Vet talk: Parasites in cats

By Ana Roxanda Godoy

Parasites are common in cats, infecting as many as 45% of the cat population. They target cats living outdoors or living with other cats. Parasites can be worms or single organisms; this article focuses on gastrointestinal worms.

Some worms may damage a cat’s digestive system by absorbing nutrients from the cat’s blood, which weakens a cat, making it more vulnerable to infection. Worms may also damage other organs like the kidney, lungs, heart and brain.

Symptoms: Worms can cause a variety of symptoms such as dull fur, anemia, pot belly, low energy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, and bloody stool. If your cat exhibits one or more of these symptoms, we recommend consulting a vet. Sometimes a cat with worms exhibits few or no symptoms.

Diagnosis and treatment: There are as many as 11 types of intestinal worms. Often, worms are visible in fecal matter. A veterinarian must perform appropriate tests to diagnose the existence and type of worms so the correct deworming product is chosen.

Contagiousness: Cats spread worms by licking each other, sharing feeding bowls, through fleas and feces. They can also be spread to humans by contact. The prevalence and contagious level is larger if more than two cats are living together.

Prevention: Good sanitation procedures go a long way in preventing parasites. Feces should be removed daily and the litter box should be regularly cleaned with a disinfectant such as diluted household bleach. Treat your cat preventively for fleas, ticks and other hosts.

In the next Vet Talk column, I will discuss parasites in dogs.



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