When people think of cat parasites, fleas and worms often come to mind. But did you know there are more than 10 parasites that are commonly diagnosed in cats, and many of them also pose a health risk for people? At Just Cats Clinic, we can create a customized wellness plan for every cat to detect, treat, and prevent these parasites year-round.
Cat parasite threat #1: Fleas
Fleas are harbored by neighboring pets and wildlife, can jump a good distance, and multiply rapidly—making them a threat to both indoor and outdoor cats all year long. Fleas carry diseases that can threaten cats and people, such as tapeworms, cat scratch disease, and plague. Many highly effective flea prevention products are easy to administer, such as a spot application to the skin on the back of the neck. Cat flea prevention must be administered all year, since cold weather does not eliminate the threat.
Cat parasite threat #2: Ticks
Many people believe that cats don’t get ticks because they are meticulous groomers, but ticks are a year-round threat to both indoor and outdoor pets. Ticks “quest” on grass and vegetation by reaching for clothing or pets, and can easily be brought inside. Ticks transmit several diseases, and although cats are resistant to Lyme disease, they are susceptible to other severe and life-threatening tick-borne diseases such as bobcat fever. We can recommend the topical, oral, or collar tick preventive that will work best for your cat.
Cat parasite threat #3: Roundworms
Roundworms cause many problems in cats, ranging from unthriftiness to intestinal blockage. Cat roundworms also can pose a threat to people and cause severe problems in a small number of children in the United States each year. Your cat’s wellness plan will include regular fecal checks and deworming—two to four times during your kitten’s first year, and one to two times yearly in adult cats. Many monthly flea preventives also control intestinal parasites.
Cat parasite threat #4: Hookworms
Hookworms are tiny parasites that suck blood from cats’ intestinal lining. They cause diarrhea and life-threatening anemia, especially in small kittens. Hookworms can pose a threat to people when the larvae enter and migrate through the skin. Covered sandboxes, good litter pan hygiene, regular fecal checks, and monthly parasite prevention minimize the risk of these parasitic worms.
Cat parasite threat #5: Tapeworms
Cats become infected with tapeworms from ingesting fleas while grooming or from ingesting raw meat. The worms attach to the lining of the intestine, and flat tapeworm segments are passed in the stool. Dried tapeworms look like grains of rice stuck to the fur under the tail. Preventing fleas and hunting minimizes your cat’s risk of contracting tapeworms. Deworming is an effective treatment, although re-infection is common if the source of infection is not controlled.
Cat parasite threat #6: Ear mites
Ear mites cause itching and dark debris in the ears of kittens and cats, and can be passed between cats and dogs. We can diagnose these common parasites by checking a swab from the ear under a microscope and prescribe medication to treat them. Some monthly flea preventives also prevent and treat ear mites.
Cat parasite threat #7: Coccidia and Giardia
Coccidia and Giardia are single-celled organisms that live in the intestines of cats, steal nutrition, and cause unthriftiness and diarrhea. We diagnose these parasites through microscopic examination of the stool, or a Giardia antigen test, and a special prescription is required for treatment. Kittens and cats can contract these parasites all year long—even during cold weather.
Cat parasite threat #8: Heartworms
The heartworm parasite is passed to cats through the bite of an infected mosquito. Cats usually harbor only a few worms, but those worms cause serious disease and sometimes sudden death. Heartworm treatment is not safe for cats, making prevention critical. Mosquitos can be active any time of year, even during the winter, so check with our staff to choose the best monthly oral or topical heartworm preventive for your cat.
Cat parasite threat #9: Toxoplasmosis
Many cats carry the single-celled parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, but few show signs of infection. Cats become infected by exposure to the organism or by eating raw meat. Immunocompromised and pregnant people are at risk of severe problems from the parasite, which is why pregnant women should not clean the litter box and should use caution while gardening. See the CDC guidelines for more information on preventing toxoplasmosis.
Cat parasite threat #10: Mange and ‘walking dandruff’
Cats can contract the contagious forms of mange mites at any time of the year. Infection is suspected when a pet’s excessively flaky skin or white dandruff is intensely itchy. Several cat flea preventives also protect against mange mites.
Call Just Cats Clinic with any questions you have about preventing internal and external parasites in your cat. Together, we can customize a year-round parasite protection plan so these uninvited passengers don’t cause disease in your family.