As if the unmistakeable hacking sound of a cat throwing up isn't enough to put you off your dinner, seeing long, thin moving strands among the regurgitated food should do it. These spaghetti-like strands are roundworms, and have taken up residence in your cat's intestinal tract.
Once the initial gagging of discovering the presence of worms in your cat's gut has passed, you may wonder how the little buggers got there in the first place. In many cases the worm's larvae pass through an infected mother's milk right into her kittens, or even though the placenta before they're born. The mother cat may have picked up worm eggs from the ground and swallowed them as she groomed herself. Or she may have eaten another animal, such as a bird or rodent, who had eaten the worm's eggs. Once inside the cat, the eggs hatch, and the larvae migrate from the intestines to the liver, lungs and muscles. They will eventually return to the intestines to mature fully, where they will begin reproducing. Their eggs will pass with the cat's stool, thereby starting the cycle all over again for another unsuspecting cat.
Symptoms and Concerns
Aside from the stomach-churning discovery in your cat's vomit, you may never suspect he has worms at all. In most cases, typically with smaller numbers of the uninvited guests, your cat will not exhibit any symptoms whatsoever. If the infestation grows too large, or if you have a small kitten or older cat, you may start to notice your cat sporting a pot-belly, or showing a decrease in appetite. His abdomen may be sensitive, and he may experience diarrhea and overall poor health. While the prognosis is generally positive, cats in poor health or very young kittens might die from a heavy infestation.
Diagnosis and Danger
Finding sometimes still-living worms squirming around in your cat's vomit is a very good method of diagnosis. But to be sure, your vet may want to examine a sample of your cat's stool for roundworm eggs, which are easily seen using a microscope. Because the eggs are shed in the cat's stool, care must be taken when dealing with his litter box when he's infested. Roundworms, disgustingly enough, can live in humans as well as cats and dogs. Always wash your hands thoroughly when changing his litter, and wash the boxes or any other area the eggs may be with bleach to remove any possibility of infestation.
Eliminating the invading parasites is as simple as giving your cat a deworming medication, although you'll have to deal with the dead worms as they pass through your cat's stool. Talk about a nice surprise in the litter box. These medications only kill the adult worms, so you'll have to re-treat your cat two or three more times, over the course of the next month or two, to make sure you get all the worms as they go through their various growth stages.
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