Parasitic infections and pets tend to go hand in hand, and there are a number of different parasitic worms that can affect your feline friend, each that can affect your cat in a slightly different way.
Although dogs are the most natural host for heartworms, they can still affect felines too. This internal parasite is spread by mosquitos which feed on an infected animal and take immature heartworms into their body, which they then transfer to their next host. Once the heartworms are in your kitty’s body, they will travel through her bloodstream to the blood vessels in her heart and lungs. Here they can feed freely, grow, mature and eventually reproduce.
The main in which heartworms will affect your cat is that as their numbers grow, they will begin to block the flow of blood through her heart and lungs. This can affect respiratory function and prevent oxygenated blood from reaching her vital organs. Coughing, labored breathing and difficulty participating in physical activity are common symptoms. Left untreated, the heartworms could cause irreversible damage and even death.
As many as 10% of cats in the United States are living with hookworms at any one time. These debilitating parasites attach to the lining of your pet’s intestinal wall and feed on her blood and tissue. They must be ingested for your cat to be infected.
The biggest affect that hookworms will have on your pet is blood loss. They consume a surprising amount of blood and this can cause your furbaby to experience the effects of anemia. In some instances, this can be life-threatening.
Lungworms take their name from the part of your kitty’s body where the parasite are most comfortable – the airways and small arteries of the lungs. Cats become infected with lungworm when they eat an animal infected with lungworm larvae. These are microscopic and are often found in rats, mice, frogs, birds and lizards. Once ingested, the larvae burrows through the wall of your pet’s stomach and migrates to the lungs.
Like other types of internal parasite, it can be difficult to spot a lungworm infestation. Some cats will show no symptoms at all, while others may show some signs of respiratory distress such as coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing and lethargy. Symptoms are usually most severe between 6 and 13 weeks after infection. Left untreated, lungworms can cause your kitty to develop respiratory failure.
Roundworms are the most common type of parasitic worm affecting cats today. They can be contracted through ingesting infected milk (from an infected mother), ingesting immature worms, or eating other animals that have been infected with roundworm larvae.
Adult roundworms live in your cat’s intestines and live quite happily here without causing your pet any major symptoms, until the infestation is quite severe. At this stage, your pet might develop a soft cough, diarrhea and vomiting. Unless treatment is sought, your kitty could develop pneumonia.
Tapeworms are an extremely common type of internal parasite and resides inside your cat’s small intestine. Tapeworms are actually spread by fleas, an external parasite. When an infected flea bites your pet, it transfers some of the microscopic tapeworm larvae into her body where it will grow, mature and reproduce. It can be tricky to spot a tapeworm infection, but many owners will notice white, grain-like specks in their pets feces. These are segments of tapeworm.
Tapeworms are one of the least severe types of parasite that can affect your kitty, but they can still cause extreme itching and discomfort. If your cat succumbs to the itch, she could open her skin and put herself at risk of an infection developing.
Contact our veterinary team today for further advice.