While most of us will remember and think about the common problem of fleas when it comes to parasites many of us forget that there are far worse and far less visible parasites that could infest your cats, other pets and in some cases even us!
As part of our commitment to providing you with tips and advice around the wellbeing of your cats (and other pets) we will be including many more posts around how to keep parasites at bay. If you’ve missed our previous post on fleas don’t forget that you can find this here.
Today we are going to focus on running through some of the parasites that our cats are susceptible to!
White worms with cylindrical bodies, roundworms live in the small intestine of cats and feed on the contents of the gut. Cats can become infected from their mother’s milk or by ingesting infected eggs. Cats are particularly susceptible to this parasite due to their primal need to hunt, as rodents and birds also act as hosts. Symptoms of roundworm include diarrhoea, stunted growth, a deteriorating coat and a pot belly. Roundworm is also a potential risk to people if they swallow the eggs.
Tapeworms are long and flat, and their bodies are divided into segments. An adult tapeworm lives in the small intestine of a cat, and it releases its eggs through detached segments of its body. Cats can get a tapeworm after hunting for example by eating infected mice. However, cats can also easily contract tapeworm when they ingest fleas during the grooming process. The symptoms to look out for include diarrhoea and vomiting, and some cats will experience irritation around the anus.
Hookworms can grow up to 16mm in length, and they live in the gut of cats. However, infections in cats are extremely rare in the UK. Hookworm can be contracted through the ingestion of larvae, which can be found in the faeces of cats. Among the symptoms of a hookworm infection are diarrhoea, anaemia and lethargy.
Heartworms live in the heart and pulmonary arteries of cats, and they are characterised by their white, thread-like appearance. Although heartworms are not present in the UK or Ireland, they can be picked up during travel abroad. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquito bites, and the symptoms include breathing difficulties, heart failure, high blood pressure and lethargy. In some rare cases a heartworm infection can lead to the death of a cat.
Fleas are wingless insects that grow to about one eighth of an inch in length. They have very large back legs that allow them to jump huge distances relative to their body size. Fleas feed on the blood of cats, and they can be picked up from an infested environment. Fleas can cause allergic reactions and transmit bacteria and viruses.
Ticks are small insect-like creatures – but with eight legs rather than six. Generally found in rural areas, ticks lie in wait of animals in deep vegetation. Ticks can pierce the skin of a cat and feed on blood, which can cause reactions around the site of attachment. In kittens, ticks have the potential to cause anaemia and death from blood loss. But perhaps the most important threat related to tick bites is the spread of diseases such as lyme disease.
- Ear Mites
Ear mites are tiny creatures with eight legs, and they thrive on the surface of the skin in the outer ear canal. Ear mites are transferred between cats through direct contact, and they can cause significant irritation if not treated.
This mite is rare but can affect cats. Some cats will show no signs of skin disease when infected with the demodex mite, but if a cat becomes unwell they can sometimes experience a particularly large infestation which can lead to hair loss and severely inflamed patches of skin.
- Notoedres Mange Mite
The notoedres mange mite is rare but highly contagious, and it has the potential to spread to humans. An infection is sometimes referred to as ‘mange’ or scabies. Spread through direct contact, these mites can cause inflammation of the skin, redness and severe itchiness. It may cause wrinkling or scaling of your cat’s skin. If left untreated, the notoedres mange mite can cause hair loss, skin disease and a range of bacterial infections.
If you spot any of the symptoms listed it is important that you get your cat checked out by a vet.
We also found this funny but very important informational video from Merial below on the topic of parasites! While it’s focussed on a puppy it certainly reminds us of the importance of having not just our dogs but cats checked out by a vet as well! Wouldn’t want those pesky parasites to have a Parasite Party inside them… ;(
The video is courtesy of Merial and their information website Parasite Party (both cats and dogs tips). For those of you with dogs in their household on top of your cats they have additional information on the parasites that we covered in today’s post focussed on how they impact your puppy!
Lastly please find some useful tips from our friends at Castle Vets who are in charge of our new monthly cat health section on recommended treatments for worming below:
- Use a veterinary recommended wormer: You should worm your pet at least 4 times a year, but more frequently if your pet hunts, likes to eat dead animals, or likes to eat poo. Be very careful about using ‘natural/herbal worming products’ as these products work by removing the worms from the animal’s digestive system but not necessarily killing the worms, meaning any eggs that are passed are still viable and will infect the next host. (It is worth noting that commonly named ‘natural’ worming products such as Oregon Grape, Black Walnut, Wormwood, Garlic and Onions can all be highly toxic to pets if the dosage is miscalculated!)
- Scoop the poop:Cat litter trays and outside toileting areas should be scooped out daily and properly cleaned at least once a week.
- Good personal hygiene and making sure children wash their hands: Especially after stroking pets and playing outside. Kissing your cat or letting him or her lick you will put you more at risk, especially if you are immunocompromised.
- Speak to your veterinary nurse: He or she can advise you on the safest and most effective parasite treatments for your cat as well as how often you need to give them.
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