By: Talin Seta Shahinian
A parasite is an organism that lives on or inside your cat and harms them. Parasites feed off their hosts, and in this case, the host is your poor kitty. Having parasites can lead to all sorts of health conditions. Once your cat has parasites, they have to be treated as soon as possible before the situation can worsen and put them at risk for more severe diseases. The ideal is prevention, but sometimes, despite your best efforts, your cat can end up with parasites, especially if they’re an indoor/outdoor cat or an indoor cat who’s an escape artist.
Common Cat Parasites
Let’s examine the most common parasites found on and in cats:
One of the most prevalent parasites that affect cats is fleas. Fleas attach themselves to your cat’s body externally. They cause itching and discomfort. However, they can be more serious if your cat happens to have a flea allergy. In that case, a flea infestation can lead to hair loss, inflammation, and more intense itching. It can also cause intestinal problems, as cats groom their coats with their tongues and swallow fleas. Even worse, it only takes swallowing a single flea to lead to tapeworms, which are internal parasites.
Fleas can also cause life-threatening anemia through sucking the blood of your cat. A heavily-infested cat is in danger of losing too much blood to these nasty parasites. Another parasite that can cause anemia in cats is the hemobartonella. To determine which is causing your cat to be sick, consult your veterinarian.
Though most often thought of as a problem for dogs, cats can have heartworms, which, as the name may suggest, are internal parasites that affect the heart and can lead to other issues in the rest of your cat’s body. Heartworms can affect both indoor and outdoor cats. If untreated, heartworms can cause damage to blood vessels, lungs, and heart that can’t be reversed. Some signs of heartworms include coughing, vomiting, and respiratory problems.
Cats can also be a host for the toxoplasma organism. Toxoplasma is a protozoan parasite. Its presence is relatively common, but it’s rare to result in actual disease. The way cats can become infected with any of the three stages of this organism is by eating tissue cysts from wild prey that’s infected or consuming raw meat at home. Toxoplasma reaches the small intestine and multiplies. In two to three weeks, oocysts get excreted in the feces of an infected cat.
Cats can also be at risk for a host of other parasites, including ticks, ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms.
How Can You Prevent Parasites?
The best strategies for preventing parasites can be found at your vet. Prevention of these parasites includes good flea control and regular deworming of cats that are outside. Your veterinarian is the best one to ask about products for preventative measures. The best defense against external parasites includes flea collars, flea sprays, and spot-on formulations of liquid flea medicine. Internal parasite prevention includes annual fecal testing of your cat at the vet, which screens them for intestinal parasites. This test should be given yearly, even if they appear to be healthy.
How Are Parasites Treated?
Treatment will depend on the type of parasite your cat has. After testing, your vet will prescribe medications to combat the presence of the parasites. This is why keeping regular visits with your cat’s vet is vitally important. Screening for parasites can catch them early, ensuring that treatment will be more successful.
If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Scheduling information is available on our www.purplecatvet.com website. You can also check out our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!