Intestinal Parasites in Cats

Cats have a high prevalence of gastrointestinal parasitism, with prevalence rates as high as 45 percent. The parasites can be wormlike (such as stomach worms, roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms) or single-celled (such as Isospora, Giardia, and Toxoplasma).

Signs

Intestinal parasites show a variety of symptoms. Therefore, controlling parasites necessitates a thorough understanding of the signs and causes.

  • Intermittent diarrhea
  • Little or no weight gain despite a good diet
  • Dull fur
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • mucoid or bloody feces
  • Coughing
  • loss of appetite
  • pale mucous membrane
  • Diarrhea
  • a pot-bellied appearance is a sign to look for when determining if your cat has intestinal parasites.

Intestinal parasites cause vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and dehydration, weakening a cat and making it more prone to viral and bacterial infections and diseases, robbing your cat of excellent health. In addition, certain parasites can infect humans.

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Wormlike Parasites

Roundworms

Roundworms (Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina) are the most prevalent intestinal parasite in cats, with a prevalence ranging from 25% to 75% and typically greater in kittens. Adult roundworms are 4 to 5 inches long and cream-colored, and they dwell in the intestine of cats. The viable eggs produced by the mature female worm are discharged into the feces of the affected cat. The infective larva stage takes from days to weeks to develop from the eggs.

Ingesting eggs or consuming rodents (transport hosts) with larvae in their tissues infects cats with Toxocara cati. In addition, kittens can be infected by larvae transferred through the milk of an infected queen. Therefore, it is feasible for kittens to become infected shortly after birth in certain instances. Toxascaris leonina infects cats the same way that Toxocara cati does, but unlike Toxocara, the parasite is not transferred by milk.

If the number of roundworms infecting you is so high that your intestines become blocked, it might be fatal. However, when compared to other intestinal parasites, roundworm infections are usually relatively harmless. Infected kittens, on the other hand, are at grave risk if not treated. The presence of microscopic parasite eggs in the stool during microscopic inspection confirms the diagnosis. Many treatments are effective, but the best way to prevent infection is to limit exposure to infected cats’ feces and prohibit hunting. In addition, the parasite is less likely to infect kittens if queens are treated before they reproduce.

Hookworms

Hookworms (Uncinaria and Ancylostoma) are slender, thread-like worms that dwell in the intestine of cats as adults and are less than 1/2 inch long. They are frequently not apparent in the feces of affected cats due to their microscopic size. Hookworms have a long life span and can live as long as a cat. Hookworm infections are less prevalent than roundworm infections in North America, with prevalence estimates ranging from 10% to 60%.

Adult cats are frequently afflicted by larvae that enter their bodies through their skin or are ingested. Once within the host, the larvae move to the lungs and then to the intestines to mature into adult worms. It’s unclear whether cats can get infected by eating rodents with larvae in their tissues or consuming larval-infested queen’s milk.

Due to blood loss from the intestines to which the worms attach themselves, severe parasitism can induce anemia. Because of the blood in the feces, the cat’s feces will appear black and tarry. If the cat loses too much blood, it can become anemic and die if not treated. These worms, like roundworms, are pretty easy to diagnose and treat. Controlling hookworm infections requires good hygiene and daily litter box cleaning.

Tapeworms

The bodies of tapeworms (cestodes) are long and flattened, resembling a tape or ribbon. The body is made up of a small head that is attached to a sequence of egg-filled segments. With its head lodged in the mucosa, the mature tapeworm dwells in the small intestine. The details furthest from the head break off and are passed in the feces as they reach complete maturity. These segments can be found in the excrement or around the cat’s tail and rectum. When fresh, the features are roughly a quarter-inch long, flat, and like rice grains; when dry, they resemble sesame seeds. They usually migrate by increasing and reducing in length while still alive.

Infected fleas or infected rodents are the most common ways for cats to become infected with tapeworms. Fleas and rodents pick up tapeworm eggs from the environment and become sick. Tapeworm infections can be successfully treated with modern drugs, but re-infection is common.

If the eggs of some tapeworm species that infect cats are unintentionally swallowed, they can cause sickness in humans; however, essential cleanliness almost eliminates any danger of human infection.

Whipworms

In the United States, whipworms are a rare parasite seen in cats. Adult whipworms live in infected cats’ big intestines but do not cause significant illness.

Stomach Worms

Worms such as Ollanulus tricuspid and Physaloptera species can live in the stomach of cats. Ollanulus infections are uncommon in the United States, and they are more common among free-roaming cats and cats kept in multi-cat facilities. Ingesting the parasite-laden vomitus of another cat infects cats. Although some infected cats exhibit no signs of sickness, chronic vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, and malnutrition can be noticed. Ollanulus infection is challenging to diagnose since it relies on finding parasite larvae in the vomitus. Therefore, the most effective treatment is avoiding contact with another cat’s vomitus; this is the most effective way of preventing infection.

Infections with Physaloptera are even rarer than those with Ollanulus. Adult female worms connected to the stomach lining produce eggs, which are then consumed by a suitable intermediate host, usually a cockroach or cricket. When a cat ingests the bug or another animal (a transport host), such as a mouse, that has eaten an infected bug after further growth within the intermediate host, and the parasite is capable of causing infection. Vomiting and appetite loss are common symptoms in cats infected with Physaloptera. The parasite eggs in the stool must be detected under a microscope, or the parasite must be seen in the vomitus to be diagnosed. Infection can be avoided by avoiding exposure to intermediate and transit hosts, and effective treatment is available.

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Protozoan Parasites

Isospora

Coccidiosis is caused by microscopic one-celled organisms called Isospora sp. (coccidia). Isospora felis infects almost all cats at some point in their lives. Cats contract the parasite by eating the cyst (thick-walled, egg-like stage) grown in the soil after being passed in the feces. Within six hours of being discharged in the feces, the cysts can become infective.

Giardia

Giardia is parasitic protozoa (one-celled organism) that live in cats’ small intestines. The prevalence of cats’ giardia infection (giardiasis) is less than 5%, but it can be substantially higher in some situations. Ingesting giardia cysts located in the feces of another infected cat, generally, a littermate or chronic carrier cat infects cats. Due to its route of transmission, giardiasis is more common in houses with many cats and catteries. In addition, infection rates are higher in kittens under the age of one year.

Toxoplasma

The Toxoplasma organism’s definitive host is cats. Although infection with this protozoan parasite is rather prevalent in cats, illness induced by this parasite is uncommon. Cats can become infected with Toxoplasma by consuming any of the parasite’s three infective stages. Ingestion of tissue cysts in contaminated prey or other raw flesh is most likely the most common route of infection. Toxoplasma flourishes in the small intestine, and the oocysts are expelled in the feces of infected cats in two to three weeks.

Are these Illnesses in Cats Dangerous?

In young kittens, intestinal worms can be a significant concern. Roundworms can cause poor growth and development, whereas hookworms can induce anemia. In addition, tapeworms can build up in large quantities, causing intestinal blockage.

Intestinal parasites, on the other hand, are rarely fatal in adult cats. However, debilitated or immune-compromised animals are more likely to develop severe intestinal parasitism and show clinical indications due to their worms.

Heartworm illness is a significant cause of death in dogs and is becoming more widely recognized as a concern to cats. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm disease, which can cause severe damage to the heart and lungs.

Treatment

Consult your veterinarian to determine the best parasite control plan for your cat. When any intestinal parasites are discovered, prompt worm treatment such as Worm-X  should be administered; for cats at risk of re-infection, routine deworming may be indicated. In addition, flea control helps to avoid tapeworm infection in some people. Heartworm disease prevention for cats is now safe and straightforward, thanks to the availability of good heartworm preventives.

Re-infections of the parasite are relatively common, although they can be avoided. Reasonable sanitation procedures are the first step in controlling parasites. This involves removing excrement daily, disinfecting the litter box regularly (e.g., diluted household bleach), avoiding overcrowding, avoiding raw meat diets, and regulating intermediate hosts (fleas, ticks, and rodents). The secret to a healthier cat is parasite management.

The Transmission of Intestinal Parasites from Animals to Humans

Intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans in a variety of ways. The principal mode of transmission differs depending on the parasite.

Intestinal parasites can be introduced into the body of humans through the consumption of infected animal faeces or contaminated soil or water. Roundworms, hookworms, Giardia, and Toxoplasma are only a few examples.

When the parasite’s larvae come into touch with exposed skin, some can be transmitted. For example, hookworms can be spread in this manner.

Other intestinal parasites are spread by eating raw or undercooked meat contaminated with them. Certain tapeworms, as well as Trichinella, can be transmitted in this way.

In most situations, infection with zoonotic intestinal parasites can be avoided by following simple precautions such as maintaining good cleanliness and ensuring that all meat is cooked thoroughly before consumption.

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