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Worming your cat

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As part of being a responsible cat owner, worming your cat is important to keep your cat happy and healthy. In this blog, we talk about the types of worms, symptoms and everything you need to know about worming your cat.

Types of worms

There are three types of worms that need to be taken into consideration- roundworms, tapeworms & lungworm.

Roundworm

Roundworms are large-bodied worms, with the average size of 3-6 inches in length and live within the intestine. Roundworms are most common of the worm species. It’s hard to diagnose as adult cats rarely have trouble with them or show that they have infection. But, cats with severe roundworm infections show symptoms which is below. Cat can pick up Roundworm in various ways, making it easy for them to spread and hard to control.

Tapeworm

Tapeworms are long, flat and white, with hook like mouths, which like to attach to the wall of your cats intestine. These type of worms can grow between 8 – 20 inches! Tapeworm are found in adult cats that hunt or have flea infestations. Fleas which have eaten worm larvae and are then swallowed by a cat during self-grooming. After this they can then grow into a full-sized adult worm.

Other tapeworm larvae live in the tissues of rodents and birds. Active hunting cats are more likely to become infected with tapeworm after consuming infected prey.

Lungworm

Lungworm is a parasitic worm that causes severe respiratory problems.  Larvae are laid in the airway, which then leads to difficulty in breathing and an accumulation of mucus. Symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. If left untreated, the damaged airways will lead to serious problems, such as fluid build-up in the lungs and pneumonia.

Symptoms of a worm infestation

For the most part, adult cats will have lighter to moderate infections and show no signs. More severe infections will cause:

  • Increased appetite and weight loss due to the worms and cat competing for resources. A lack of nutrients causes the coat to become dull and brittle and the cat will weaken.
  • Worms in vomit and stools – Sometimes adult worms will be thrown up or passed out in faeces but tapeworm segments containing eggs can also be seen in faeces or in the cat’s fur around its bottom. Roundworm eggs are too small to see without a microscope.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea caused by worms that upset the stomach.
  • Blood in faeces can indicate infection by some types of roundworm that feed on the gut wall.
  • Coughing and breathing problems – many worms must travel around the body to develop, and most pass through the lungs as larvae and are coughed up and swallowed. Re-swallowed larvae finish development in the gut. Damage and inflammation caused by the migrating larvae can lead to pneumonia and other respiratory problems.
  • Bloated stomach or abdomen – common in kittens with a larger number of adult worms in the gut.

Kitten

When to worm your cats

  • Kittens – it should presumed that all kittens have roundworms after birth, through their mother’s milk. Kittens should generally wormed from 6 weeks, but some products are suitable for use from 2 weeks of age. Worm a 6 week old kitten every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks old. From 12 weeks old they should wormed every 4 weeks until they are 20 weeks old. After this time, a kitten is wormed every 3 months.
  • Adult cats – it’s recommended that cats are wormed every 3 months. Yet some cats may need more or less, depending on their lifestyle and environment.
  • Pregnant and lactating queens – not all products are suitable for use in pregnancy and lactation. ALWAYS consult your vet or SQP for advice on worming a pregnant or nursing queen.

If either a kitten or an adult cat has fleas, you must ensure they’re treated for tapeworm. Don’t forget to administer flea treatment regularly.

Other reasons for worming cats

There are worms which infect cats but are able to cause disease in humans. The cat roundworm, is less of a threat to humans than the dog roundworm but infection is still possible. Eggs ingested accidentally by humans and when the larvae hatch in a human gut, they travel through the body.  The same as in cats but often lose their way, causing a range of problems:

  • Abdominal pains, headaches and coughing.
  • Larvae affect the liver, heart and lungs causing abdominal pain, breathing problems and fever.
  • Larvae migrating to the eyes (usually just one is affected) and cause blurred vision and even blindness.

Infections are mostly picked up by young children. Children play outside, then do not wash their hands then put them in their mouths. If you have a cat litter tray in the house, remove stools daily and clean the tray weekly with disinfectant and hot water. Teach your children to stay away from the litter tray and to wash their hands after playing with your pets and being outside.

Cat

4 common cat worming questions

How do cats get worms

Cats get worms in many various ways. Some worms are transmitted to cats by eating other animals such as slugs, birds & rodents. Worms can also be transmitted via fleas which have eaten worm larvae. Kittens can get infected via their mothers milk.

What do worming tablets do for cats?

Worming tablets work by paralyzing and killing the worm. This then causes the worm to dissolve in the intestines, and be passed out.

How often do you need to de-worm your cat?

To protect your cat, common worms can be controlled with a routine worming treatment. Cats need worming every three months for effective protection.

Should I worm my indoor cat?

Even if cats live 100% of their lives indoors they can still get worms. The only way indoor cats can catch fleas, mites, worms – is from what you bring home on your shoes.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.  Flea and worm treatments are easy and safe to use. Elimination of parasites once they have taken hold can be more complicated.

Do kittens need to be wormed?

Worms are a common cause of ill health in pets and can cause loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea and in severe cases even death. Kittens need worming at 4, 6, 8 and 12 weeks of age, then every 3 months for life with a wormer.

As part as being a responsible cat owner, pet insurance should be put in place for the unfortunate event that your cat falls ill or has an accident. You can compare pet insurance to find the best policy to suit your individual needs.

By Jennifer Nash

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