While any dog owner knows that deworming is a regular part of dog ownership to help prevent parasite overloads and protect from dangerous parasites such as heartworm disease, many cat owners are unsure if their cats need to be dewormed. The correct answer is, “yes,” especially if the cat has access to the outdoors or tends to hunt and kill any rodents that may come inside (for indoor only cats). But what kind of dewormer should you use? Good question – and we’re here to help answer that for you.
Do cats need to be dewormed?
Yes, they do. Why? Because even indoor cats may catch rodents that make their way into the house in colder months, and any cat – indoor our outdoor – can be susceptible to worms. While kittens are more likely to have worms than adult cats, depending on your cat’s access to the outdoors, where you live and if there are any rodents that may come into the house (it is common on farms and in winter, though the stray field mouse or mole can make their way into a house at almost any time), developing a deworming plan with your veterinarian is a good idea to keep your cat at his or her healthiest.
What kind of worms can cats get?
Similar to dogs, some of the most common worms cats can obtain are roundworms and tapeworms. Cats and dogs can also get hookworms. All three of these types of worms are intestinal parasites and live in the intestinal tract where they can inflict damage on your pet’s digestive system and cats don’t always show outward signs or symptoms of worms so it is important to have your cat on a deworming schedule in accordance with their lifestyle, approved by your veterinarian. Read on to learn more about these different types of intestinal worms.
Most frequently found in kittens, but can affect cats of all ages, roundworms are the most common type of intestinal parasite to affect both dogs and cats. Even more concerning are that eggs from roundworms are passed in feces and can then live in the environment for several years making roundworms a consistent threat to any outdoor cat. The worms can also be passed to kittens via their mother’s milk, so it’s important to deworm all kittens to ensure that they are safe from intestinal harm from these pesky parasites. Because some kinds of roundworms are able to live dormant in a healthy cat and then become active and migrate when the cat becomes pregnant, it’s a best veterinary practice to deworm all kittens, regardless of where they came from.
Because roundworms are so common in the environment, regular routine treatment for roundworms is recommended.
Tapeworms are transmitted to cats in two ways – via fleas when cats groom themselves and ingest fleas carrying the tapeworm eggs, or by ingesting rodents that are infected with tapeworms. These two various ways a cat can get tapeworm are actually two different species of tapeworms known as dipylidium caninum (the type cats get from fleas) and taenia taeniaeformis (the type cats get from rodents). Once ingested, the eggs hatch and the tapeworms migrate in the cat’s intestines. Often you can see the segments of the tapeworm around the cat’s tail and rectum resembling small grains of rice.
Tapeworms are common in cats exposed to fleas or any cats who hunt – indoor or outdoor as remember rodents can make their way inside as well especially in the colder months. When deworming your cat, if you suspect tapeworms it’s important to speak to your veterinarian to ensure whatever dewormer you choose, it will treat the tapeworms as not all worms respond to the same types of deworming medication.
Hookworms are another type of intestinal worms that can infect cats throughout the world. These worms can do damage to the intestinal lining where they attach to the surface, causing eventual bleeding and even anemia in severe cases. While not quite as common as the other types of worms, cats can be infected with hookworms from ingesting eggs in the environment, eating an infected intermediate host such as a rodent, or by being exposed to larvae in the environment burrowing through the cats skin. Although not as common, knowing about these types of worms and deworming according to your cat’s potential risk level is always a good idea.
How do I deworm my cat and how often do they need to be dewormed?
Once you’ve gained a basic understanding of some of the more common worms that can affect cats, it’s important to discuss risk factors and your cat’s specific needs for a proper deworming medication and schedule as all cats do need to be dewormed. Additional risks include heartworms which are fairly rare in cats, but can affect cats with weakened immune systems; lungworms which are also less common but found in outdoor cats who hunt and left untreated can be fatal, and other parasites that you veterinarian can test for. If your cat has diarrhea or intestinal upset, it’s possible that it’s due to parasites, though it also can be due to bacterial imbalances or an overrun of bad bacteria in your cat’s gut. Your veterinarian can run tests including a fecal test for parasites, as well as a fecal test for bacteria from AnimalBiome and compare the results to get a full picture of what your cat is dealing with before coming up with a specific treatment plan for your pet.
Dewormers can come in many forms, from an edible treat / pill to a liquid, or even a spot-on option. Your vet may recommend doing a fecal parasite test first to determine exactly which types of worms your cat has, and then can from there determine the best course of treatment. For cats who frequently hunt, spend time outdoors, and / or are considered to be a higher risk for any number of reasons, your veterinarian may recommend a semi-regular deworming schedule. Some flea and tick treatments such as Revolution Plus for Cats can also protect and / or treat for ear mites, round worms, hookworms, and heartworms, but does not include treatment for tapeworms. Profender spot on treats tapeworms as well as roundworms and hookworms in both adult and larval stages, but does not protect against fleas, ear mites, ticks, or heartworm disease. There are also other products your veterinarian may recommend based on your cat’s specific level if infestation and / or risk so it is always important to speak with your vet to come up with a treatment and prevention plan that works for you and your cat!
Have questions? Contact us and we’re happy to help. Concerned your cat may have worms or never tested or treated your cat for worms? Schedule an appointment today and we can help get your cat on the path to a worm-free healthy life!