As veterinarians, we know there are more delightful topics to discuss than cat deworming, yet nipping this potentially dangerous condition in the bud is a top priority for us. When your vet mentions deworming, the “worms” they are specifically referring to are intestinal parasites. (Not to be confused with feline heartworms, which is a whole other can of worms.) The most common worms that cats get are hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. The distinction between them is probably not that important to pet owners compared to the “yuck factor” and the need to get rid of them, like yesterday! It is essential to know where your cat is at risk for picking them up so that you understand what needs to be done to prevent your pet from getting them.
How are worms contracted?
There are several ways that your cat can get worms. Tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms are contracted in different ways.
The most common worm that pet owners encounter is tapeworms. Tapeworms are long, flat, and segmented. When pet parents see tapeworms, they see segments of the worm near the pet’s rear end or on bedding that look like grains of white rice or sesame seeds. Cats get tapeworms by ingesting fleas that they have been groomed from their fur. Tapeworms are uniquely flea larvae.
A cat can get roundworms from ingesting roundworm eggs or larvae from the muscle tissue of infected rodents or other critters they might encounter. Outdoor cats that are hunters of prey are at a higher risk of being exposed to hookworms. Kittens commonly get roundworms from mother’s milk.
Hookworms live in the soil. If your cat goes outdoors, they can get hookworms from grooming his feet after walking through an infected area. They can also get hookworms from (Warning: Gross content ahead!) ingesting other infected dogs and cats' feces. Cats can be meticulous groomers of themselves and other pets and can inadvertently groom fecal material off of other pets with roundworms or even grooming their paws after visiting the litterbox with infected feces.
When should my cat be dewormed?
Kittens need to be dewormed at two, four, six, and eight weeks. All cats and kittens that are old enough should take year-round monthly heartworm and flea preventative that also treats and controls hookworms and roundworms.
How do I know if my cat has worms?
In most cases, you will not know your cat has worms unless you actually see them, which is not often the case. Your cat's routine fecal screening can detect intestinal worms and eggs.
Here are some symptoms that your cat could have worms:
- Bloated stomach
- Weight loss
- Coarse fur
- Dragging their bottoms on the ground
How is my cat dewormed?
After your veterinarian has identified and diagnosed your cat with worms, they will have a proper treatment plan according to the type of worms your cat has been diagnosed with. Your cat will be prescribed a dewormer medication that might be a small pill, liquid, injection, or topical medicine to be administered.
Why is cat deworming important?
Just the thought of your cat having worms is gross and disconcerting. No one wants their cuddly fur-baby - that sleeps where they sleep - to have worms. Most importantly, deworming your cat is important because of the negative health impact an infestation can have on your cat. Having worms can vary from just being annoying to life-threatening. Kittens and cats that are medically compromised or fragile with age are vulnerable to health issues from worms. They can get anemia or become severely dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea. Kittens can have so many worms that they can not pass them through the GI tract, and that can cause an intestinal blockage, a fatal condition. Infected kittens that are not dewormed can also have their growth and development negatively impacted. Healthy adult cats rarely have significant health issues from having worms, but they are at risk enough to say they need to be dewormed.
Can I get worms from my cat?
Yes. Even though it is rare if you practice basic hygiene (mainly handwashing), you can get certain types of worms from your cat. So it is important to protect your cat, your family, and yourself by deworming and preventing your cat from getting worms.
How can I prevent my cat from getting worms?
As just mentioned, preventative care is key when it comes to keeping your cats from getting worms.
Some of the ways you can prevent your cat from getting worms are as follows:
- All kittens and all-new household additions should be dewormed
- Use monthly heartworm and flea preventative that treats and controls hookworms and roundworms all year long
- Routine wellness and fecal examinations
- Keep your litter box clean
- Keep your cat indoors so that their possible exposure is limited
If you have any further questions about deworming cats or you're ready to get an appointment for your own pet, please give us a call!