How Do I Take Care Of My Cat If It Has Worms?
Worms in Cats can be very dangerous. Therefore you should call a veterinarian and make an appointment as soon as you find signs of worms. The most common sign of worms is actual worms usually in your cat’s feces. If you have a feline friend, you know how hard to can be to see them feeling under the weather. While there are many things that could cause your cat to get sick, worms are one of the most common. Over 45% of cats will become infected with some form of worms in their lifetime. With this number being so high, it also means that worms are very well understood, and very easy to treat if you recognize the signs and get help for your cat.
In this article, we are going to cover the different kinds of worms your cat can be infected by, how to recognize the symptoms, and what steps to take to help your cat get rid of them. We will also provide some tips for getting your cat to take their medicine, and advice on how to prevent a worm infection in the first place. So take a moment to read this article if you own a cat. Having this information will your peace of mind when it comes to taking care of your furry friend, and all your loved ones that come into contact with
What kinds of worms can my cat get? And how are they transmitted?
There are five main kinds of worms cats can be infected by, with roundworms being the most common. There are four other types of worms of varying severity that cats can be infected by. These are tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworms. Let us take a look at each kind of worm and how they attack your cat.
Roundworms are transmitted when cats either eat an infected rodent or ingest feces containing roundworm eggs. This type of worm is the most common in cats, with anywhere from 25% to 75% of total intestinal parasite infections in cats in the united states being caused by roundworms each year. Once your cat has ingested an infective form of the parasite, they make their way to the cat ‘s intestines where they feed on food that the cat eats. Growing up to 5 inches long, the worms will stay put, occasionally releasing eggs that the cat will pass out of their body along with other waste via feces. However, it can take several weeks for the eggs to become infective to other cats. This, among other reasons, is why it is important to frequently scoop litterboxes if you have multiple cats in your household.
Tapeworms can also be transmitted to a cat by consuming an infected rodent. However, the most common way for a cat to get tapeworms is through fleas. Fleas themselves can contract very small tapeworms, and as your cat gets fleas they will try to groom them out of their fur. As soon as a cat eats a flea with a tapeworm, the tapeworm attaches itself to the wall of your cat ‘s small intestine and grows to be a full-sized adult. While they can be up to 20 inches long, the average size is 8 inches.
Once they are in the small intestine, they begin ingesting nutrients that are passing through. As the tapeworm grows and reaches its full size, it will start to shed segments of its body, called proglottids, that will pass in the cat ‘s feces. These segments are about the size of a grain of rice and are a good indicator that your cat has tapeworms.
Hookworms, getting their name from their hook-like mouth structure, are extremely small, almost invisible to the naked eye. This infection is more common in dogs, but cats are also susceptible to both feline and canine forms of it. Hookworms attach themselves to the intestinal walls of their host where they feed off of their blood.
Female hookworms will release hundreds of eggs into the cat ‘s digestive tract. After being passed through feces the eggs will hatch and become larvae, surviving in soil for months. Cats contract this worm most commonly by bathing their feet after walking through infected soil. The larvae can also burrow their way into the cat ‘s skin and infect them from there. These infections are also more common in hot, humid areas, where poor sanitation and large animal populations exist.
Whipworm infections are much more common in dogs than cats, but cats are still at risk of this kind of infection. This infection is also the most harmful of the four mentioned, and require swift medical action to make a full recovery. These worms can survive in the soil for months or even years, making the ingestion of infested material the most common way to contract this worm. Once in the cat ‘s digestive system, whipworms take up residence in the cecum and colon of the cat, causing extreme irritation of the area.
Heartworm infection in cats can be very dangerous, even fatal if left untreated. This infection acts very differently in cats than it does dogs, as cats are an atypical host for the parasite. This means that most worms will not survive to adulthood, leaving many unmatured worms around the cat ‘s heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels, While adult worms are the ones that cause the most damage, the younger worms still impact your pet and can lead to longterm damage.
There is no approved treatment method for cats that develop heartworm, as the medication used in dogs is too dangerous. So the best option to protect your pet from this disease is through prevention.
Special note about ringworm
Although it has the word worm in its title, ringworm is actually an infection caused by a fungus. This infection is highly contagious across all domesticated animals and humans alike. This infection attacks the skin, hair and claw/nails of the infected party. While not a worm, this infection should be treated quickly if detected as it can be very uncomfortable. Now that we’ve gone over the main kinds of worms your cat can be infected with, let us take a look at the symptoms and how to recognize them.
What are the symptoms of a cat with worms?
Each of these worm infestations shares some common symptoms, we will go over those, as well as symptoms that are unique to the specific worm. Some of the most common symptoms of worms are unexplained weight loss, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. Cats can also become lethargic and start eating more to accommodate for the nutrients the worms are taking. Also if you have had your cat for a long time then you can tell when something is wrong. They may act sluggish or lethargic and not be their normal playful selves that you are used too.
Roundworms and tapeworms, in particular, are easy to see in feline feces. If you are suspicious that your cat has been infected, take care to check their litterbox for signs of worms. If you are unsure, you can take a sample of your cat ‘s feces to your vet and they can test it for worms and other parasites. Be careful to wash your hands before touching anything else while checking your cat ‘s feces. Humans can contract roundworm infections from their cats, which is not something you want to deal with.
Hookworm infections usually cause dark sticky feces. This is because of the bleeding that they cause further up in the intestinal tract. Blood from higher up appears black as it has had more time to be processed and digested. In the case of a whipworm infection, you can expect to find watery stools with red blood as the infection happens later on in the digestive system.
Heartworm can also cause weight loss. More notably, asthma attacks and prolonged coughing spells can be a sign of the disease. Sometimes the cat will have difficulty walking, or experience bouts of fainting and seizures. In extreme cases, the first sign of heartworm could be the collapse and death of the cat.
Any abnormalities in your cat ‘s behavior should be taken into consideration and possibly brought up to your vet, depending on your cat ‘s history and other health concerns. Worms can be easy to treat but is an uncomfortable, painful condition for your cat to endure. So as soon as you begin to suspect your cat is infected, it’s time to take them to the vet to get treatment.
Are worms more dangerous for kittens?
In short, yes. As kittens are much smaller, they can not afford to lose nutrients that worms will compete with them for. Kittens will be prone to developing secondary conditions associated with intestinal infections that adult cats have more of a resistance to. Additionally, kittens can develop anemia more quickly from blood loss associated with intestinal worm infections.
Any signs of worms in kittens should be addressed quickly to ensure they make a full recovery. Additionally, if you have a pregnant cat that contracts worms, there’s a strong chance that her kittens will get them too. Getting them treatment for worms after they are born will help them have a healthy start to life.
HOW TO DEWORM YOUR CAT
Will Apple Cider Vinegar Kill Worms In Cats?
There are a lot of theories out there that apple cider vinegar can be used in place of medication to resolve worms in cats. This is due to the acidic nature of the vinegar, which worms can not tolerate living in. Most of these sources suggest using apple cider vinegar in conjunction with garlic powder to clear up infections. During this process, you would have your cat fast for a night, adding two drops of apple cider vinegar to its water during this time. The following morning you mix garlic powder into their meal and continue doing so for at least two weeks. While this is a method that is talked about on the internet, using apple cider vinegar is not a scientifically proven method to treat worms. And depending on the infection it may or may not have any impact.
This method would be more effective to use to prevent worms after your cat ‘s outbreak is resolved. By periodically putting a few drops of apple cider vinegar into your cat ‘s water, you can make sure their digestive system remains an unappealing place for any sort of worm to take up shop.
Can You Deworm A Cat At Home?
While there are dewormer products you can buy and administer yourself, it is best to take your cat to the vet to get a concrete diagnosis. It can be hard to tell which kind of worms your cat has, and not all treatments are effective against each type of worms. If you try to treat them at home, the likelihood will be that you don’t solve the problem and will have to visit the vet anyway, leaving your cat sick and uncomfortable for longer periods of time. If you have more than one cat at home, this will increase the chance that the others will get worms too. Don’t take that risk, just bring them into the vet.
Consulting Your Vet And Different Deworming Treatments
The best option to ensure your cat gets quick treatment and doesn’t spread it to you or other members of your household (animal or human) is to take them to the vet. The vet will be able to conduct an exam that diagnoses the exact type of worm your cat has, and prescribe a medication to target that species. This is important, as there are different methods to kill each parasite. A medication prescribed for tapeworms may not be beneficial in resolving a case of ringworm.
Let us take a look at each type of worms we’ve discussed and how they are treated
- The medication for roundworms causes them to detach from the intestinal lining and they get sent through the digestive tract whole. These worms will be visible in your cat ‘s feces.
- The medication for tapeworms breaks up the worms while still in the digestive tract. As a result, you will not see any evidence of the worms as they pass through your cat ‘s feces.
- The medication for hookworms only kills adult worms. This means that you will have to do several treatments of it to kill any juvenile worms that matured after the first treatment. It is recommended to space the treatments anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks apart.
- The medication for whipworms is prescribed in doses lasting between three and four weeks. This infection carries with it a high chance of reinfestation, so it’s not a bad idea to do a followup treatment three or four months after the first treatment.
As there is no medication for heartworm, treatments for this infection usually involve trying to reduce symptoms to minimize any longterm damage while the infection clears. Special diets and heart medications can help ease the pain and long term side effects associated with heartworm.
When using medication for your cat, your vet should inform you about possible side effects associated with it. Many medications can cause a loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. You can administer feline probiotics to your cat throughout the course of the medication to help alleviate many symptoms of an upset stomach.
If you are having trouble getting your cat to take their medication, there are strategies you can use for both pill and liquid medicine. You can get pill pockets that disguise the pill in a tasty outer treat layer.
For liquid medication, learning the proper way to hold your cat, and enlisting a friend or family member to help, will make the process painless for both you and your cat. You can find videos online to see how vets recommend you hold your cat when giving them liquid medication.
How long does it take to get rid of worms in cats?
Most treatments tend to last anywhere from 2 weeks to a month. As it can be tricky to kill immature worms with the medication, it will likely be necessary to do a second dose of medication after the first. For your cat to be clear of worms, it could take anywhere from a month to two months. The one exception to this is tapeworms. These worms usually die within 24 hours of the medication first being administered.
Your best course of action will be to follow all medication instructions given to you by your vet. If you think that your pet is clear of worms and stop the medication, you risk some worms developing a resistance to it and becoming more difficult to get rid of. Follow the instructions and your feline friend will make a full recovery.
Can I get worms from my cat?
Certain types of worms, namely roundworms, are incredibly contagious and dangerous for humans to contract. Outdoor places that are frequented by roundworm hosts should be avoided by adults and children. Kids playing in places like sandboxes are particularly at risk as these areas serve as a makeshift litterbox for animals. Untreated, these infections can lead to worse conditions, including things as severe as blindness. The best way to make sure you or your loved ones don’t contract roundworms from your cat, or any outdoor cats passing through is to maintain clean litter boxes and wash your hands after handling cat feces. Additionally, washing your hands after spending time outside will reduce the risk of catching it from the unknown inhabitants of your backyard and other open spaces.
How can I prevent my cat from getting worms?
Keeping their space clean
There are a couple of things you can do to protect your cat from being infected with worms. First and foremost, similar to human prevention, keeping your cat ‘s litter box and surrounding living space clean will prevent the spread or propagation of worms if you have an infected cat. This is exceedingly important if you have multiple cats and only one is infected. While your vet will likely recommend that all your cats go through the deworming treatment if one is infected, keeping their living space clean will allow them to
remain healthy in the meantime.
Medication and vet exams
Secondly, depending on your location and your cat ‘s habits, you can get a monthly prescription to give them that will neutralize any threat of worms before they become an issue. In conjunction with this, your cat should visit the vet a few times a year to have a checkup and be cleared for worms. These steps are most important with outdoor cats as they have many more chances to be exposed, however, indoor cats should still go to the vet once a year to make sure they have a clean bill of health. You should also treat your cat for fleas yearly to prevent them from getting tapeworms via infected flea. A yearly heartworm medication for your cat will ensure that your cat remains protected from this dangerous infection. Without this, your cat could contract an infection that you have no way of curing. Sometimes these infections clear up on their own, but they usually leave lasting damage like a weakened heart or asthma.
Pregnant cats and kittens
Extra care should be taken with pregnant cats, as most kittens are either born with worms or are infected by them after drinking their mother’s milk. After the kittens are born, the mother should go through a round of deworming to try to prevent the spread from her to her kittens. The kittens can begin being treated for worms at around three weeks old. It is standard practice to go ahead and treat all kittens at this time regardless of whether or not there are signs of worms. After this point, worm treatment can be followed like any other cat unless directed otherwise by your vet.
Final Thoughts: How to Take Care of A Cat With Worms
Worms are an incredibly common infection in cats. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to safeguard their health and wellness. Periodically be checking for signs of worms, especially if your cat has come into contact with something that increases their risk. That can be things like a recent case of fleas, a visit to a boarding facility, or if your indoor cat managed to sneak its way outside for a little adventure.
When caught early, these infections can be relatively harmless, so don’t fret too much about your pet. As long as you know the signs and symptoms of these infections, and get your cat help early on your cat will be just fine and make a full recovery from their infection.
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