Q: We found worms on the stool of our indoor cat. What are they, how did she get them, and what should we do about them?
A: The three most common worms that infect us cats are hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms.
Hookworms latch onto the intestinal wall and are rarely seen in the stool, so you probably saw roundworms or tapeworm segments.
Roundworms resemble spaghetti. Cats become infected when they ingest the microscopic eggs on grass or in rodents or insects. Infection also occurs after a cat walks across or lies on a contaminated surface and then grooms herself. The eggs survive in the soil for years, so it’s easy for you to track them indoors on your shoes and deposit them on your floors.
In cats, roundworms may cause no apparent problems, or they may induce diarrhea or vomiting. Infected kittens often have a pot-bellied abdomen. If what you saw resembled grains of rice, they were probably tapeworm segments, most often seen on the cat’s hind end and on the feces.
Note: Roundworms also can infect humans, so the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends monthly deworming of cats.
Tapeworms themselves are flat, like tape, and segmented. Each segment contains eggs and is motile, so eggs are widely dispersed through the environment. They are most often are transmitted when cats inadvertently ingest the immature worms living within infected fleas or rodents.
Fortunately, tapeworms rarely cause problems for their feline hosts, but they can infect humans, so it’s important to get rid of them and the fleas that carry them.
Take your cat and a fresh fecal sample to your veterinarian, who can determine what worm(s) she has and prescribe an effective treatment.
Editor’s Note: Parasites can infect cats that live exclusively indoor, so it’s important to find a way to prevent parasites in pets.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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