An Overview: Control of Feline Parasites

Introduction

A parasitic infection in cats is characterized by one or more parasites using the feline as a host. Internal parasites (endoparasites) enter the body of the feline and can live in the heart, liver, lungs, intestine, or stomach. External parasites attach themselves to the skin and hair of a cat.

Parasitic infection can result from coming in contact with an infected animal, drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, being bitten by a mosquito or a tick, or from grooming herself after being in a contaminated environment. Other parasites can latch onto the cat’s fur, crawl into the ears and tunnel into the skin or hair follicle. 

With a parasitic infection there are symptoms, such as weight loss, hair loss, skin conditions, lethargy, coughing, blood loss and even death due to the parasites spreading through the body. Sometimes there are no signs of a parasitic infection in a cat. It is best to seek the advice of your vet, who will examine your cat; will know what types of parasites are common in your environment; and will be able to recommend the most effective, preventive and safest treatments for your cat.

Being proactive and taking your cat to the veterinarian to get a fecal and physical exam can prevent the infestation of parasites. Meticulous and frequent cleaning of your cat’s litter box and environment is one of the best preventive measures. When an infestation couldn’t be prevented, ask your veterinarian to set up a treatment protocol as soon as possible, followed by an information session on preventative measures to avoid future infestation. Your cat’s lifestyle and the possible parasites your cat may be exposed to during his or her lifetime will play a role in your cat’s recommended treatment program.

A Few Facts About Parasites

  • Indoor cats are not safe from parasites
  • Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there
  • It’s a cat owner’s responsibility to prevent and treat parasites in cats
  • Fleas can carry tapeworm eggs and cats can ingest them while grooming
  • Not all flea, tick and worm control products are broad spectrum solutions
  • Fleas, ticks and worms can be found almost anywhere in your environment
  • Insects such as cockroaches can carry and spread parasites, for example hookworm

Parasite Control for Cats

Products

Some products help prevent parasites, while others treat parasites. You can also find products that do both, some even for multiple parasites.

  • Preventative dewormers to prevent infestation of more than one type of worm
  • Parasite-specific products target one type of parasitic infestation (e.g. heartworm)
  • Broad spectrum meds can prevent and treat multiple internal- and possibly external parasites

Kittens require more worm treatments than older cats and nursing mother cats should also be dewormed as advised by your vet.

Measures

Here are a few things you can do to complement the use of parasite control products which are necessary for protecting your cat.

  • Provide fresh drinking water daily
  • Cooked/prepared foods may be safer than raw foods
  • Vet check-ups, at least once a year and heartworm tests when recommended
  • Observe feces 2 to 4 times per year for signs of worms and ask the vet for routine fecal exams
  • Protect your cat with a year-round regimen of flea prevention – oral doses, topical applications or collars. This protocol will help prevent and eliminate fleas, which cause worms.
  • Keep your cat indoors where it cannot hunt and eat infected wildlife such as rodents, birds, frogs.
  • There are rare cases when worms transmit disease to people. Roundworm larvae, for example, can migrate to the skin or eye of humans. On contact with your cat or kitten observe hygienic practices and wash your hands with water and soap regularly.
  • Clean litter box meticulously and regularly
  • Wear gloves when cleaning the litter box
  • When gardening wear gloves because there may be cat or other animal feces in the soil

Related Articles

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