Those Ol' Nasty Internal Parasites
and What I Need To Know
Did you know that 95% of kittens are born with intestinal worms! These parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, stunted growth and at times, even death. So here are a few that you can learn about:
• ROUNDWORMS: The most common type of worm, resemble strands of spaghetti (about 2-3 inches long) and live in the small intestine, and can infect humans, too. This type of worm can be passed several ways: by mother cat at birth, or via the stools of other cats and dogs, from eating mice or other rodents. Prompt treatment and use of a monthly preventative medication protect us as well as our pets.
• HOOKWORMS: Small fine worms that attach to the walls of the small intestine, and are usually transmitted by infested stools of other cats or dogs, or via the mother's uterus or her milk. This type of worm can cause skin disease in humans if left untreated. Prompt treatment can protect us as well as our pets.
• TAPEWORMS: Also live in the small intestine, where the head attaches to the intestinal wall and produces a chain of segments. Mature segments contain eggs that are passed with the stool, or may be seen around the rectum. They resemble small grains of rice. may be acquired by ingesting rodents, birds or more commonly, through the ingestion of fleas. Flea control is essential to control tapeworm infestation.
• COCCIDIA: Are 1-celled protozoal parasites, more like bacteria rather than "worms." Kittens can pick these up from their mother, and they can also be acquired by eating rabbit or other wildlife droppings. This parasite is treated with antibiotics.
• GIARDIA: Are also protozoans. They are very difficult to pick up on a regular stool check, but special stool tests are available to diagnose this common parasite. About 1/3 of kittens are affected. Antibiotics or special de-wormers help to handle this problem, but this little nasty can be difficult to eradicate completely and often flare-up with stress or other intestinal problems. You should know that this is contagious to humans, too.
Regular checkups with us will help to ensure that your pet is not being reinfested by its environment. And always remember to clean the litter box daily as well. A little prevention can go a long way to having a happy and healthy cat.
► HEARTWORMS IN CATS
Although a serious problem in dogs for many years, recently it has been found more frequently in cats. This is a mosquito-borne and deadly parasite.
Heartworms cause a disease in felines called HARD: Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease. Affected cats usually have only a few of these worms in their heart, but because the cat's heart is very small and the worms are quite large (size of spaghetti), even 1 or 2 worms can be fatal. The cat's body responds to the worms' presence by producing severe inflammation in the lungs and in the blood vessels within the heart and lungs.
SIGNS: Chronic coughing, wheezing or vomiting, and sometimes sudden collapse or even death. Blood testing is used to detect these parasites in cats, sometimes along with chest x-rays or an ultrasound scan of the heart (echocardiogram).
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for cats (at this time), as the medications used to treat dogs with heartworm disease are toxic to cats. However you are in luck, as several once a month preventative medications are available. Since prevention is easy and treatment is not possible, other than supportive care for the symptoms, prevention is by far the best answer for you and your cat.
Since cats are exposed to lots of other diseases, you need to decide on total wellness package for any cat, and especially one that goes outside. It could save a life!
☑ SYMPTOMS, via American Heartworm Society