TREATMENT AT THE VET
If you believe that your cat has contracted a parasitic worm, your veterinarian can treat the worm infestation effectively and safely. A vet can run a series of tests including a physical exam, a blood test, and a fecal test in order to determine the species of worm living inside your cat. After it has been confirmed that your cat does in fact have a parasite and the species has been identified, the vet can recommend and administer medications and specific regimes to follow in order to eradicate the worms.
Fecal centrifugation is a process that separates parasites and other objects in feces based on their different densities. This test should be performed by your veterinarian at least four times a year during your kitten’s first year of life, and then performed at least two times per year every year after (Companion Animal Parasite Council, 2018).
To determine if a cat has heartworm, a blood test can be performed that will include an antibody test and an antigen test. The antibody test can detect early stages of heartworm, and the antigen test may detect the presence of adult worms in the later stages of the disease.
Your cat should see the veterinarian about every 6 to 12 months. While you are there, inform the vet of any unusual symptoms your cat may be exhibiting, including lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, coughing, or asthma-like attacks. Your vet can then determine if your cat has a worm infestation and suggest different medications depending on the type of worm, the degree of infestation, and a fecal exam.
Once it has been determined that your cat has a parasitic worm, the veterinarian will administer medicine by mouth or shot to eradicate the infection.
Unlike dogs, heartworm treatment medications are not typically given to cats due to the serious and potentially fatal complications that can occur. There is no approved drug therapy for a heartworm infection in cats, so most vets will help you come up with a good long-term management plan. If the infestation is severe, your vet may suggest hospitalization where they can administer intravenous fluids and drugs to treat heart and lung symptoms and antibiotics. A cat that has heartworm disease should be placed on heartworm preventatives to prevent new infections (American Heartworm Society, 1970).
TREATMENT AT HOME
After testing has been performed to determine that your cat has a parasitic worm and the species has been confirmed, you have the option to treat your cat’s worm infestation at home rather than have a veterinarian administer medications. There are several de-worming medications that you can purchase online, as well as herbal and natural remedies to try.
Kittens are often infected with a parasitic worm while nursing from their mother. It is recommended that kittens are treated for worms starting at 3 weeks old, and every two weeks until 3 months of age. After a kitten has reached 3 months of age, treatment can be reduced to once a month until 6 months of age. After the kitten has reached 6 months, the kitten should follow an adult treatment regimen (Valley Vet).
Adult cats should be treated for worms every 1 to 3 months with a prescribed medicine that is effective against the specific type of worm your cat has contracted. Medicines come in the form of liquids, pastes, granules, and tablets, so you can choose the best option for your pet. Some of these medications can be purchased online, and others require a prescription from the vet.
If you want to try some home remedies and take a more natural and holistic route, there are many different herbs and vegetables to try to treat a parasitic worm infestation. EHome Remedies has created a list of home remedies to try in your cat to eradicate worms.
Raw Pumpkin Seed
Rinse the pumpkin seeds and crush into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Add 1 tsp to your cat’s wet foot and stir until it is mixed in. Continue this process once a day for 21 days.
Add one bunch of parsley to boiled water and let it simmer for 3 minutes. Allow to cool after boiling, and strain the parsley from the water. Add 1/2 tbsp. of the parsley tea to your cat’s drinking water once a day for 10 days.
Wash and chop the fresh papaya into tiny pieces. Add 1/2 tsp of the papaya to your cat’s wet food once a day for 2 weeks.
For every 1-10lbs. of weight, add 1/16th to 1/8th of a tsp. to your cat’s wet food once per day for 10 days. Stir well.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grind up 1 jar of grapefruit seed extract into a fine powder. Add 8mg of the powder per every 2.2 lbs. of your cat into their food once a day for 2 weeks.
Preventing a parasitic worm infestation in cats can limit the risk of chronic disease and keep your cat healthy. There are several steps that you can take in order to reduce the likelihood of your cat becoming infected with a parasite. It is best practice to prevent a disease before you are faced with treating an illness, and prevention will help to keep you and your feline healthy!
Cleaning the Litterbox
Feces in the litterbox should be scooped daily. The litterbox should also be completely emptied and changed weekly, as well as cleaned with a diluted bleach solution to remove any parasitic worm eggs. Use a solution of 1 part bleach to 32 parts water (or 4 ounces of bleach to 1 gallon of water) to make an animal-safe, yet effective solution. Rinse the litter box after bleaching thoroughly, as bleach is toxic to cats. Always wash your hands after handling feces or touching the litterbox.
Fleas can carry worm larvae and can transfer the larvae to your cat if he or she swallows one. When this happens, the worm will grow and mature, and attach to the lining of the cat’s intestines. To prevent this from occurring, it is best practice to vacuum everyday, or as frequently as you can, and throw away the vacuum bag when you are finished. Wash pet bedding once a week in the washing machine with hot water, along with any other fabrics that your pet has touched. You can also prevent feline fleas with oral medications, topical applications, flea collars, and by keeping your cat indoors.
You may be asking yourself, why does my indoor cat need parasite prevention? The reality is parasites are everywhere. If a window is left open, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can easily fly inside, and many cats end up slipping out the door every once in a while. Many cats also live with animals that go outdoors such as dogs. Insects can serve as intermediate hosts for some intestinal parasites, and cats like to kill bugs. Cats can also be exposed from clothing that you wear if it was unknowingly contaminated and then brought indoors.
Barn & Outdoor Cats
Barn and outdoor cats can be very useful to keep rodent populations down, however rodents are a main carrier of parasitic worms. Good parasite control is important to keeping cats healthy and preventing the spread of disease. It is a good idea to de-worm the outdoor cats routinely. There are liquid forms of the medication that can be applied to the back of the cat’s neck-this is especially good for cats that are shy and not used to being handled.
Always wash your hands after touching a barn cat, and clean up any feces or dead rodents that you see lying around.
Good Everyday Practices
- Scoop the litterbox daily
- Keep cats away from dead animals or feces if they go outside
Clean all food and water bowls regularly, and make sure to use a disinfectant that is safe for animals. Try a diluted bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 32 parts water (or 4 ounces of bleach to 1 gallon of water). You can also use this solution to clean other non-porous objects in the home such as toys.
Cat Beds & Fabrics
Wash your cat’s bed and blankets in hot water weekly, as well as any other fabrics like bedding or couch covers that your cat has come into contact with.
Keep the floor clean by vacuuming and sweeping daily or as frequently as you can, and then clean with a steam mop and soapy water.
Remove all pet feces from the yard to prevent reinfection, and do not use pet waste as a fertilizer. Salt brine, borax, or diluted bleach will kill most larvae on gravel or concrete, but unfortunately the chemicals will kill plants and grass (hunker.com). Use a garden hose to rinse the lawn after disinfecting.
Regular Vet Visits
This is one of the most important steps you can take. Visiting a veterinarian regularly and having annual check-ups can help identify and diagnose a parasitic worm infestation in its early stages. A vet will take a fecal sample from your cat, either right there at the clinic or one that you collect and bring in. The vet will then look at the sample under a microscope to inspect it for adult worms or worm eggs. The earlier the worms are detected, the better the treatment results will be for your cat!