Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms
Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms are common internal parasites in cats. And although any worm infestation can make your kitty uncomfortable, some, like hookworms, can be fatal in kittens. Signs your cat may have worms include:
- Diarrhea (may be bloody)
- Weight loss
- A change in appetite
- A rough, dry coat
- Scooting on his bottom
- Vomiting (with roundworms in particular)
- An overall poor appearance
Feline worms can cause a variety of health problems in cats. Here you’ll find a brief description of the most common types of worms in cats and kittens.
Usually spread in feces or during pregnancy or nursing, the roundworm causes a serious infection in cats and kittens. The roundworm eats the food of its host and may cause diarrhea and other symptoms. In kittens, roundworms can be fatal. Prescription and over-the-counter deworming products for cats and kittens are very effective. If people contract roundworms, their symptoms can be even more serious than those in animals.
Living mainly in the small intestine, hookworms suck the blood of their hosts. Kittens can become infected from their mothers. Adult cats can be infected through their skin or when cleaning themselves. Infection causes weakness and malnutrition and can lead to death. Two rounds of deworming medication are usually effective, but a kitten may need other treatment, as well. Humans can also become infected with hookworms from unwashed vegetables or by walking barefoot on sand and soil.
Heartworms are spread to animals through mosquito bites. Up to 14 inches long, a heartworm lives in the heart and the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs. Heartworms affect how the heart functions and how blood clots and is likely to cause death if untreated. Monthly heartworm preventives are effective. If infected, your animal may cough, have trouble breathing, and experience other symptoms.
Whipworms live in the area where the small and large intestines meet. Here, they suck the blood of their hosts. Cats and kittens can pick them up from contaminated soil or by grooming. Whipworms can be quite serious and cause bloody diarrhea when there are large numbers embed in the intestine. Some heartworm preventives are effective against whipworms, and an oral dewormer is effective at eliminating whipworms.
Cats and kittens get tapeworms from licking themselves and swallowing fleas, which carry them. Tapeworms absorb some of the animals nutrients from the intestine where they attach. The tapeworm is made up of small segments, each about the size of a grain of rice. These are passed in feces and can sometimes be seen around the animals anus. An injection or tablet can kill tapeworms. Humans can also get tapeworms, but people don’t get them from an infected pet.
Despite its name, ringworm is not a worm at all. It is a skin infection caused by a fungus. In cats and kittens, ringworm often presents as a dry, gray, scaly patch, although it may cause no symptoms at all. In people, it forms a round, red lesion with a ring-like appearance. Cats and kittens pick up ringworm when their skin comes into contact with the spores of the fungus. Spores are commonly found in the soil. The spores can be present on a cat even when it shows no symptoms. People can catch it by touching an infected pet. Treatment for ringworm in cats may involve medicated dips, shampoos, or ointments. Your cat may also need oral medication for one to two months. You may need to take other measures to clear ringworm from the environment or prevent its spread.
The best way to diagnose a worm problem is with a visit to the vet. Treatment depends on which type of worm your cat or kitten has, but generally includes an oral medication and may require follow-up. Don’t try treating worms yourself: A medication that kills roundworms, for example, doesn’t kill tapeworms.
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