Worms in Cats – Internal Parasites
Cats can get several types of worms. These internal parasites can cause a variety of symptoms. Sometimes they go undetected but can still cause health problems. Some worms can be passed on to humans, too. Yuck! And here are some images to brighten your day:
What kinds of worms can a cat get? Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, lungworms, heartworms, whipworms and even ringworms. Although ringworms are not really a worm but a fungal infection.
>>Roundworms are common in cats. They resemble spaghetti and adult worms can be three to four inches long.
>>Hookworms are smaller than roundworms. Usually less than an inch long. They feed on blood and can cause life-threatening anemia. Hookworms are more common in dogs than in cats.
>>Tapeworms are long, flat, segmented parasites. They can reach 4 to 28 inches in length. Tapeworms can cause vomiting or weight loss. Tapeworm pieces (actual segments of the worm) look like rice and many times are seen on the cat’s rear end in the fur.
>>Lungworms are obviously found in the lungs of a cat. Some cats will develop a cough.
>>Heartworms are spread through mosquito bites. They are difficult to diagnose. Cats are not nearly as prone to getting heartworms as dogs. Respiratory problems and vomiting are common symptoms.
>>Whipworms are more often seen in dogs than cats. They look like tiny pieces of thread buy seldom seen in stool. Possible signs: chronic weight loss and stool that seems to be covered in mucous.
>>Ringworms are not uncommon in cats and are not caused by a worm but a fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails. Highly contagious and can cause patchy, circular areas of hair loss with red rings.
How Do Cats Get Worms?
>>One of the main ways that cats get worms is through swallowing the feces of infected felines (or other animals). That doesn’t mean a cat walks up to a pile of cat poo and eats it! The cat could merely walk across the spot an infected cat had previously eliminated and pick up traces of the feces that house the worms or eggs. The unsuspecting cat then licks her paws and unintentionally swallows the nasty critters.
>>Mother cats can also pass on worms to their kittens.
>>Depending on the type of worm, some cats are infected through another host. Perhaps the cat ate a bird infected with worms; mosquitos are carriers of the heartworm parasite; fleas are carriers of tapeworms.
What Are Normal Symptoms of a Cat with Worms? The clues may differ depending on which type of worm and the location of the infestation within the body. Common signs are:
- worms seen in stool or clinging in fur near anus
- bloated belly
- weight loss
- bloody stool
- trouble breathing
- extreme fatigue
I Think My Cat Has Worms – Now What?
>>Please take your cat to a veterinarian along with a stool sample. The vet can confirm if your cat has worms by inspecting the stool sample, performing an exam and/or testing the blood. Some worms are more difficult to diagnose than others, though, so possible additional tests or stool samples may be needed.
What Type of Treatment is Done to Get Rid of Worms? Treat your cat for the specific type of worm she has…which usually requires the vet to help you diagnose this and provide you with the proper medication. See the catch is – a basic dewormer for tapeworms will not kill roundworms. And the opposite – a general dewormer for “other” worms won’t normally kill tapeworms.
What About Catching Worms from My Cat? Yes, humans CAN get worms from their infected cat.
>>Roundworm eggs can be found where cats defecate. Children tend to be more likely to come in contact with these areas (like sandboxes) and then touch their fingers to their mouths – thus ingesting such eggs…and that transmission can occur with the other types of worms…
>>Hookworm larvae can penetrate human skin and cause lesions.
>>Tapeworms can infect humans through the ingestion of an infected flea.
>>Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection on the skin. It is very contagious and dogs, cats, horses, other animals, and humans can pass ringworm to humans. You can also get it from touching surfaces that an infected pet or person has touched.
Note: Wash your hands after and perhaps wear gloves when changing cat litter or handling feces. Try to not let stool build-up in the litter box (or even a location outside). Try to keep your cat worm-free in order to prevent the chance of you contracting any worms. It’s not common to hear of humans getting worms, but it can happen.
How Do I Keep My Cat from Getting Worms?
- Keep your cat inside (although we know depending on the living situation, that will not always be an option or the case). Indoor living for your cat prevents her from coming in contact with anything infected, is less likely to pick up fleas and avoids infected feces.
- Keep a flea-free living atmosphere.
- Get your cat on a parasite treatment and/or prevention program; which this is usually administered as a monthly topical product. Many popular topical treatments are available. CHECK WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN FIRST!
Some helpful links:
Treatments for Parasites (popular products suggested on site)
Fleas, Ticks, Parasites (takes you directly to the store)
Jessie Cat says: I had several of these icky parasites when my human adopted me. My tummy was bloated some and she thought I might’ve been pregnant. Not! And going to the bathroom wasn’t fun especially when those gross white worms stuck to my rear end! Oh – and my ears bothered me with all that black stuff in them!
Gina says: Jessie’s situation hadn’t reached critical – yet. But she did have tapeworms and roundworms. The vet prescribed medication for the tapeworms and the Revolution (she takes monthly) eliminated roundworms. The black stuff in her ears that caused problems were ear mites - which were treated (took some time!!) and taken care of. Oddly (but thankfully) she didn’t have any fleas.