Having worms is no fun for your cat. Symptoms can range from chronic diarrhea to lethargy. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, symptoms associated worms depend on the type of worm your cat has. You'll notice some of the same symptoms appear with different types of worms, which is why a vet must identify the exact type of worms a cat has in order to provide the right de-worming treatment.
Roundworms (Toxocara cati, Toxascaris leonine) are one of the most common parasites with which your cat may come in contact. They are two to four inches long, are usually a milky white or tan color, and have tapered ends. Your cat passes them either through vomiting or in his or her stool, and they look like spaghetti.
The presence of roundworms can cause a cat to:
- Look pot-bellied
- Constantly feel hungry
- Have chronic diarrhea
- Be less active than usual
It is important to note that roundworms can be transmitted to humans.
Tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum, T. taeniaeformis) are very common in animals, especially those that have a flea infestation. You can easily see tapeworms with the naked eye; they are small and white in color. You will usually find them in your pet's stools or stuck in the fur under and around a cat's tail. Dead segments of the tapeworm can be identified as tiny, rice-like balls in your pet's bedding. Cats get tapeworms from ingesting fleas that are carriers of this parasite. These worms stick to the intestinal lining of the animal.
Symptoms of tapeworms include:
- Seeing small segments of worms in the fur on your cat's rear
- Seeing worm segments in your cat's stool
- Weight loss
- Constant hunger
Luckily, tapeworms are not easily transmitted to humans.
Hookworms (Ancylostoma braziliense) are also a common parasite in felines, although they cannot be seen with the naked eye. They feed off the blood of the animal they have infested and cause anemia. This can be fatal in felines, especially for kittens. Adult cats often have built up immunity to these parasites, so they may not exhibit any symptoms.
Symptoms caused by hookworms include:
- Blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain
Hookworms can be transmitted to humans by walking barefoot on infected ground.
Stomach worms (Ollanulus tricuspis and Physaloptera) live in a cat's stomach. Animals become infected with this stomach worm by ingesting the vomit of an infected animal.
Ollanulus is rare in the United States, but can still be found in stray cats and households or facilities that have multiple cats. Cats can become infected with the Physaloptera worm by ingesting crickets or cockroaches. It can also be obtained by eating a transport host, such as a rodent, that has also eaten the infected cricket or cockroach.
Stomach Worm Symptoms
Symptoms of Ollanulus and Physaloptera worms in cats include:
- Weight loss
These worms can be identified by a veterinarian through inspection of the infected animal's vomit and stools.
Heartworms are seen more often in dogs than in cats. Generally, cats are not natural hosts of this particular parasite and probably will not suffer from it unless they are ill and have a compromised immune system. The animal gets the parasite through a bite from a mosquito.
Infected cats will show little or no signs of these invaders. Infected animals may die from this kind of infestation or suffer heart/lung damage. There is no single blood test to help identify this parasite. Usually a combination of tests will help a vet make the determination of the presence of heartworms.
Consult Your Vet Before Treating Your Cat
The info provided here is not meant to replace professional veterinary diagnosis and treatment. While over-the-counter de-worming medications may work, they can cause stomach distress for your pet, and they may not kill the pests completely. For your pet's health and safety, seek the advice of a veterinarian before beginning any de-worming program.