Most people associate roundworms with dogs, but cats can also get this harmful parasite. Did you know that roundworms are extremely common parasitic worms found inside cats, dogs, and other animals? They can be a significant cause of illness, even death in kittens. Most cats become infected with them at some time in their life, generally as kittens.
Infection can be spread through direct contact or ingestion. Cats can get roundworms from contact with an animal carrying the worm.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about roundworms in cats. Keep reading to know more about clinical signs, treatment options, and prevention methods!
Roundworms in Cats
Roundworms are the most common internal parasites found inside a cat. The two species that infect cats are Toxocara Cati and Toxascara Leonina. Of these, the Toxocara Cati can cause health problems in human beings. In the case of dogs, it is Toxocara Canis that causes a parasitic infection. Toxocara Canis (dogs) and Toxocara Cati (cats) can also infect people.
As the name indicates, they are round, white to light brown, and up to 4 inches long, much like spaghetti noodles. They are intestinal parasites found in all animals. Adult worms live in your pet’s intestines and feed off the nutrient in their diet.
Roundworms can be contracted in many ways, making them easy to spread and hard to control. Cats contract with roundworms often through contact with another animal carrying the worm. The worms are often found in soil. Your cat (or dog) can contract roundworms while playing or eating grass.
How Contagious Are Roundworms?
Yes! Roundworms are contagious. If your cat comes into contact with another animal with roundworms, it can also get the same. They are also present in cats’ feces and can remain infective for months. And when a cat or a dog comes into contact with the feces, they can get infected.
What’s the Prognosis for Cats Diagnosed with Roundworms?
The prognosis for cats with roundworm infection is pretty good. However, it’s essential to treat the roundworm early on before your cat becomes ill or dies.
If your cat has roundworms, take them to see their vet as soon as you can! Cats are very good at hiding illness until they become pretty sick. And by then, it may be too late for treatment to be effective.
Types of Roundworms
There are various types of roundworms that cause infections in cats. Though they look and behave in a similar manner, they have different life cycles.
- Toxocara Cati is generally seen in kittens. It is transmitted from an infected mother to the baby via mother’s milk. However, the roundworm can also be a result of ingesting eggs. Generally, animals such as rodents, beetles, or earthworms act as carriers of the parasitic worm. The eggs then hatch into roundworm larvae in the digestive system of the cat.
- Toxascara Leonina is quite less common and is seen in older cats and dogs. It has a pretty straightforward life cycle than the Toxocara Cati. The eggs of this type are found in the cat (or dog)feces. And when ingested, they hatch into adult roundworms in the digestive system.
- Toxocara Canis is the most common type of roundworm seen in dogs. They can grow up to 7 inches long and can be transmitted to humans too. When the infective eggs are ingested, the resulting larvae can invade the gut wall and migrate. The migrating larvae can invade the body tissues where it encysts if the dog is older than five weeks of age.
How Do Cats Get Roundworms?
The most common way cats contract roundworms is by ingesting the eggs. This can happen when they play with contaminated soil and grass, or if they come into contact with rodents carrying the roundworm larvae.
A milk-borne infection is the primary mode of roundworm transmission in kittens. Immature worms called larvae are present in the mammary glands of an infected mother. Later on, it passes on to the kittens via her milk.
Both cats and kittens can get roundworms through an accidental host. An accidental host can be any animal where the roundworm eggs can be found. In most cases, the host stays unaffected. Instead, the eggs are transported to the cat through the feces. It can happen when your pet eats the tissue of an affected animal, thereby completing the life cycle.
When the cat (or dog) eats the host, the eggs hatch in the gastrointestinal tract. And the larvae migrate to various organs such as the liver and lungs through the tissue. They then return to the intestines to lay eggs that pass out through the cat’s (or dog’s) stool.
There is no direct contact between cats and roundworms. However, the infection can be contracted by ingesting feces, contaminated soil, or another animal.
Clinical Signs of Roundworm Infection in Cats
Adult roundworms live in the affected cat’s intestines. They show clinical signs of roundworm in various ways. Some may not show any sign at all and can be asymptomatic carriers for a long time. They pass out the eggs through their stool every once in a while.
But, others who have heavy infections may become ill and show the following symptoms:
- Loss of Appetite
- Inability to Gain Weight / Weight Loss
- Decreased Energy
- Dull Hair Coat
- Potbellied Appearance
- Adult Worms in Stool or Vomit
The most common sign is the flat segments with tapering ends and grain-like appearance in the stool of infected pets. These are the larvae of parasitic roundworms, which are passed out along with the feces.
Some cats may also show signs of coughing due to pneumonia caused by the larvae. These larvae push into the respiratory system, causing breathing difficulty.
Treatment for Roundworm Infections
Roundworms are pretty easy to treat. Start by giving your cat a deworming medication regularly every month or two.
The medications work only on adult roundworms and not on larvae or eggs. Hence they need to be repeated every 2-3 weeks for it to be effective. The treatment goes on until to treat the residual roundworms as they mature. The number of treatments depends on the situation and the age of the cat.
The companion animal parasite council recommends deworming a kitten every two weeks of age until four months. Pregnant dogs should also be dewormed in late pregnancy or after six weeks of pregnancy. This will help reduce the chances of it passing to the puppies. On the other hand, Puppies should be dewormed starting at two weeks of age and repeated as long as the pet needs.
You can give this as part of routine care, even if you do not see signs anymore – it will keep them away for sure! Roundworms can cause serious health problems in cats – even death! Therefore, it is vital to get your cat treated for roundworms as soon as possible.
Roundworm Prevention for Dogs and Cats
Treatment and prevention is by far the best way to control roundworms.
One way to prevent roundworms is to give your pet medication every month for two weeks. They need the medication until they are four months old. This medicine will protect your kitten from roundworms and other worms such as hookworms and tapeworms.
Here are a few steps you should follow to prevent roundworm infections:
- First, keep your cat indoors, as it will limit exposure to a variety of animals.
- Keep cats and dogs away from areas with a high rodent population.
- Maintain a clean yard free of cat feces. The presence of feces can attract rodents carrying roundworm eggs onto your property.
- Clean up your dog’s feces immediately. Use gloves to avoid contact with fecal matter.
- Do not feed your cat raw meat as this may increase the risk of roundworms.
- Once you have a kitten, make sure to keep it indoors until it is at least four months old.
- Take your cat to the vet for regular checkups.
- Wash hands after handling pets that might carry roundworm eggs on their fur (kittens).
- Ensure your cat’s vaccinations are up to date.
- Maintain your cat’s living area clean and free from feces.
- Keep the cat’s litter box away from children and other pets.
How Long Does It Take to Kill Roundworms in Cats?
The medications take as long as three days to destroy the roundworms in the body. However, the medicine works on adult roundworms and not the larvae. Therefore, you may have to repeat the treatment until the eggs are hatched, and the larvae are killed.
Is It Normal for Roundworms to Come Out After Deworming?
Yes! It is pretty common to see live and dead roundworms in the stool of your cat (or dog) after deworming. While it is unpleasant, it means that your pets no longer carry roundworms.
The roundworms in the stool will look like small and long pieces of spaghetti (or rice). If you see them, then it means that your pet still has roundworms.
You need to deworm again after a week if this happens even though there is no sign of roundworms! And make sure to give regular deworming treatment every month.
What if My Cat Vomits Worms?
If you see roundworms in the vomit, this is a sign that they have a severe infection. You will need to get them checked by their vet immediately and dewormed!
It also means that other organs like the liver or lungs are also infected (or damaged). In addition, the larvae often result in vomiting up of the roundworms.
When this happens, consult veterinary professionals as they may suggest tests and treatment. They will also be able to recommend an effective deworming medication for use at home!
Can I Deworm My Cat Myself?
You cannot deworm your cat by yourself since you may not know which medicines to use. Also, if it is a kitten, you need an adult who can hold the animal during treatment!
You should consult with a vet or take them along when giving their deworming medication. If you want to deworm your cat at home, make sure that the treatment is safe for kittens (if this applies) and gentle on their stomachs.
Roundworms are nasty parasites that can make your cat feel pretty bad. If you notice your kitten has been dragging its butt or looking like it’s got the flu, roundworms could be to blame.
You need to get treatment before it gets worse and causes serious problems! Cats contract roundworms often through contact with another animal carrying the worm.
The prognosis for cats with roundworm infection is pretty good (most will recover without any complications). However, you need to treat the infection early on before your cat becomes ill or dies. The most common way cats contract roundworms are by ingesting the eggs when they come into contact with rodents.
With such an easy way for cats to contract these worms, we need all pet owners to be vigilant about prevention measures. Keep your pets indoors and away from areas that rodents might congregate.
In Tucson, Santa Cruz Pet Clinic is a world-renowned and trusted veterinarian that you will want for keeping up with your pet’s vaccinations at the proper time, deworming, and other services to ensure its health. Contact us today to schedule your pet’s vaccinations and check-ups.