Today I'm going to talk about the loathsome subject of parasites. And no its not Uncle Fred who always has his hand out for a loan. Its the disgusting little worms that can take up residence and make themselves at home in your cat's body. The most common being roundworms.
How does an animal as clean as a cat get roundworms? Roundworms are prevalent in outdoor cats. Cats get them from catching and eating infected rodents and birds, even roaches. Eww. If they're indoor-outdoor they can pass them on to their indoor counterparts through the litterbox. Kittens can get roundworms through their mother's milk. While roundworms can kill kittens its seldom fatal to an adult cat.
Symptom to watch for: coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea and an extended belly.
Roundworms are treatable. You can determine if your cat has roundworms by taking a fecal sample to the vet. Preventatives can be found in some monthly flea treatments such as Revolution.
Unfortunately, humans can get roundworms too.
If you've ever done rescue work, you are probably familiar and cringe at the word coccidia. It seemed when I was doing fostering on a larger scale than I am now, not a kitten came through my doors that didn't have it. Coccidia live in the cells lining the intestines. Its particularly dangerous to kittens because it can cause dehydration. Symptoms include diarrhea that has mucus or blood in it, vomiting and anemia. If you have a kitten and think it may have coccidia, take in a fecal sample and have it tested. It is treatable with the right medication.
Another internal parasite is hookworm. Luckily, this one isn't as prevalent as the above parasites because it can be more deadly. Normally, they are found in ferals. Hookworms cause anemia and can kill an adult cat. Cats become infected through the larvae which they ingest through infected rodents and birds. Larvae can also gain entrance to your cat's intestinal tract by going through the skin.
Hookworm causes anemia. Signs of hookworm are bloody stools, diarrhea and pale gums. Heartworm and monthly flea preventatives are used to get rid of hookworm.
Humans can also get hookworm.
A parasite long considered to be only dangerous to dogs is the heartworm. I can remember, several years ago, asking my vet if my cat might have heartworms and was told only dogs get heartworms. They have since discovered that cats can get them from mosquito bites. Heartworms in cats is quite serious. The symptoms are: wheezing, coughing, tiredness, trouble breathing. Using a monthly preventive is recommended.
Unfortunately, like weeds, the list of parasites in cats is extensive. I'll save the following for a future date: tapeworms, ringworms (technically a fungus) , giardia and whip worm.
What about your kitty? Have you ever had to deal with any hard to treat parasites?