Cats can be infected with different types of parasites (worms) such as roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms, as well as coccidia and giardia. They can become infected in different ways, such as contact with outdoor cats or wildlife, hunting, or ingesting infected feces. Cats that are completely indoors (and never go outside at all) are at lower risk, but can still come in contact with parasites. For this reason, we recommend routine fecal tests and deworming for all kittens and all-new cats to the household, as well as for adult cats who go outside, and we recommend a routine fecal test at the annual exam for indoor cats.
What are some types of parasites found in cats?
Roundworms are one of the most common parasites we see in cats. A cat can get roundworms by eating infective worm eggs from their environment, eating prey (usually mice) that is carrying the worms, or a nursing mother can transmit them to her kittens.
Fleas carry tapeworms, and when a cat with fleas is grooming, they will ingest the flea and become infected with tapeworms. Unfortunately, tapeworms sometimes do not show up on fecal tests (false negative). Therefore, any cat with fleas should also be treated for tapeworms.
Hookworms are transmitted by environmental contact or by eating an infected prey animal such as mice or certain insects.
Giardia and Coccidia are microscopic parasites that are commonly transmitted through contact with infected fecal material from other animals, cats, dogs and wildlife.
If my cat has worms, what symptoms should I look for?
In some cases, you may notice changes in your cat’s feces, such as diarrhea or blood. You may even see worms in the feces. But often there are no visible signs in the cat or the feces – the only way to know for sure it to test.
Are worms dangerous to humans?
Some of these parasites can be transmitted to humans, especially anyone who is pregnant or has a compromised immune system. Generally, the transmission is through the fecal-oral route (fecal material from the pet coming in contact with the person’s mouth).
What is the deworming schedule?
The specific medication and schedule will vary based on the type of parasite. In general, there will be either a tablet or a liquid medication that is given at home for a set period of time, followed by a recheck fecal sample to ensure the infection is gone. For kittens, we recommend routine deworming with a safe and effective medication, in addition to treatment for any specific parasites they may have. For adult cats who spend time outside unsupervised or who are known hunters, we recommend a tablet that treats roundworms and tapeworms and should be given at least every 6 months.
Are there any side effects from deworming medication?
In general, we do not see any side effects when these medications are administered appropriately, although we will sometimes see softer stool while giving the medication. If you notice anything of concern with your pet, please let us know.