Worming Cats - When, How And Why

The type of worms we are talking about in this article are of course, parasitic worms that live and reproduce inside of the body of the cat; not earthworms, the type of worms that you will find in the garden! Several types of parasitic worms can potentially affect cats, and they are easily spread between cats within the same household, and can even be spread between other types of pets and people too.

Most cat owners are aware of worms and know that they should be eradicated if suspected or identified, but do you know how often you should worm your cat, what type of worms cats can get and how to choose the right worming treatment? Read on to learn all about worming cats.

What types of worms may affect cats?

There are various types of parasitic worms that can affect cats, but the two most common types are tapeworms and roundworms, both of which are classed as intestinal worms, as that is the part of the body in which they reside. Cats can also potentially contract various other types of worms too that dwell in other areas of the body, such as lungworm, heartworm and hookworms.

When is a worm not a worm?

One of the most commonly mentioned worms that can affect cats and other animals is ringworm, and many pet owners believe that ringworm is another variety of intestinal worm and one that is treated as standard with most intestinal worming tablets. But ringworm is actually a fungal condition that infects the skin, rather than an actual worm, and its treatment and transmission routes are quite different. You can read more about ringworm in cats here.

Why are worms a problem?

Worms are parasites, which means that they live, reproduce and grow by feeding on the body of their host; in this case, the cat. This can lead to a wide range of problems for your cat, including weight loss, digestive problems, dehydration, itching and irritation around the back end, loss of condition, and in extreme cases, even eventual death. Therefore, it is no surprise that veterinary surgeons recommend that all cats follow a worming treatment protocol that is administered every few months!

How do cats get worms?

Cats can contract worms in a variety of different ways, such as by contact with the eggs or larvae of worms (which can be present in the ground, in the faeces of affected animals, and sometimes in other bodily secretions too). Worms are also usually rife within wildlife such as rats and mice, and so if your cat is a hunter and eats mice and rats, worms can be ingested inadvertently with your cat’s live snack.

Identifying worms in cats

While you may notice the worms themselves in a cat with a high worm count (such as within their faeces or even protruding from the back end) often, there are no visible cues present. Cats that suffer from digestive upsets such as vomiting and diarrhoea, appear to be losing weight and condition, are dehydrated or appear to be in discomfort or unwilling or unable to eat may all be suffering from worm infestation, even if you have not seen any actual worms.

What type of worms should my cat be treated for?

As standard, you should worm your cat against the two main types of intestinal worms; tapeworms and roundworms. These two types of worms are the most commonly found cat worms, and the chances of your cat contracting various other types of worms such as lungworm is much lower. Treatment for other types of worms is usually only performed if there is evidence or good reason to suspect their presence, and not as a standard measure.

How do wormers work?

Wormers work as an anti-parasitic agent to kill any worms ad worm eggs or larvae present within the body of the cat, and cause the dead worms to be passed out of their bodies naturally along with the faeces. Wormers are reactive, and will only work to kill and eliminate worms that are actually present; they are not a form of vaccination, and do not stop your cat from re-contracting worms again in the future.

How often should I worm my cat?

The normal guideline as to how often cats should be wormed is every three months. This is the timescale given because studies have concluded that should a cat immediately re-contract worms shortly after a worming dosage, it will take not less than three months for the worm count (the amount of worms within the body) to grow and reproduce to a point that it becomes a problem and will potentially affect the cat’s health.

If your cat is a prolific hunter and so, will be exposed t o the potential of contracting worms on a very regular basis, your vet may recommend worming every two months, or with a different degree  of regularity to account for this.

What format do wormers come in?

The most common format for intestinal wormers is a pill that can either be given directly to the cat, or placed in food or a treat. Spot-on wormers, that work in the same way as flea treatments by application to the back of the neck are another option, and can be a good choice for cats that are difficult give a pill. Wormers can also be bought in paste or granule formats, although these are usually much harder to administer to a cat than a pill or a spot-on treatment is!

Where to buy wormers

You can often find worming pills for sale in the supermarket among the pet food section, and these easy to find and low priced wormers may seem like the obvious solution. However, veterinary surgeons and feline experts are unanimous in their opinion that these wormers are not fit for purpose; they do not contain the appropriate active ingredients to adequately eradicate the strains of worms that cats can contract, and will often lead to digestive upset and sickness due to their manner of action.

Deciding upon the appropriate wormer for your cat should be done in consultation with your vet; good quality professional wormers such as Drontal, Profender and Milbemax to treat intestinal worms are available, as are several other brands. These can be bought from your vet directly, ordered online with a veterinary prescription, or in the case of Drontal, ordered online or bought over the counter in some pharmacies without a veterinary prescription required.

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