Intestinal parasites are a dreaded diagnosis, leaving your cat uncomfortable and jeopardizing their health. Fortunately, preventive measures such as monthly topical medication or regular visits to your veterinarian for deworming can ensure they’re caught early or ideally avoided altogether. If your cat hasn’t been taking a preventative and you suspect parasite symptoms, we’re glad you found us! At Central Boulevard Veterinary Hospital, we work extremely hard to bring you the accurate information you need. We’ve taken the most frequently asked questions about cat deworming and answered them as thoroughly and accurately as possible, so you’re armed with trusted information about this important topic.
If you’re looking for a highly trained veterinarian in Brentwood, CA, we’d love to see your cat for deworming and an exam, so please call us at (925) 319-5883.
What are intestinal parasites?
Intestinal parasites, or worms, live in the gastrointestinal tract; the ones we see most commonly in cats are roundworms or hookworms. We diagnose them with a fecal flotation test or through enzyme or PCR testing done by a lab.
How do cats get worms?
Cats most often contract intestinal parasites via the fecal-oral route, meaning the cat has ingested the feces of an infected animal. This doesn’t necessarily mean your cat intended to ingest feces. It can happen if they step in feces while outside and then clean themselves or share a litter box with an infected cat in the home.
Intestinal parasites are vastly different from external parasites, which include fleas, ticks, and mites, as explained by the American Veterinary Medical Association AVMA.
How do intestinal parasites impact the health and well-being of your cat?
Intestinal parasites are unwelcome passengers in your cat, stealing nutrients that are critical to your cat’s health and well-being. As a result, an infected cat experiences weight loss since they're not getting all of their nutrition. Parasites also cause irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to vomiting, upset stomach, unwillingness to eat, and diarrhea.
What preventive measures can be taken to ensure that my cat doesn't get worms or other parasites?
The most effective way to keep your cat from getting intestinal parasites in your cat is to keep them on a monthly preventative. Some preventatives cover everything, including ear mites, heartworm, fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites. One of the most effective preventatives for a cat is a topical medication applied to the skin on the back of your cat's neck that deworms and protects them each month, but we can talk about the best route to take with your pet. Other options include deworming several times a year and monitoring your cat’s stool twice a year.
What are some signs and symptoms of worms in cats?
There are several ways to identify intestinal parasites in your cat, although they sometimes appear completely healthy despite having a parasite burden. For this reason, we recommend regular stool screenings to identify the problem before symptoms begin.
Signs of intestinal parasites in your cat include:
- The appearance of what looks like tiny grains of rice near the anus
- Fleas or ticks on their hair coat
- Weight loss
- Bloody diarrhea
Can my indoor cats still get intestinal parasites?
Indoor cats can still get intestinal parasites even if they are inside 100% of the time. Although rare, the most common way for this to occur is from a flea coming inside, which is then ingested by your cat during grooming. An indoor cat can also become infected if a new cat that already has intestinal parasites is introduced to the household. Therefore, a visit to the veterinarian is critical as soon as you bring a new cat home.
How will a veterinarian diagnose intestinal parasites in cats?
A veterinarian generally conducts a fecal flotation for intestinal parasites to see if eggs are present. Your veterinarian can diagnose what parasites are in your cat based on the type of eggs found. Sometimes the fecal sample needs to be sent to a lab for more specific tests.
Can you see worms in your cat's stool?
You can sometimes see worms in a cat’s stool, but there are usually no outward signs until the parasites become a problem. If things progress enough, some cats begin vomiting up worms. You might also notice rice-sized white grains around your cat's anus, which are small egg packets from tapeworms in cats. If you see white debris around your cat's anus or in the litter box, that could also indicate tapeworms in your cat.
What are some possible conditions caused by intestinal parasites, and what are the treatments?
Intestinal parasite disease can often masquerade as other illnesses. This is why we recommend frequent intestinal parasite checks. Gastrointestinal disease is usually present with intestinal parasites, along with weight loss or a patchy hair coat. Internal parasites may also cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and bloating. Most cats don't show symptoms of pain or discomfort until the infection is fairly progressed. However, you might notice your cat sitting a little more hunched or not as interactive as they used to be. Those could be indications that they're not feeling well. There can also be evidence of bleeding in the intestinal tract, which is most often associated with a change in their stool.
Why is early detection and diagnosis of intestinal parasites so important?
Intestinal parasites steal nutrients from your cat and reproduce to the point that your cat can develop an obstruction in their gastrointestinal tract. This leads to severe nutritional depletion, making your cat very ill, sometimes even causing severe anemia and requiring a blood transfusion. Parasites are also transmittable to humans (primarily roundworms and hookworms), making them a health concern for your entire household. For these reasons, you need to be proactive if and when you suspect parasites and take advantage of all preventative measures to avoid them.
When should my cat see a veterinarian for deworming?
Keeping your cat on monthly prevention that covers everything — ear mites, heartworms, fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites — should be all you need to do. If you don't stay on top of monthly all-in-one prevention and your cat goes outside, your veterinarian will recommend deworming at least every three months. This is especially critical if your cat is a hunter, increasing the likelihood that they will pick up intestinal parasites from mice, rabbits, crickets, or bugs.
Can humans get worms from cats?
Intestinal parasites can be passed on to people when your cat sheds eggs in their stool, with children especially prone since they tend to be less hygienic.
Ways intestinal parasites can be passed on to people:
- Your cat uses their litter box and sheds eggs, or has an accident and sheds eggs in a shared household area.
- Within two days, those roundworm eggs become infected larvae.
- Someone in the home, with a cut or abrasion (open skin of any kind), comes into contact with the infected larvae — even simply in the process of cleaning it up or cleaning the litter box.
- Someone in the home unknowingly ingests the infected larvae after cleaning up and not washing their hands adequately.
Contracting intestinal parasites in the human eye is especially dangerous, often causing permanent blindness. Such a scary circumstance is an excellent reminder to stay on top of preventive measures.
The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine provides in-depth details on the specific types of intestinal parasites. If you have further questions about cat deworming and intestinal parasites, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near Brentwood, CA, we’d love to see your cat for deworming, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (925) 319-5883.