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If your cat is vomiting, has diarrhea or is not gaining weight, they may have cat gastrointestinal parasites. There are several types of cat gastrointestinal parasites that may have infected your pet. There are roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms that can live in the small intestine, or the less common whipworms that can live in the large intestine. Roundworms are the most common gastrointestinal parasites of cats. By knowing which type of parasite is affecting your cat, you can better treat and prevent further infection from spreading. But pet owners should first know the signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal parasites in cats.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common sign of gastrointestinal parasites in cats is poor growth, especially in kittens. If your young cat seems bony or scrawny, lacks energy, and has persistent diarrhea, as well as signs of anemia such as an expanded stomach, bring them to a veterinarian right away for a diagnosis. Worms can be congenital at birth, usually the kittens of outdoor or feral cats that grew up in unsanitary conditions. Indoors cats are less likely to get intestinal parasites because they tend to live in clean environments and stay sanitary on their own. If the fur of your older cat starts looking dull or brittle along with any of the other symptoms mentioned, you should get your cat checked out right away.
The most common way cats get infected is by getting feces on them which contain parasite eggs, and then accidently ingesting the particles while grooming. Outdoor cats on the other hand can ingest parasite infected tissue while hunting rodents or birds. Fleas, a different kind of parasite, can also carry intestinal parasites that your cat can ingest while cleaning themselves. The worm larvae itself has been known to penetrate the skin in order to infect cats. Even newborns aren’t immune to gastrointestinal parasites in cats because they can get it from their infected mother when nursing.
If you have multiple cats that share a litter box, an infected cat can easily spread a parasite to the other cats in the home. Keeping your outdoor cat indoors while treatment occurs will help clear the infection quicker. Parasite eggs and larvae can live for weeks or months on surfaces and clothing which can then transfer to your cat. The worms themselves can also stay inactive inside your cat for long periods, then become active without warning. So, keeping everything clean is the best way to maintain feline parasite control and prevent the infection from spreading to other animals.
Feline Intestinal Parasite Diagnosis
Gastrointestinal parasites of cats is a common diagnosis because it affects many cats. Getting a stool sample tested is the best way to determine the presence of gastrointestinal parasites in cats. You can collect a sample from their litter box. Prepare the sample by ensuring that it is free of debris and litter as much as possible. Collect the sample near the time of your vet visit and provide multiple pieces in order to conduct several tests. Do not use your hands, instead wear gloves and use disposable cutlery to pick up a sample, transfer it to a zip lock bag, then keep it in a cool place until your appointment.
Your veterinarian should be able to take the sample under a microscope to determine if your cat has worms and what kind they are. If the first test is inconclusive, they will also place a sample in a liquid solution to separate any worms, eggs or larvae present in the feces. They may also find multiple types of parasites in the same sample. All these tests should only take 10-15 minutes to perform. Once you confirm it's a parasite, your veterinarian will prescribe medication and start treatment immediately.
How to Treat Your Cat for Intestinal Parasites
Depending on the type of parasite your cat has, the veterinarian may prescribe a narrow-spectrum medication which can specifically treat a single type of parasite. If your cat has multiple types of parasites, your vet may prescribe a broad-spectrum medication, like Drontal Cat All Wormer tablets. Narrow-spectrum medications are usually prescribed to kittens because they can only handle a specific dose. These medications dissolve the parasites in the intestine. As a result, if the medication is working properly, there should not be any evidence of worms in their litter box.
The treatment process should take an average of 2-4 weeks depending on the severity of the infestation. To prevent re-infection, there are de-worming treatments you can give your cats periodically depending on their age and lifestyle. Ask your veterinarian which worming product is right for your cat and how to safely administer it to your pet. But the best way to prevent gastrointestinal parasites in cats is to keep litter boxes clean and be diligent for any signs of worms in order to start treatment right away.
Leaning about worms and worming your cat is essential to maintaining a healthy pet. To learn more about the gastrointestinal parasites of cats, please visit our blog for advice and the latest product news for your pets.
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