure and infection are possible.
Many health care specialists recommend a fecal sample from all adult animals at least yearly, a sample at each kitten vaccination visit, and a follow up sample at the appropriate interval after the last deworming medication has been given.
With primarily outdoor cats, it may be advisable to evaluate stool samples every three to six months if risk of infection is high. One may also consider heartworm preventatives that also prevent intestinal parasites.
In-depth Information on Intestinal Parasites in Cats
Intestinal parasites are a common cause of vomiting and diarrhea in cats; however, other medical problems can lead to similar symptoms.
One must exclude disorders such as viral infection, ingestion of spoiled or toxic food, ingestion of irritating or toxic substances, or bacterial infections, before establishing a definite diagnosis of disease from parasite infection.