I decided to create this series of articles to address the top questions I’ve been asked as a veterinary technician. I’m a CVDT (Certified Veterinary Dental Technician), have been in the field for over ten years and have noticed a trend in the most commonly asked questions by pet owners. The answers found in these articles will reflect how things have been done in my experience only; keep in mind that all veterinarians and veterinary hospitals have varying policies and techniques.
For the purpose of this article, I’d like to talk about the importance of deworming cats. Many times people find it unnecessary to deworm an indoor cat or simply do not understand the risk that outdoor cats pose for getting parasites. We’ll look at some of the reasons why it is so important to take care of this easily treatable problem.
How do cats get parasites?
Cats can get parasites a number of different ways. Very commonly, cats pick up tapeworms by grooming. Because one of the ways tapeworms are transmitted is by tapeworms, cats become infected with the parasite when they groom and ingest the fleas. Tapeworms are also carried by rodents so if your cat is a hunter, he’s at a pretty high risk for getting tapeworms.
There are many other parasites that cats can get as well. These can be transmitted through the stool of other critters when the cat ingests parasite eggs that are left behind. Contaminated water sources or soil are another culprit.
Even indoor cats can pick up parasites. If you have other pets that go outside, such as dogs or other cats, the chances for infection are raised. Also, pet owners can bring parasite eggs in on their clothing or shoes. Another route that often goes unthought-of is a new home; other pets that may have lived in the household prior to yours may have been infected, leaving behind parasite eggs in carpet, flooring and other areas.
Why should I deworm my cat? He looks fine to me.
Cats do not often show signs of parasites until they are suffering from an infestation. A cat that appears to be perfectly healthy could indeed be harboring any kind of parasite.
Some signs that a cat may show include vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, weight loss, blood loss and even death. To avoid letting your cat get to this stage, have a fecal examination done at least twice a year and have your veterinarian deworm your higher risk cats when recommended.
Some parasites are zoonotic. This means that the parasite can be passed from animals to humans. People that are most susceptible to parasites are the young children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised. Because parasite eggs can live in the environment for months to years, it is most important to consult your veterinarian on preventing them and treating your cat in the best ways possible.
What can I do to prevent parasites or treat my cat?
Deworming is relatively easy, however it can take multiple rounds of medication to completely rid a cat of a large number of parasites. Depending on the type of parasite you are dealing with, there is a variety of different drugs available that can treat your cat easily and effectively. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions on how to medicate you cat and when to follow up with additional medication.
Biannual fecal exams are extremely important. Even if the cat’s stool appears normal, it could be hiding parasite eggs that are invisible to the naked eye. During a fecal exam, a sample is mixed with a solution that causes the eggs to rise to the surface. The sample is then examined under the microscope in an attempt to detect any signs of parasite eggs.
Noticing something weird in your cats stool? It is not uncommon for pet owners to actually see a parasite. Many owners state that the cat has rice around its rear end or in the stool. This is commonly found to be tapeworms. Worms that look like spaghetti are usually roundworms. Both are easy to treat so call the vet to set up a treatment plan. Avoid the dewormers that can be purchased over the counter as they typically don’t cover all of the different types of parasites that are found in cats. They are also generally found to be less effective than the medication your veterinarian can supply you with.
Cats of all ages need to be dewormed. Kittens should receive a dewormer at least every four to six weeks for the first several months of life. After that, follow your vet’s instructions and recommendations to help ensure your cat gets the best care he deserves.