It can be extremely challenging for a pet parent to tell whether there’s something wrong going on with their cat, and that’s because our feline friends aren’t as expressive about their pain or diseases as our canine buddies are.
Internal parasites are a rather common occurrence especially in pets that live both indoors and outdoors. The greatest issue with them is that, not only can they affect the animal per se, but also your family. Some of them can be transmitted to humans and can cause disease, but others won’t cause much aside from a digestive disturbance. Some parasites, such as Toxoplasma, can be quite dangerous, especially for pregnant women.
Without further ado, let’s look at some of the clinical signs that your feline companion might exhibit if he or she has any worms.
Common symptoms that you will notice
As a cat parent myself and one that tends to overreact about any possible symptom that might suggest that my cat isn’t feeling well, I can say that it can be a true challenge to tell if she has intestinal parasites.
For example, I rescued my cat, and since I’m a vet and I’m well aware of the procedures that have to be done when adopting a pet that has lived outdoors pretty much all their life, I de-wormed and vaccinated my little friend as soon as possible. She was around six months of age when I got her off the streets.
Despite me giving her the medicine exactly as per the instructions and as per my knowledge, I was shocked to find out that my cat had tapeworms (even after the treatment). I only found this out because after she was sterilized (after the surgery), her rectum and anus were relaxed enough for me to see that there was a tiny bit of a tiny worm poking its head out of my cat’s body.
The point that I wanted to make is that cats rarely show any clinical signs of being infested with internal parasites unless the medical condition has become more or less severe. If your feline friend has a significant number of parasites, he or she will show things like bloody stool or diarrhea, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, constipation, bloating (rounded belly), difficulty breathing or constant coughing, or you’ll be able to notice the actual parasites or eggs in the pet’s feces or around the anus.
What to do about it
First of all, if you haven’t seen any undeniable proof that your cat really has worms (an actual worm, a segment, or some eggs), there’s no point in you rushing to conclusions. The only person that can tell you if your feline buddy actually has worms is a vet, so our advice to you is to take her to the vet clinic as soon as possible.
It’s also quite important to try and make the difference between a medical problem that can turn into an emergency, where your pet’s life can be put at risk, or a simple case of internal parasites that can be solved with the right medication and support treatment. For example, if your cat throws up a worm, that is a clear sign that the infestation is severe.
The problem with all internal parasites is that they have a tendency to migrate to other organs, even though, say, their ‘natural habitat’ is your cat’s intestines. If they become too many, they lay eggs and can get to organs like the liver, the lungs, and even the heart. Therefore, using preventive treatments is a good idea to make sure that your cat never has to go through this.
Common worms in cats
While there are others, too, some of the most common parasites that can affect our feline friends are roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Each of these types looks differently and causes different symptoms. They’re not all that unique, but tapeworms can be a little harder to get rid of than treating a roundworm infection, for example. Hookworms are dangerous because they can cause life-threatening anemia in senior cats and kittens.
Anatomically, roundworms resemble spaghetti, hookworms are similar to roundworms but they’re smaller, and tapeworms are flat and long and actually look like tape.
How can your cat become infested?
Most parasites are transmitted from one cat to the other, but it doesn’t have to happen directly. Of course, since cats groom themselves, your own might end up with several microscopic eggs around her mouth after cleaning her anus, and then groom the other cat in your household. Usually, this happens rarely unless one of your cats lives outdoors, too, not just indoors.
However, if you only have indoor cats, it’s quite difficult for you to bring in any of the larvae inside. There’s this theory according to which you could do just that if you stepped on cat feces while you were outside, but while this is possible, it’s not the most common cause.
But generally, indoor cats are far less exposed to parasites than outdoor ones are. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that they can’t get any, so that is why we recommend using de-wormers regularly and in accordance with the recommendations of your veterinarian.
A note on infested kittens
Probably no other age group can be more affected by worms than kittens. They are small, frail, and have an immune system that’s not well developed yet, and that is why they can become very ill and even lose their life if they get worms. They cannot lose electrolytes or nutrition if they get diarrhea, so you have to pay attention to any possible symptom and get to the vet right away if you notice anything suspicious.