4 Cat Parasites to Watch Out For

January 31, 2013

in Cats

by Kurt Schmitt

While not usually fatal, cat parasites are a common occurrence. If left untreated, they may cause serious damage, so it’s a good idea to know something about them.

Here we’ll discuss some of the more common feline parasites and associated warning signs. In some cases, these creatures may weaken your cat and expose her to possible secondary infections that could be life threatening.

Ear Mites in Cats — Feline ear mites are the most common cause of outer-ear inflammation in cats. Frequent scratching of the ears and head shaking are the most common symptoms. The most obvious sign is a build up of dry, black wax that resembles coffee grounds.

Ear mites are tiny crab like parasites. They may lead to secondary infections, seizures, deafness, and can cause a rupture of the ear drum. Ear mites need to be treated by a veterinarian since improper cleaning of the ear can make the condition worse and damage the ear.

Giardia — Giardia infection is relatively rare in otherwise healthy cats. Giardia is a single-celled parasite that causes an intestinal infection known as Giardiasis. The organism is protected by an outer shell, so it can survive outside the body for an extended period. It can be difficult to treat as it is often resistant to medications.

Your veterinarian will prescribe anti-parasitic drugs for the infection. Giardia may lead to bowel movements containing blood, acute diarrhea, and vomiting, so dehydration is obviously a danger with this condition.

Worms in Cats — Hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whip worms are some of the more common worm-type parasites. Worms generally live in the intestines and rob your cat of blood and nutrients.

Worms can lead to a number of symptoms, including excessive vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, constipation, and anemia. Left untreated, worms can cause serious illness or death, especially in elderly cats and kittens.

Testing should be done at least once a year at your cat’s annual check up. Multiple treatments may be required to eradicate the worms.

Fleas — Fleas feed on your cat’s blood and may cause severe discomfort in some cats. Symptoms of flea infestation include itching along with excessive licking and scratching.

Flea control is essential to controlling another cat parasite, the tapeworm. Fleas may ingest tapeworm eggs. In the process of grooming, your cat may ingest the flea, and therefore the tapeworm egg along with it.

Eliminating fleas requires treating both your cat and the environment she lives in, including eliminating the eggs.

Excessive vomiting and diarrhea are a side effect of some parasites, which leads to dehydration. Dehydration is highly dangerous and can cause death. If you suspect your cat has a parasite, contact your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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