What are Gastrointestinal Parasites in Cats?
What is it?
How is it Treated?
Gastrointestinal parasites can occur in cats of any breed or age and can be more common in cats frequently exposed to contaminated environments or other animals.
When Luna, a loving British Shorthair, suddenly started losing weight and experiencing diarrhea, her owner, Rachel, grew increasingly concerned. Seeking answers, she took Luna to the veterinarian for a thorough evaluation. After running a series of tests, the vet discovered that Luna was suffering from gastrointestinal parasites, a common issue that can affect cats of all ages and breeds.
Gastrointestinal parasites in cats are tiny animals that live inside their intestines. They’re not dangerous to humans but can cause cat health problems. They are very prevalent in cats, especially kittens, because they tend to eat a lot more food per pound of body weight than adults do.
Cats can be infected with gastrointestinal parasites when they eat contaminated food or water. The most common parasite found in cats is Toxocara cati (T. cati). This zoonotic parasite causes toxocariasis, which is usually mild and doesn’t require treatment. However, some cases may lead to severe complications, including blindness and seizures.
Types of Gastrointestinal Parasites in Cats
Cats are prone to many types of gastrointestinal parasite species. For example, some cats may be infected with roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, Giardia, coccidia, cryptosporidium, and others.
Roundworm parasites are common intestinal worms found in cats. When viewed through a microscope, they’re often called
roundworms because they look like tiny white balls
roundworms because they look like little white balls when viewed through a microscope. Like other intestinal parasites, roundworms can survive in the environment for long periods.
Cats acquire roundworms from eating contaminated food or water. The most common roundworm parasites in cats are Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonina. These worm lives in the soil and infects cats by ingesting contaminated feces.
Toxocara cati (toxocariasis) is a parasitic infectious disease spread through contact with infected cats’ feces. The parasite lives inside intestinal cells and causes inflammation of the lungs and liver. This parasitic infection is most common in children and adults who live in poor sanitation conditions.
Cats are often exposed to this parasite because they eat contaminated soil, grass, and vegetation. They may also ingest eggs shed by dogs or rodents. Once ingested, the larvae hatch and travel through the bloodstream to the brain, where they cause damage.
Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, fever, seizures, blindness, coma, and death.
Toxascaris leonine (or toxo) is a parasite in cats’ feces. Cats usually pass this zoonotic parasite along when they defecate. This intestinal parasite causes diarrhea in humans. The worm causes diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and sometimes death.
Cats who eat raw meat may be at risk of getting toxo because the zoonotic parasite lives in the intestines of carnivores. So, if you feed your cat raw meat, you should keep him away from his litter box until he stops passing toxo.
Hookworms are intestinal worms that live in dogs and cats. They’re not harmful to humans, but they cause severe damage to pets’ intestines. Hookworms are less common than roundworm infections. However, they’re estimated to affect between 10% and 60% of people living in North America.
They enter through the mouth and travel down the esophagus until they reach the stomach. Then, they burrow into the stomach wall and move through the small intestine. Once inside the small intestine, hookworms feed on blood and mucus. This causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the small intestine.
There are two types of hookworms in cats: Ancylostoma and Uncinaria
Ancylostoma is a type of hookworm that lives in the intestines of cats. Hookworms are intestinal parasites that live inside animals’ bodies and feed off blood. They’re often found in dogs and cats, although some species can infect humans.
Hookworms are most commonly seen in tropical climates where sanitation isn’t excellent. However, there are many types of hookworms, and not every cat infected with them will show symptoms.
Symptoms vary depending on the hookworm type and the animal’s age. However, common signs include diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, and lack of appetite.
Uncinariasis is a parasitic disease that affects dogs and cats. The worms live in the intestines, where they cause severe damage. They’re most common in tropical areas but can be found anywhere: warm climates and stray cat populations.
Cats are particularly susceptible because they eat grasses and insects that harbor the worm larvae. Most cases of ascariasis occur when infected feces contaminate food or water sources. Infected pets may show no symptoms, but others develop diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, weakness, fever, lethargy, and sometimes death.
Most cats become infected when they play outdoors, where the soil containing infective larvae is found. However, cats can also be exposed to hookworms via contaminated food, bedding, toys, and fleas.
Left untreated, this can lead to severe complications, including diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, and death. Fortunately, most pet owners notice symptoms within two weeks of severe infection.
Cats infected with fewer than ten hookworms may show no signs at all. However, cats infected with over 20 hookworms often experience severe gastrointestinal problems.
Whipworm infections are common in cats, especially kittens. Whipworms are tiny worms that live in the intestines of cats. They’re not harmful to humans but cause severe diarrhea and vomiting in cats.
They’re most commonly found in young kittens because they’re still developing their immune system.
The symptoms usually appear within two weeks after infection. Kittens may vomit for several days, lose weight rapidly, and develop diarrhea.
If left untreated, whipworms can cause dehydration, malnutrition, and death. Fortunately, whipworms are easily treated with medication. In addition, your veterinarian should be able to diagnose them quickly through fecal sample testing.
They are flatworms that grow up to 2 inches in length. They are commonly referred to as “fleas of the dog.” Adult ones reside in the intestines of both people and cats. They’re usually found in dogs, cats, and horses.
They cause no harm unless infected with another intestinal parasite called a fluke. Flukes attach to the intestinal wall and feed off blood passing through the intestine.
Tapeworms are most commonly seen in pets because they eat raw meat. However, they can be transmitted to humans via fleas, flies, or mosquitoes. Therefore, people who handle cats’ feces should wash their hands thoroughly after taking them.
There are two main types of tapeworms found in cats: *Cestodes – These are flatworms that grow long segments called proglottids. The proglottid grows over several months until it reaches its entire length.
*Cysticercus cellulose (pancreas worm) – This type lives in the pancreas of cats. It causes pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas.
Giardia is a parasite found in cats’ feces. Cats infected with Giardia usually show no symptoms, but some cats may develop diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, and weakness.
There are two types of Giardia parasites in cats: Giardia duodenalis (also known as G. intestinalis) and Giardia felis. Both cause diarrhea in cats, but only the former causes vomiting, weight loss and dehydration. The latter usually does not cause these symptoms.
Both types of Giardia are transmitted through fecal contamination of water sources, including lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and swimming pools. However, most cases occur when drinking contaminated water.
Each type causes slightly different symptoms—some forms of Giardia cause no symptoms.
Cats who become ill typically recover within two weeks after treatment with metronidazole (Flagyl). However, some cats may need longer treatments.
Once diagnosed, Giardia treatment involves administering antibiotics. This is usually effective at clearing parasitic infections in cats within two weeks. However, some pets may need additional treatments.
Coccidia is protozoan parasites (single-celled organisms) that cause animal intestinal infections. They’re commonly found in dogs and cats, although some species may infect humans. Coccidia in cats has two types: Eimeria (or oocysts) and Isospora (or sporozoites).
Eimeria causes diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, and sometimes death. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. This parasite lives in the small intestine and colon.
Isospora causes no symptoms in healthy cats but may cause severe disease in kittens and young adult cats. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, weakness, depression, and coma. This parasite lives in large intestines.
They’re usually spread through fecal matter, so be careful not to let your cat defecate outside. Also, keep your cat away from areas where there are rodents, birds, or other pets that may carry coccidiosis.
If your cat does become infected, it may experience diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, weakness, fever, depression, and sometimes death.
Crypto is a parasite that lives in the intestines of animals. Cats are particularly susceptible to Crypto infections because they eat grass and dirt containing the parasite.
Cats infected with Crypto may show symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, fever, lethargy, depression, and sometimes death.
Crypto is usually transmitted through fecal contamination of food and water sources. For example, the most common source of infection in cats is contaminated drinking water. However, Crypto can be found in many foods, especially raw meats and unpasteurized dairy products.
Crypto infections are severe. They can cause severe illness and even death in young kittens. So take care when handling any cat’s feces. And wash hands thoroughly after touching pets’ waste.
Sarcocystis is a parasite that causes sarcocystosis in cats. This disease is characterized by diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, fever, and muscle weakness. The most common symptom is diarrhea, which may be bloody. Other symptoms include lethargy, depression, and seizures.
Cats infected with this parasite often develop kidney problems. They may also suffer liver failure, heart damage, and brain swelling.
Cats have two types of Sarcocystis infection: feline intestinal sarcocystosis (FIS) and feline hepatic sarcocystosis (HHS).
FIS occurs when the cat ingests food containing cysts of the parasite.FIS causes inflammation of the intestines, leading to diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, and sometimes death.
Symptoms usually appear between 2 and 6 months of age, but some kittens may be infected at birth. The parasite lives inside the cat’s intestine and is transmitted through feces. There are two types of FIS: primary and secondary. Preliminary FIS occurs when the kitten ingests the parasite during its mother’s pregnancy. Secondary FIS occurs when the parasite enters the kitten after being born.
Primary FIS is most common in young kittens, especially those not vaccinated against rabies. Secondary FIS tends to occur later in life, often in older cats.
Treatment for FIS includes supportive care, including fluid therapy and nutritional support. Antibiotics are used to treat severe cases. Some cats recover entirely, while others develop chronic diarrhea.
HHS occurs when the cat eats meat contaminated with feces containing cysts of the organism.
If left untreated, the disease may lead to liver failure. Parasitic infection occurs when a cat’s feces contain cysts (round protozoa) and enter the body through the mouth, nose, eyes, or anus. Cats usually become infected after eating meat contaminated with sporulated oocysts shed by another animal.
Both forms of the disease are treatable. However, treatment requires a combination of drugs, including pyrimethamine/sulfadiazine, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, and clindamycin.
Diagnosis of Feline Gastrointestinal Parasites
Veterinarians use several methods to detect intestinal worms in cats. The most common process involves examining a fecal sample under a microscope. This is called coproscopy. This requires a trained technician who knows how to examine feces properly.
If your vet suspects there may be worms, they may recommend another test called Baermann’s. This test uses a unique tube to collect feces from the cat’s anus; they will undergo a microscopic examination of feces.
Finally, some perform veterinary blood tests and get stool samples to determine whether the cat has been infected with tapeworms.
All these techniques require specialized equipment and training. So, if you plan on getting a pet, talk to your vet before bringing home a kitten or puppy. They can tell you if your new pet needs treatment for intestinal parasites.
Different Types of Treatments for Gastrointestinal Parasites in Cats
Parasitic Infections caused by intestinal parasites are treated with anti-parasite medications. Oral medication is usually recommended since it is easier to administer than injectable drugs.
Your vet may prescribe medication to treat GI parasites, such as metronidazole, praziquantel, fenbendazole, ivermectin, selamectin, or milbemycin oxime. These medications kill intestinal worms, roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and pinworm larvae. They’re often given once a month.
However, some recommend treating cats with GI parasites every two weeks because this schedule may be more effective than monthly treatment. This depends on the type of parasite involved and whether the cat has been exposed to other parasites.
Surgery is recommended when medication fails to control symptoms. But there are some drawbacks to this approach too. First, it requires anesthesia, which carries risk. Second, it removes the entire small intestine, which means the animal cannot absorb any nutrition. Third, it requires extensive post-operative care.
In some cases, intravenous fluid therapy is necessary because the patient cannot take oral medications due to poor appetite, nausea, or vomiting. When a cat receives IVF, it may be given fluids through a vein in its tail. This is called intermittent parenteral nutrition (IPN). The cat must receive IVF every day until the problem is resolved.
Cats who receive IVF usually recover quickly. However, some cats develop diarrhea after receiving IVF. This condition is known as postoperative ileus. To prevent this complication, veterinarians recommend giving IVF only once per week.
While some parasites are easily treated with medications, others require blood transfusions. Blood transfusions are usually given when a pet needs multiple treatments over several days. This helps prevent the patient from developing anemia due to repeated blood loss.
Prevention of Gastrointestinal Parasites in Cats
Prevention starts with regular deworming. Your veterinarian should administer monthly worming medication to keep your cat worm free. This includes administering preventive medicines during pregnancy.
- Feed a Balanced Diet
It is essential to feed your cat a balanced diet. This means providing her with a combination of dry food and canned food. Dry foods contain higher amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and proteins than canned foods.
However, it is recommended that you feed your cat a mixture of both types of food. Canned foods provide additional nutrition to your cat.
- Wash Hands Before Petting
Petting your cat is an excellent bonding activity between you and your pet. However, washing your hands thoroughly before touching your cat is essential.
Do not let your cat lick your hand after washing it. Cats usually groom themselves using their tongues. If your cat licks your hand, she may ingest harmful bacteria that can lead to parasitic infections.
- Clean Up Feces Regularly
Feces play a vital role in keeping your cat clean and healthy. Therefore, it is essential to clean up waste regularly.
Clean out your cat’s litter regularly. Make sure it’s not smelly or dirty. Also, change the litter frequently. Litter boxes that aren’t cleaned can attract flies and mosquitoes, which carry disease-causing germs.
- Use Safe Toys
Toys are necessary for your cat’s physical development. However, toys that are made of plastic or wood pose a danger to your cat.
These materials can easily break down over time, releasing chemicals that can harm your cat. So instead, choose toys made of natural rubber, cloth, or leather.
- Provide Fresh Water
Water is essential for your cat’s survival. Make sure that your cat has access to fresh water every day.
Ensure the water bowl is cleaned daily and refilled with fresh water. Never leave your cat unattended near a running tap.
Keep these tips in mind when caring for your feline friend. And remember, prevention is the best medicine against GI parasites.
What are the Preventive Medications Needed after Treatment?
After treatment, most pet owners give their pets a combination of two drugs: praziquantel (PZQ) and ivermectin (IVM). PQZ kills adult worms and prevents them from reproducing. IVM kills immature worms and prevents them from maturing into adults. Both work well against roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and heartworms.
However, PZQ is only effective against roundworms and hookworms, whereas IVM works against all four worms. So if you plan to use PZQ or IVM, your cat will need at least two doses each.
Keep in mind that these treatments aren’t 100 active. So even though your cat was treated successfully, there’s a slight risk that it could develop another parasitic infection. To reduce this risk, you should continue giving your cat preventatives for several years following the initial treatment.
How Often Do I Need to Deworm My Cat after Treatment?
Deworming your cat is essential because intestinal worms can cause serious health problems. Deworming helps prevent these problems from occurring.
After treating your cat for internal parasites, you should deworm him at least once every three months. This is especially true if your cat has been treated previously. However, if your cat was not treated recently, he may be fine until his next deworming appointment. So, when is the right time to deworm again?
Your veterinarian will tell you when to deworm based on your cat’s age. The ideal time to deworm is between six weeks and eight months of age. However, some cats may require additional treatments beyond this schedule. They will let you know whether your cat needs another deworming session.
After treatment, your cat should be monitored closely for signs of relapse. This includes observing stool consistency and frequency, appetite, drinking behavior, urination patterns, and other abnormal behaviors. If your cat shows any symptoms of relapse, contact your veterinarian immediately.
When Should I Call My Vet About Relapsed Cases?
Relapse happens when an animal develops new parasitic infections. It’s possiIt’sthat your cat picked up a second parasitic infection during the period between treatments. Or it might have ingested something else that caused a secondary infection. In either case, your cat has become reinfected.
In such instances, your veterinarian will likely recommend a repeat course of treatment. However, if your cat has already received one dose of PZQ, he won’t be able to receive another.
So What Does This Mean for You?
You’ll need a different way to keep your cat healthy. For example, you can use a natural remedy instead of conventional medicine. But remember, many natural remedies are unsafe for kittens or pregnant women.
You can also consider switching to a holistic approach. For example, holistic veterinarians believe in animals’ self-healing systems. Therefore, they don’t rely on chemical medications to treat diseases. Instead, they focus on helping your cat feel better by reducing stress, improving nutrition, and providing emotional support.
Frequently Asked Questions
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