Dogs, cats, and a variety of other animal species can have worms. Of course, the parasites differ depending on the animal, but also when it comes to the damage they can inflict on our pets. The two most common types of parasites that cats are affected by are tapeworms and roundworms. But these two aren’t the only types of worms that your cat can suffer from – there are hookworms, heartworms, lungworms, Toxoplasma, and Coccidium.
In this article, we will look at several ways in which you can treat your cat for worms, but also some safety-related guidelines that you ought to know so that you don’t accidentally damage your pet’s health.
Intestinal parasites and their effect on kittens
Let’s start with why it’s so important for you to deworm a kitten, especially a stray that you’ve taken in. Because young cats do not have a fully developed immune system and as such, their body is less equipped with the defense mechanisms that should allow them to put up with the abuse of internal parasites, they can become very ill. In some cases, the infestation could become so severe that the life of the kitten could be in danger.
Kittens are growing, so they cannot afford to lose any electrolytes or nutrients through diarrhea. Diarrhea and vomiting are two symptoms that can occur in acute phases in some cats, but many times, they are discernible when the infestation has evolved for quite some time. Other possible signs are weight loss and blood in the stool.
The typical protocol in cases where you want to adopt a cat from the outside environment and you know absolutely nothing about the animal would be to take her to the vet right away. If the animal is very young, there are vaccination plans that must be organized and respected, but also deworming schedules that you should never miss. Remember, many of these worms can be transmitted to humans, so by deworming your cat, you’re making yourself and the others living in your household a huge favor.
Different types of worms, different age groups
Kittens are usually prone to roundworm infections while adults can become the victims of both roundworms and tapeworms. That is why the substances used for the treatment of these two parasites differ a bit.
It would be unwise to give a kitten a deworming product that works for several types of worms. In case you didn’t know, the medication itself is toxic to some extent, but it would be much more so when administered to a cat whose health status has already been compromised by the parasites.
There are many forms of deworming medications nowadays, so you can choose between tablets, granules, capsules, liquids, chewables, and topical treatments. One important note must be made in relation to topical treatments – while some do work for treating roundworms, they rarely do the same for tapeworms. Therefore, we would advise you to use two separate products — one for fleas and ticks and another internal one for deworming purposes.
Expect side effects
Let’s say you’ve taken your cat to the vet and you were given a prescription and precise instructions on how you should give your pet the dewormer. Assuming you’ve respected all of the guidelines, you probably expect your cat to be perfectly fine after you’ve given her the medication.
Unfortunately, the cases where side effects are evident are quite common. Some of these range from diarrhea to vomiting, and you might also notice that your feline friend is feeling a bit under the weather. The truth is that dewormers act differently. Some will kill the worms inside your cat’s body, and upon being killed, they will release loads of toxins that will go into the pet’s bloodstream and cause the side effects we’ve mentioned.
Other types of medications will both decimate the worms but also cause them to be eliminated through the feces in an accelerated digestive transit, probably leaving you baffled at the number of parasites you’ll be able to see in your cat’s feces.
Just as we have noted that cats and kittens shouldn’t be given the same types of dewormers, we’ll also add that not all intestinal parasites react to the same medication. For treating tapeworms, for example, the two most common substances used are praziquantel and epsiprantel. While the first is available over the counter, the second requires a prescription.
For treating roundworms and hookworms, you have the option of choosing between pyrantel pamoate, milbemycin oxime, and selamectin. In North America, only the first is available over the counter while for the others, you will be asked for a prescription. Something very important that should be added with regard to selamectin is that it is toxic for kittens younger than eight weeks of age.
These substances come in several forms, such as those we’ve highlighted above. Some can be administered more easily compared to others. Some cats are known to take liquid wormers with ease compared to the capsules, for example. To avoid getting bitten by your cat or to prevent your pet from foaming at the mouth or spitting the medication out, we advise you to ask your vet to show you what you should do to simplify the process.
Many pet parents believe that if their cats only live indoors, there’s no chance of them ever getting worms. That is an absolute myth. You could carry a flea indoors on your coat, for example, and fleas are known to be vectors of tapeworms. You could bring larvae or eggs on your shoes as you go inside the house. Your cat will then step on the same floor surface and groom by licking his or her paws. As you can see, there are many ways in which even an indoor cat can get worms even if there’s no other animal that can transmit them.
It would be better if you were to keep your outdoor cat indoors, but the truth is that the behavior of most of those that have lived outside for the majority of their lives will make this endeavor almost impossible. Outdoor cats love exploring, and they will get bored and frustrated indoors.
If you have never before wormed your cat, you need to make sure that you stick to the advice provided by a veterinarian. Even if you get over the counter medication because maybe you don’t have pet insurance or you can’t afford a visit to the vet’s right now, you have to read the instructions and follow them as best as possible. Making just one mistake with respect to the dosage can be lethal. Always make sure you’re not giving your kitten wormers designed for adult cats.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to intestinal parasites, this couldn’t be truer. Cats that have had worms in the past might have to be given medication every month for six months. After that, you can switch to prevention every three months.
Taking your cat in for annual checkups is important because the vet might be able to analyze a feces sample and determine whether your feline companion has worms even before you’ve had the chance to notice any symptoms.
If you have ever run into blogs or websites that recommend the use of herbs, garlic, or onion for deworming purposes, we hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing as a natural cure for worms. Besides, garlic and onion are extremely dangerous to both cats and dogs — they’re poisonous to them.