What is External Parasite in Cats
What is it?
How is it Treated?
There is no known breed predisposition for external parasites in cats. However, certain breeds may be more susceptible to external parasites due to their environment or lifestyle
One sunny afternoon, Sarah noticed her fluffy Maine Coon, Jasper, incessantly scratching and grooming himself. As she took a closer look, she discovered small, crawling creatures on his skin, leaving her startled and concerned. She immediately scheduled a visit to their trusted veterinarian to address the issue.
External parasites in cats are prevalent, especially in cats who spend much time outdoors. External parasites are organisms that live outside their host’s body. They feed off the host’s nutrients without harming them. External parasites can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of parasite involved.
External parasites cause harm to their hosts because they take up space and resources that could otherwise go toward the growth of healthy tissues. Some parasites even use their hosts’ bodies as homes.
Several external and internal parasites exist, such as fleas, ticks, lice, mites, and worms. Some of these parasites live inside the cat’s skin, while others live outside the cat’s skin.
Other types of feline external parasitosis include mange, sarcoptic mange, and scabies.
- Flea infestation is one of cats’ most common external parasite issues. Fleas are tiny insects that feed off the blood of cats.
- Ticks are another common external parasite found in cats. Ticks are blood-sucking arachnids that carry diseases like Lyme disease.
- Lice are tiny wingless parasitic insects that live on the fur of cats.
- Mites are microscopic arachnids that live on the surface of cats’ skin. Mites can cause dermatitis, irritation, and allergies.
- Worms are roundworms that live in the intestine of cats. Worms can cause diarrhea and intestinal blockage.
- Mange is caused by a group of bacteria called Demodex spp., which lives under the cat’s skin.
- Sarcoptic mange is similar to management, except that it affects the outer layer of the skin rather than the fur itself.
- Scabies is a contagious condition that spreads through direct contact.
What Causes Feline External Parasites
Flea infestation is one of the most common problems faced by cat owners. Fleas are tiny insects that feed on the blood of mammals, including humans. They live on the fur of cats and dogs and bite them. Fleas are usually found on the belly, ears, tail, legs, face, neck, head, back, chest, paws, and under the wings. O0.7% of cats resulted positive for at least one internal or external parasite species.
Flea bites are known to transmit disease-causing bacteria such as:
- Bartonella henselae (BH) is a gram-negative bacterium that causes cat scratch disease, characterized by fever, lymphadenopathy, and regional adenitis. Approximately 40 percent of cats are infected with Bartonella henselae, but most show no signs of illness. It is transmitted through contact with infected cats’ saliva, urine, feces, or blood. The bacteria can remain dormant in the body for years before causing symptoms.
- Dirofilaria immitis (also known as heartworm) is a parasitic roundworm that infects dogs and cats. It is transmitted from dog to human through mosquito bites. The adult worm lives in the pulmonary arteries of the lung, where they cause inflammation and blockage of blood flow. This leads to coughing, fever, weight loss, lethargy, and sometimes death.
- Pasteurellosis is a bacterium found in the mouths of between 70 and 90 percent of cats. It has been found that between 50 and 80 percent of human-cat bites become severe enough to seek medical attention. It usually affects animals such as dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer, rabbits, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and insects. However, the disease can affect humans too.
- Ectoparasites are parasites that live on the outside surface of their host. They feed off the blood of animals and humans. Ectoparasites were found in 29.6% of cats (CI95 27.3-32.0%). Most ectoparasites are insects such as fleas, lice, ticks, mites, mosquitoes, flies, ants, bees, wasps, etc. Some ectoparasites include worms, snails, snakes, fish, birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, etc.
- Otodectes Cynotises (known as ear mites) are parasites living in mammals’ external auditory canals, including humans. Otodectes cynotis was the most frequently identified species (17.4%), followed by fleas (15.5%). They feed on keratin debris from the earwax. The adult female mite lays eggs in the earwax, which hatch into larvae. The larvae then burrow through the skin and enter the bloodstream, where they mature. Mature larvae leave the body via the respiratory system and migrate to the ears; they attach themselves to the eardrum.
- Toxocariasis is a parasitic disease caused by the roundworm called Toxocara catis. Toxocara cati was the most commonly diagnosed endoparasite (19.7%, CI95 17.8-21.8%). The worm lives in the intestines of cats and dogs. It can infect humans through contact with contaminated soil or food. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough, wheezing, skin rash, eye irritation, joint pains, muscle aches, and difficulty breathing.
Symptoms of External Parasites Felines
External parasites are usually transmitted via contaminated food or water. Cats who eat infected prey may become ill themselves. Symptoms typically appear within 24 hours after ingestion. They cause irritation and discomfort and sometimes severe health problems.
Symptoms of external parasite infection vary depending on the type of parasite involved.
Common symptoms include;
- weight loss
Other signs include
- enlarged lymph nodes
- nasal discharge
Diagnosis of Cat’s External Parasite
The most common way to detect external parasites in cats is through physical examination. First, veterinarian checks the cat’s skin for masses, bumps, sores, redness, swelling, discharge, hair loss, etc.
A veterinarian will look closely at the area if any of these symptoms are found. This includes checking the fur around the site, looking under the nails, and examining the ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and genitals. In addition, a thorough exam should include palpating the abdomen, chest, back, legs, and tail.
If no signs of infection are found during the physical exam, the veterinarian will use a microscope to examine the sample taken from the suspected area. Different types of tests may be used depending on what kind of parasite was detected; for example, if there were fleas, they would be removed and examined under a microscope.
In this case, the veterinarian might swab the cat’s coat with alcohol before removing the flea. Then, they would place the flea on a slide and cover it with a coverslip. Then, under a microscope, the veterinarian could see the head of the flea and its body.
External Parasite Treatment in Cats
There are two treatment methods for external parasites: topical and oral meds.
- Topical treatments involve applying a substance directly onto the cat’s skin. This method treats fleas, ticks, mites, and lice. Well, however, it does not kill internal parasites.
- Oral medications are taken orally. These pills contain chemicals that destroy internal parasites. The downside to this type of treatment is that it takes longer to treat internal parasites than external ones.
Both methods are effective, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, topical treatments are easy to administer and inexpensive. On the other hand, they only target external parasites. On the other hand, oral medications are expensive and require daily administration. In addition, they only treat tapeworms or internal parasites.
Prevention for Feline External Parasite
Keeping your cat healthy and happy is essential to prevent external parasites. The first step in prevention is to keep your cat clean and dry.
The skin of cats is porous, meaning it absorbs dirt quickly. So, keeping your cat’s coat clean and groomed would be best.
- Brush your cat’s coat regularly and remove dead hair. This keeps fleas off your cat and prevents them from spreading.
- Flea collars and tick-repellent sprays are practical tools against fleas and ticks. Flea collars are available in different sizes and shapes. They attach around your cat’s neck and release insecticide when it moves.
- Tick-repellent sprays contain chemicals that repel ticks. Spray your cat’s bedding and other areas where your cat spends time outdoors.
- Vaccination is another tool in the fight against external parasites. Vaccinations protect young and adult cats from diseases transmitted through contact with infected animals.
There are several types of vaccines, including core vaccine, feline leukemia virus vaccine, rabies vaccine, and panleukopenia vaccine. Core vaccination protects your cat from common diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and panleukopenia.
The feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine protects your cat from FeLV, a cancerous disease affecting felines. The rabies vaccine protects your cat from rabies. Make sure to vaccinate your cat annually. Your veterinarian can recommend the best vaccine for your cat based on age, health history, lifestyle, and environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
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