Worms in Cats

Worms in cats can cause illness ranging from very mild and barely noticeable to severe and life threatening. As a cat owner, you need to understand which worms are most common in cats and how to identify the signs of parasite infection. Armed with this information, you will be better able to safeguard your pet’s health.

Worms in Cats

Types of Worms in Cats

Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and heartworms are the most common worms found in North American cats:

  • Roundworms
    Adult worms live in the intestines and eat partially digested food. Roundworm larvae are also dangerous because they migrate through the body and can injure organs.
  • Hookworms
    Adult hookworms live in the cat’s small intestine, and they use their sharp mouthparts to dig into the intestinal wall to cause bleeding. They feed from the released blood.
  • Tapeworms
    Long worms resembling ribbon or tape, tapeworms have no mouths. They attach to the intestinal wall via suckers on their heads and directly absorb nutrients through their skin.
  • Heartworms
    Adult heartworms are less common in cats than dogs, but cats are still vulnerable to infection. These worms live in the heart and nearby vessels.

How Do Cats Get Worms?

Adult Cats
Adult cats and weaned kittens most often acquire roundworms and hookworms from eating or licking soil or other material contaminated with feces from infected animals. Hookworm larvae can also enter a cat’s body directly through the paw pads or other exposed areas of flesh. Cats are usually infected with tapeworms after eating fleas containing tapeworm eggs. Less commonly, cats contract tapeworms from eating infected prey animals. Cats can also contract roundworms from eating prey. Heartworm infection occurs due to a bite from a mosquito that has already bitten an infected animal. The parasites enter the bloodstream through the bite wound.

Newborns and Nursing Kittens
Both hookworms and feline roundworms can be passed from a nursing queen to her kittens. Hookworms can also cross the uterine wall to infect kittens in the womb.

Symptoms of Worms in Cats

Symptoms vary depending on the age of the animal, its state of health, the number of worms involved and the species of worm. Some common signs of intestinal parasites in cats include the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Delayed growth in kittens
  • Poor coat
  • Diarrhea
  • A pot-bellied appearance with roundworm infection
  • Blood in the stool or tarry stools with hookworm infection
  • Pale mucous membranes with hookworm infection
  • Particles with the appearance of rice grains around the anus with tapeworm infection

Symptoms of heartworm disease are vague and are often mistaken for those of other common feline health problems like asthma. Feline heartworm symptoms include the following:

  • Vomiting unrelated to eating
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gagging
  • Panting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sudden death

Worms can cause illness in dogs as well. Check out worms in dogs.

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