A parasitic infection in cats is a common problem that every pet owner has to face at some point in time or another. From causing serious illnesses to being just a minor pest, parasites may either affect externally, in the form of fleas and ticks, or may cause gastrointestinal parasitism. In fact, intestinal parasites or "cat worms" as they are commonly known, affect a majority of kittens shortly after birth. Most internal parasites result in certain symptoms manifesting in the cat, such as diarrhea or vomiting. In certain extreme cases, the feline parasite symptoms may also result in a life-threatening condition.
Roundworms: Commonly observed in young cats and dogs, roundworms are internal parasites found in the small intestine of the animal. Although prenatal infection may be the cause, these parasites are usually transmitted when the cat ingests the eggs or eats rodents that host this larvae in their tissue. Kittens can also be infected by consuming an infected mother's milk. Roundworms can be life-threatening when there is an intestinal blockage,especially in a kitten. Common symptoms include an unhealthy fur coat, diarrhea, pot-bellied appearance, and in certain cases, accompanied by bacterial pneumonia. The spaghetti-like worms are observable when the cat has just vomited or in the feces. Oral de-worming medication taken for 3 to 5 days can be considered an effective form of treatment. It is important to keep in mind that roundworms pose a zoonotic risk in humans. The infection may be transmitted by direct or through accidental contact with infected feces or larvae.
Hookworms: Although less commonly found in cats, hookworms can pose serious health problems for your feline friends. These dangerous, blood-sucking parasites bite into the intestinal lining of an animal, and when left untreated can be potentially life-threatening. Like roundworms, hookworms are also transmitted through the stool of other infected animals or by eating infective eggs or larvae. Infected queens can pass on the infection to her unborn kittens while pregnancy or while nursing. The critical symptoms are weight loss, diarrhea, and bloody, tarry stools. Treatment includes oral de-worming medication. Since it is a zoonotic disease, the infection in humans is caused when the hookworm larvae penetrates the skin, potentially causing a skin problem called 'cutaneous larval migrans' or 'creeping eruption'.
Tapeworms: Tapeworms in cats are the result of them ingesting infected fleas while grooming themselves or eating an infected rodent. They live in the small intestine of the cats and are usually observable in the stool of the animal. The common intestinal parasite symptoms in this case are, unthriftiness, a shaggy coat, irritability, and diarrhea in cats.
Stomach worms: Stomach worms are usually caused in free-roaming cats who become infected with the parasite by ingesting the parasite-laden vomitus of another cat. The most common symptoms of stomach worms are chronic vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and malnutrition.
In addition to this, there are other intestinal parasites like whipworms, giardiasis, liver and lung flukes, and coccidiosis, which result in persistent weight loss, diarrhea, and lethargy.
External parasites are usually found on the skin and fur of the cats and kittens. They derive their nourishment by drawing the blood and other fluids from the skin causing discomfort and irritation to the animal.
Earmites: These microscopic parasites invade the ear canals and areas that surround the ears. If your cat is constantly scratching the area around its ear or is shaking its head from time to time, it might signal an earmite infection. If left untreated, the parasitic infection may result in bleeding of the ear canals or damage to it causing permanent or partial hearing loss in cats.
Fleas: Fleas are one of the most common feline parasites, identifiable by the black or dark drown specks on the cat's belly or on its fur. They cause excessive scratching which often lead to open sores and diseases, such as anemia, rickettsioss, and plagues such as bubonic, septimetic, and pneumonic.
Ticks: Ticks usually affect the soft areas of the cat's skin like the area around the face and neck. The bites usually result in scratching, skin irritation, and can also result in diseases like Lyme disease and anemia.
If you notice even an indication of an invasion of a parasite, which is causing discomfort or deteriorating the cat's health, do not delay in taking it to the veterinarian. Immediate medical attention helps lessen your pet's discomfort and also rules out the chances of any life-threatening diseases.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.