Helminthic diseases of cats annually maintain a palm among the most common pathologies. It is very difficult to find a cat that would not suffer from the consequences caused by infection with parasitic worms in its entire life. The most common and numerous type of parasites are roundworms in cats.
Note that they belong to the type of roundworms, i.e. nematodes. Most of these living creatures have nothing to do with the parasitic lifestyle. Say there are thousands of varieties of soil nematodes, the same earthworms also belong to this type. But there are many parasitic species. They often cause serious health problems and can lead to death (especially in the case of kittens). In length, some types of worms can reach 15 cm. An interesting feature of roundworms is their tendency to "free swimming". Simply put, they do not fix on the intestinal mucosa, but prefer to move in the thickness of its contents.
Of the feline nematode species, the most common is toxocara, i.e. Toxocara cati. Whatever the case, all diseases caused by roundworms can be safely called ascariasis. Are there any general, characteristic symptoms of ascariasis in cats?
Worms of this type are not particularly dangerous for adult cats, but in the body of kittens and old cats, parasites have a bad habit of breeding in large quantities. This, firstly, leads to depletion, and secondly, given the volume of individuals, it can contribute to rupture of the intestinal wall. In kittens, a particularly characteristic feature is the strong bloating of the abdomen shown in the photo (they look very “well-fed”, although the ribs protrude from under the skin), the animals constantly experience constipation / diarrhea, decreased appetite, vomiting, and growth and developmental retardation.
If the number of worms is small, signs of roundworm in cats may be completely absent. It is possible to identify the fact of infection only during a visit to the veterinary clinic, when the veterinarian will analyze feces.
Characteristic pathways of infection
All the same kittens are characterized by intrauterine infectionwhen the parasite larvae cross the placental barrier. Also, many species are able to get (during the migration of larvae) into the mammary glands, so that babies pick up parasites by simply sucking mother's milk on the first day.
However, still more common standard nutritional route of infection (that is, through food) when a cat eats food or drinks water infected with eggs of parasitic worms. Most often, they scatter with air and are carried by water, leaching from the feces of infected individuals. There are cases when some species need an intermediate host, in the body of which the larva matures to an invasive state (that is, it acquires the ability to become infected). As a rule, such "incubators" are worms and snails. However, the larvae of parasitic worms can often be found in rodents and birds, so that any cat can be infected, at least occasionally on the street.
In general, the development cycle of many parasitic roundworms is quite complex and “thorny”. When larvae or eggs enter the gastrointestinal tract of the final host (that is, cats), small parasites gnaw through the intestinal mucosa, reaching the blood vessels. Having reached the goal, they enter the general bloodstream and begin to migrate throughout the body, sometimes falling into the liver, kidneys, and brain.
But their main goal is the lungs, in which the larvae spend about a couple of weeks. When the time comes, they crawl out into the large bronchi, causing a strong cough reflex. During coughing, parasites expectorate into the oral cavity and are swallowed, again entering the intestines. This time they remain there, ripening to adults, reaching puberty and starting to multiply intensively. Luckily, many types of nematodes are dioecious, and therefore the geometric growth of the population does not occur.
During migration, some roundworm larvae can be encapsulated in the muscles and internal organs (which we already wrote about). Those who are "lucky" to be in the mammary glands during pregnancy are able to get out of hibernation. Subsequently, they get into milk and infect kittens. There are also known cases when roundworms grew to adulthood, while being in the liver and kidneys. Naturally, at the same time, the animal felt very bad, dying from insufficiency of these organs, or from peritonitis.
Important! As a rule, you cannot get roundworm from a cat, but here it all depends on the species. There are cases when children and elderly people infected with "non-specific" worms. Therefore, do not forget about personal hygiene measures!
Diagnostic and treatment methods
In some cases, it is possible to see adults who leave with feces. Sometimes (with severe invasion) parasites come out with vomit. But more often you have to use a microscopic analysis of feces. Since the eggs of each species of worms are very specific, there are usually no problems with determining the species of the pathogen.
To increase the chances of finding eggs, sometimes use a contrasting color of the test sample. Usually the "evidence" is numerous, but in some cases it is necessary to take several samples in order to improve the accuracy of diagnosis. But, we repeat again, with a more or less pronounced invasion, one does not have to reach such "tricks".
Luckily, treatment of ascariasis in cats is safe, simple, relatively inexpensive. Today there are hundreds anthelmintic drugsin the appointment of which paralyzed and dead worms leave the feces within a few hours. It is worth considering that standard anthelmintic drugs do not kill larvae and eggs of parasites, and therefore, repeated deworming is required. As a rule, it should be done at intervals of a couple of weeks after the first. In an ideal case, kittens should be treated before each vaccination (with helminthic invasion, normal immunity will not work out). If your cat spends most of his time outside, deworming is strongly recommended for preventive purposes.
Forecast and preventive measures
If you do not delay the treatment, the prognosis is favorable (with the exception of some cases). In advanced situations, kittens often die from exhaustion and intoxication. How can you prevent infection of your cat with roundworms? Prevention should include the following measures:
- A cat before pregnancy (or in its early stages) must be treated with preparations for deworming. This greatly reduces the risk of parasite transmission to kittens.
- Kittens must be treated immediately from parasitesas the age limit is reached (at least four weeks). It is advisable to consult your veterinarian before doing this. This must be done before (!) The first vaccination. Always carefully read the instructions for the drug used!
- notice, that even a cat treated and rid of worms can become infected even the next day, since no immunity is formed in her. If you notice any signs of invasion, treat the animal immediately. If your cat is at risk, you need to do this at least once a quarter, and ideally - every month. For example, this applies to animals that spend most of their time outdoors, as well as those who regularly receive raw meat / fish.
- Many types of worms (heartworm, for example) have a clear geographical reference, meeting only in a specific region. If your area is specific for any type of ascariasis, please consult your veterinarian. The latter will be able to draw up an effective prevention regimen.
- Use flea collars and other insecticidal / acaricidal agents to protect your pet from parasitic insects, as they are often carriers of helminthic diseases.
Never practice treatment at home without first consulting your veterinarian! In especially “successful” cases, you can simply poison your pet.
Other measures for the prevention of ascariasis
Remove feces from the cat tray daily. Thoroughly rinse the tray using any chlorine bleach or other disinfectant. Rinse the tray thoroughly under running water, as these drugs are harmful to feline health. Surfaces that may be contaminated with roundworm eggs are also thoroughly treated with aqueous bleach solutions. Always wash your hands after handling the cat tray. Remember that some types of parasites are transmitted to humans!
It is very important that children are not exposed to cat feces.Why do you need to clean up regularly on playgrounds adjacent to the house, sandboxes are carefully covered with foil or locked. Remember that ascaris eggs, if they are in the soil, remain dangerous to humans and pets for several years.
Strict hygiene is especially important for children. Do not let babies play in potentially infected areas.. Any unclosed sandbox is a hotbed of worms. In addition, if there is a suburban area, worry about fences of sufficient height. They will not only close from curious neighbors, but also prevent homeless, potentially infected, animals from entering the territory.