All responsible cat parents have concerns over their kitty’s health. One of the biggest roots of worry may come from parasites, which make felines more likely to be exposed to infections and other health issues.
The most common type of parasite found in cats is the toxocara cati roundworm, or ascarid. It currently affects over 25% of all cats. Infection usually occurs during the ingestion of contaminated eggs or other hosts that have larvae in their tissue including mice, birds and other prey. Cats can also become infected if they lick their feet after walking through an area containing the eggs which is one of the reasons outdoor cats are more susceptible to infection.
Once infected, the larvae travels through the feline’s body tissue, particularly through the liver and lungs, then develop in the small intestines of the cat through adulthood. That’s where they produce large numbers of eggs which are passed on through feces and contaminate whatever they may end up in, such as the litter box. These eggs can survive the environment for years and can be passed along to other cats.
Another easy way to pass along parasites is from infected mothers while nursing their kittens. When kittens become infected, they appear pot-bellied despite lean muscle loss and the parasites drain nutrients needed for normal development. Adult cats show symptoms of infection through coughing, vomit, diarrhea, bloody stool, constipation, weight loss or trouble breathing. If severely infected, a cat may even vomit up an adult worm which should be saved in a sealed bag for your veterinarian to inspect and identify.
The second most common parasite in cats are two different types of tapeworms: the Dipylidium caninum and the Taenia taeniaeformis. The former tapeworm, more frequently occurring, is usually ingested through fleas during grooming sessions, which is why it is common in both cats and dogs. The latter parasite is usually spread by catching and eating infected rodents, similarly to the the ascarid.
Both of these tapeworms will show signs through tiny rice-like debris around the cat’s tail, rectum and feces. In the case of the Taenia taeniaeformis, getting rid of the fleas must also be a part of the treatment to prevent another incident of contamination.
Dr. Lucio-Forster from Cornell stresses, “We recommended that all animals be on year-round broad-spectrum parasite control, such as monthly heart-worm disease preventatives with label coverage of roundworms. Any animal shedding roundworm eggs in their feces should be de-wormed, and broad-spectrum parasite control should be instituted.” Remember, it is very important to identify the type of parasite your cat is infected with. It will not only affect the type of medication used to treat him or her but will also affect the daily activity and lifestyle of your kitty, such as restricted outside access to prevent fleas or hunting.
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