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Worming Cats

The two most common intestinal parasites are roundworms and tapeworms.  Roundworms (Toxocara) are white, long worms which may resemble spaghetti.  Tapeworms are long, flat worms composed of many segments.  The tapeworm releases mature segments that contain eggs from the end of the worm into faeces.  These segments look like white flattened grains of rice and are mobile, and contain the tapeworm eggs.

Roundworms in cats

Particularly in young cats or kittens, roundworms are very common.  The common species are Toxocara cati and Toxocara leonina. 

Toxocara cati has an important route of transmission into the cat; through the mother cat’s milk.  From earlier infections with roundworm, the queen will have some larvae remaining dormant in certain tissues in the body and when she gives birth to a litter, these larvae migrate to the mammary glands and are excreted into the milk.  The process causes no harm to the queen but does mean that kittens are commonly infected with roundworms from a very young age.  Roundworm infections are very common and it’s safe to assume that all kittens are infected.  Both Toxocara cati and Toxocara leonina are passed as worms or eggs in cats’ faeces.  The worm eggs can lie in the soil for some time, being picked up by another cat usually by sticking to fur then being ingested.  In addition, the worm eggs may be eaten by another mammal such as a small rodent and a cat can then be infected by preying on that rodent. 

Tapeworms in cats

There are a variety of different tapeworms that infect cats, but the two most common forms are Dipylidium caninum and Taenia taeniaformis.  The eggs of Dipylidium, shed with the tapeworm segments in faeces, are eaten by flea larvae.  As your cat grooms, they infect themselves with tapeworms.  As fleas are so common in cats, this tapeworm is also common and it should be assumed that any cat with fleas will also have Dipylidium tapeworms. 

In contrast, the eggs of Taenia taeniaformis are eaten by rodents so other cats become infected during hunting by eating an infected rodent.  If your kitten becomes a hunter, it is important they are wormed regularly for tapeworms.

How do I treat worms?

There are different ways to treat parasites-tablets, injections and spot-on treatments.  The important thing is planning and getting your vet to come up with a parasite protection plan.  That way you can protect your pet, your home, yourself and your family.

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