What are intestinal parasites?

Intestinal parasites are worms that are inside the intestines that cats can pick up. They can pick them up in utero, so in their mom's womb, or they can be passed between the mom and the kittens. Cats can also pick them up being outdoors or being exposed to even other cats inside.

Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center

How do intestinal parasites impact the health and wellbeing of my cat?

Intestinal parasites can wreak havoc on your cat's intestinal system, and they can cause cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and general discomfort, or the cat may not even know they have the parasites. Either way, they're not good for the intestines. They can cause a lot of inflammation in the intestinal wall, and they can decrease the amount of nutrition that your cat gets.

What preventative measures can be taken to ensure that my cat doesn't get worms or other parasites?

We have excellent deworming antiparasitic-type medications that we recommend. All kittens have a series of them. As an adult cat, we recommend either monthly deworming medications or twice a year, depending on the cat's lifestyle. Some cats are just indoor, so we might even be okay with once a year, but we still recommend that every cat get dewormed.

What are some signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites in your cat?

If cats have a really serious load, they can get pretty sick. It can cause intestinal obstruction and really low protein levels, which can cause a potbelly. And if the cat has them bad enough, they can even vomit worms or pass large amounts in the stool. Otherwise, the cat might experience mild cramping and an upset stomach that you may not even notice yourself.

Can you see worms in your cat stool?

When a cat with tapeworms passes a stool, the tapeworm segment adheres to the stool, and you can see. It's about the size of a grain of rice, and it'll be moving. Roundworms can also be passed if the cat has a pretty high load, and some of the other parasites can also be passed if there's a high enough load of them. However, you generally don't see the worms in the stool. We need to collect a fecal sample and send it off to the lab and have a microscopic exam to identify what type of parasites, so we make sure we're choosing the proper antiparasitic medication.

How will a veterinarian diagnose intestinal parasites in your cat?

We use a fecal sample about the size of a walnut. We only need a small stool, but it should be a somewhat fresh stool that's still moist, so the eggs are present. We can then identify microscopically what type of parasites might be in the stool.

What are some possible conditions caused by intestinal parasites, and what are the treatments?

Some potential conditions would be GI upset, weight loss, and protein loss, the latter of which can cause the belly to swell. There are also dermatologic issues that can occur sometimes, but, for the most part, it's going to be things that are subclinical, meaning you're not going to be able to see what they are. This is because parasites have learned how to live with a system they're in so that they can stay there longer, making their infections subclinical.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of intestinal parasites so important?

There are a couple of parasites that are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted to humans. We don't want your cat or dog to have parasites, and we certainly don't want children exposed to them. We'd like to have every dog and cat that lives with a family to have a fecal sample checked at least once a year. And then, we also want to deworm every dog and cat for roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms regularly.

When should my cat see a veterinarian for deworming?

When you get a kitten, you should see your veterinarian for many reasons—for a health check, to set up for a great deworming plan, and also to check for other parasites that cats can pick up. And then if you get a cat as an adult, they should come in and get their first set of dewormings, so we're going to want to do a series of them. And then, depending on the cat's lifestyle, we'll set them up either on a monthly program or once or twice a year.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Deworming - FAQs

Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center

Can all intestinal parasites be prevented?

Yes, we can prevent all internal parasites by determining their type, treating them, and setting you up on a regular preventative program.

How does my cat get intestinal parasites?

Cats can get intestinal parasites, and they can be transmitted in utero. When the kitten is still in the mother's uterus, they can be passed through the placenta, or after they're born, they can pick them up from other cats in the household, the mom, or from a humane society. They can also get internal parasites when they go outside, and they're out and about, as they can pick them up from other cats.

Can my indoor cat still get intestinal parasites?

It's not likely that your indoor cat will pick them up, but we have found cats that have lived in households for up to two years, and they bring in a fecal, and they still are positive. The reality of it is, parasites can be pretty tenacious. The products that we use for deworming are safe and effective, and every cat should be dewormed a minimum of once a year, even if they're an indoor cat.

What can I do to prevent tapeworm?

Tapeworm is transmitted by fleas and flea dirt and flea eggs, so we want to keep fleas 100% under control, and therefore your cat will not pick up tapeworms.

Is there a medication to prevent my cat from getting intestinal parasites?

We have excellent medications these days. Like I said, if your cat is an outdoor cat, we're going to want them on medication once a month. If they're an indoor cat only, we may use medication once or twice a year.

How can I keep my cat from passing on intestinal parasites to other pets in the household?

By using a regular deworming protocol that your veterinarian recommends, as that will keep them from transmitting it between pets, and we don't want them transmitted to people, so that's the best way to go.

Can any intestinal parasites be passed on to people?

Yeah. There's a couple of parasites that are quite scary. Roundworms and hookworms can be transmitted to humans, and we never want children to be exposed to parasites. As veterinarians, we're also concerned about your family's health. We make sure that there are no parasites and no one in the family would ever be exposed to them, so please come in and let us help you figure out the best deworming for all your animals in your household, and let us know about the ones that live outside. Sometimes people have an outdoor cat, and they fail to mention that, but that would mean a chronic source of parasites that the family can be exposed to.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.