Symptoms of Intestinal Worms in Cats

by Quentin Coleman, Demand Media
    Roundworms are the most prevalent intestinal parasite in cats.

    Roundworms are the most prevalent intestinal parasite in cats.

    What can live in your cat's intestines for years and grow to over a yard long? The answer is tapeworms. Not all worms are this menacing, but they all are pretty gross and possibly contagious. Even if your cat never goes outside, you always should be vigilant for symptoms of parasitic invasions.

    Parasite Expulsion

    Many pet owners already know the trauma of finding a live worm in their cat's stool or vomit. It's a scene straight out of a nightmare. It's not all that unusual though. Roundworms and tapeworms often are expelled during digestive movements as part of their natural life cycle. Not all worms are easily visible in excretion, but some are not hard to spot. Worms often appear as light-colored threads or grains rice, depending on the species. Some are very small and even the larger worms tend to get broken up into their tiny detachable segments before they are expelled from your cat's body. Keep all people and pets away from stool containing live worms.

    Appetite Fluctuation

    Intestinal parasites have it easy. All they do is latch themselves to the inner wall of the digestive tract and wait for your kitty to have some lunch. A few worms don't actually take food directly from your pet's system. Instead, these parasites steal bodily fluids by tapping into the blood-rich lining of the intestines. This means your pet has to eat a lot more food than normal to get the same amount of nutrients he was before. If you notice a consistent and marked increase in the amount and frequency of your pet's meals, it is a good sign that something is wrong. The discomfort and stress that worms put on your pet's body also could cause him to avoid food altogether, so you should be wary if your kitty seems to be on a self-imposed diet.

    Sensitivity and Weakness

    Hookworms and other blood-sucking internal parasites can lead to excessive blood loss, especially in small cats and kittens, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. If your kitty has trouble controlling his movements, sleeps all the time or is reluctant to participate in physical activity, then he could have a case of the creepy-crawlies. Your pet's stomach also may become bloated if he is supporting a large population of parasites. He may show signs of pain or resistance when you try to touch his stomach.

    Regular Checkup and Deworming

    Even though there are a lot of indicators to look for if you suspect your pet has parasites, not all cats display visible signs of infestation. Hookworms, for example, are rarely visible in stool and often cause no obvious symptoms in adult cats, according to the Winn Feline Foundation. This is why it's important to take your kitty to the vet a couple times a year, even if he seems fine. Just like you, your pet's health is much more secure with regular medical attention. If your pet does have worms, ask your vet about how you can lower the risk of the parasites spreading to other people and animals during the treatment process. Don't try to treat the infestation yourself, as each type of worm requires a particular treatment that only a vet is qualified to prescribe, according to the ASPCA.

    About the Author

    Quentin Coleman has written for several news publications as well as the University of Delaware's public relations department. He also spent more than 10 years working with a local animal shelter to help nurse kittens, treat sick cats and domesticate feral animals. Coleman graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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