Whipworms are rare in cats, however, sometimes these parasites make their way into a cat’s body via soil, food, water and even feces. They’re equal opportunity parasites -- whipworms can infect any cat regardless of age or gender. Treatment for whipworms can be laborious and last for months; these bloodsuckers don’t mess around.
Anatomy of a Whipworm
Whipworms are curvy, whip-shaped parasites that can make an unfortunate home in your cat’s intestines and colon. At a length between 4.5 and 7.5 centimeters, adult female whipworms begin producing eggs two to three months after initial infestation and can lay more than 2,000 eggs per day. That’s a whole lot of parasites for your kitty’s body to handle. Unfortunately, whipworms aren’t that easy to rid from the environment; whipworm eggs can persist in conducive, moist environments like mud for several years.
Signs and Symptoms
Cats are quite adept at hiding their ailments -- a cat infested with whipworms may not present symptoms at all. However, one of the most common symptoms in cats is diarrhea or even bloody diarrhea. Other signs of more severe infection include anemia, dehydration and weight loss. Of course worms present in her stool is an unmistakable sign of whipworms, but kitty litter often does a great job of covering and masking parasites. That’s why yearly checkups with fecal exams are so important for your cat’s health. A fecal float test will detect any whipworm eggs. If your cat’s feces present the telltale sign of whipworms, she’ll need medical treatment to eradicate them.
There is no current treatment for whipworms specific to felines, but your veterinarian will most likely use deworming medications effective against whipworms in canines. These medications, such as Panacur and Vermox, come in both liquid and tablet form, in case your kitty is finicky with one or the other. Your veterinarian will provide instructions for dosage based on your cat’s weight and severity of infection. It’s extremely important to keep your cat’s environment as clean as possible during treatment. This requires frequent litter box cleaning with soap and water. If she goes outside, remove all fecal matter from the area and even consider soil and gravel replacement.
Whipworms are nasty little parasites that can seem immortal. You’ll need to treat the adult worms, their eggs and the environment for months in order to effectively rid them from your cat forever. Because adult worms can lay so many eggs each day, this process can seem never-ending. However, with frequent de-worming, repeated fecal exams and a hygienic environment, your cat can shake the whipworm parasite for good.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.