PARASITE PREVENTION: Ticks and Fleas and Worms: “Oh MY!”

Pet owners are often under the impression that if their cat and/or dog has no interaction with other animals, then they cannot be infected with parasites. A few hours of happy sitting in the grass of the backyard now and then surely doesn’t qualify as an “outdoor” pet, does it?

If your furry family member spends time outside, there are many parasites which pose a health risk.

This is the first of a short blog series on parasites that can affect your pets and why we recommend prevention products. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian to discuss what prevention products are right for your pet.

Gastrointestinal ‘Worm’ Parasites in Cats
‘Ticks and Fleas and Worms’, ‘Oh MY’!
Parasite prevention

ROUNDWORMS: This parasite is a common intestinal parasite of cats, which can lead to vomiting, coughing, and sometimes ocular (eye) or neurologic (brain) symptoms in cats. Young kittens and senior cats tend to be most severely affected by roundworm infection. They are the most commonly seen parasite of kittens and puppies, as they are exposed to the parasite while drinking milk from their mother. Roundworms are shed in your cat’s feces and are considered zoonotic: meaning people can become infected from poor hygiene when handling cat’s fecal material. This is most important to be aware of for any children interacting with cats, or in case your cats use the sandbox as a litter box.

Your cat can be exposed to roundworm eggs or larvae in the outdoor environment. Cats are exposed to this parasite by ingestion of dirt or water that has been contaminated by animal feces, or ingestion of any hosts of the parasite: insects, rodents, birds, or earthworms.

TAPEWORMS:   Tapeworms are one of the more disgusting parasites of cats. They are one of the first worms to be noted by an owner, because it’s always pretty ‘exciting’ when a tapeworm starts to worm its way out of a cat’s bottom and crawl across the bed/sofa/owner’s lap. These wormy segments are not the adult form of this parasite but are actually mobile egg packets. Eventually they will dry up and you may also note little white rice like pieces on the cat’s bedding or favorite sleeping spot. Cats are exposed to tapeworm larvae via 2 main routes: ingestion of fleas, and ingestion of rodents. If you have a cat that enjoys hunting, or if you have a cat who nibbles at even the one flea that jumps on its fur, they are candidates for infection. This parasite is also zoonotic (ie. can spread to people), although infection in humans is rare. To help prevent tapeworm infection, cats are either treated with a flea prevention product such as Advantage, Advantage Multi, or Revolution. If tapeworm segments are noted in a cat’s stool, then an infection is treated with a deworming medication such as Profender. For very active outdoor hunting cats, often both medications are administered to help prevent and treat infection.

HOOKWORMS: Hookworms are not as commonly found in cats as they are in dogs, but they can cause significant disease. The larvae live in the dirt and environment, and are ingested when a cat grooms its paws and feet. In cats, hookworms can lead to significant blood loss or anemia. They can cause skin irritation and itching, and a poor quality hair coat. Hookworms can infect people and can cause an itchy infection beneath the skin. Good hygiene is important again with children especially and around the litterbox, outdoor sandbox, or garden area where the cat may defecate.

For more about parasites:

Gastrointestinal “Protozoan” Parasites in Cats
‘External’ Parasites in Cats & Dogs