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No one likes thinking about their cats having worms, but it happens more often than many pet parents know. Approximately 45% of cats have some kind of intestinal parasite.
Some of those parasites can cause severe illness, especially in kittens. By learning to identify digestive parasite symptoms, pet parents can often identify those tiny terrors before they do serious damage. For cats with parasitic infections, different treatment types may be recommended by veterinarians, including preventive or prescription medications, and in severe cases surgery.
Digestive parasites can cause many symptoms, including but not limited to:
Pet parents might also see certain worm-like parasites in a cat’s stool. Sometimes, this is the only sign of digestive parasites.
Digestive parasites in cats are either worm-like or protozoan (microscopic). Some of the most common include:
Roundworms are the most common type of cat parasite, affecting between 25% and 75% of cats, with kittens on the higher end of this scale.
Cats get roundworms by ingesting the worms’ eggs. This happens if a cat eats an infected cat’s poop — gross, but it happens — or catches a rodent that’s carrying worm larvae in its hair.
Kittens get roundworms by drinking milk from their infected mothers. Some of these infections can be controlled by deworming pregnant cats and deworming kittens at two weeks old. Kittens can get very sick from roundworms, so these control measures are vital.
Hookworms attach to a cat’s intestinal wall and feed on the cat’s blood. Cats with hookworm may show anemia symptoms like weight loss, weakness, and loss of appetite. Fortunately, hookworms are easily treated, and a roundworm prevention program also helps control hookworms.
Cats mostly get tapeworms from eating fleas, so it’s important for every cat to be on a flea and tick preventive medication. Outdoor cats may also get tapeworms from eating or biting infected animals.
In many cases, a pet parent will notice a tapeworm infection when they find pieces of the worm in the cat’s stool. Some cats also experience mild symptoms like appetite changes, diarrhea, and poor coat health.
Less than 5% of cats get infected with the microscopic organism giardia, but that number can be higher in catteries and homes with multiple cats. The infection can cause diarrhea, but many cats don’t show any symptoms.
Digestive parasites are most common in kittens. Every time the kitten sees the vet for a vaccine booster, they should also get a routine deworming. For adult cats, twice-yearly preventive deworming is usually enough.
If a cat does get parasites, there are medications that help. The type of medicine depends on the type of parasite, so ask a vet for advice.
A cat skin and coat supplement may also be useful to treat the symptoms. Parasites interfere with nutrient absorption and can affect skin and coat health, so replacing those nutrients can go a long way.
For more information about digestive parasite symptoms in cats, and skin care for kitties whose worms have made their coats dull and listless, become a Fuzzy member today. Fuzzy members get access to 24/7 Live Vet Chat, an on-demand online vet service that makes it easy to get knowledgeable cat medical advice at any time.