Diagnosing Parasitic Worms in Cats

Parasitic worms in a cat can make him feel miserable. Diagnosing the type of worm a cat has is the first step to treating the infection.

Types of Parasitic Worms in Cats

There are a variety of parasitic worms that commonly invade a cat: roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms.

Roundworms are one of the most common parasitic worms to infect cats and are most often found in kittens. Roundworms can be contracted via contaminated dirt, cat feces, and when a mother passes the parasite to her unborn kitten.

Tapeworms can be passed on to a cat when he accidentally eats a flea that’s infected with the parasite or the cat hunts and eats and animal that’s infected. To help prevent a tapeworm infection, measures should be taken to prevent flea infestations and mice in the home.

Hookworms live in a cat's intestine and like to suck blood. A kitten can become infected with hookworms via his mother's milk or larva can crawl into a cat's skin and travel to the intestine.

Diagnosing Parasitic Worms Using Symptoms as Clues

One of the first clues a cat has a parasitic worm is that he'll begin to feel sick. The type of symptoms he displays can give pet owners or veterinarians a clue as to which worm has made a home in a cat.

A cat that has contracted a roundworm may have shorter fur than normal; this is especially true for kittens. This parasite will also cause a cat to have an upset stomach, a loss of appetite, diarrhea, and a lack of energy. Kittens infected with roundworms will feel more hungry than usual. If a cat passes a roundworm in his vomit or stool, it will look like spaghetti that’s 2 to 4-inches-long.

When a cat is infected with a tapeworm segments of it, which resemble sesame seeds or rice, can be seen on a cat’s rear end or in his stool. A cat with a tapeworm infection will lose weight, but will have an increase in appetite.

A cat that has a hookworm infestation can become anemic and can develop diarrhea or bloody stool, dehydration, skin irritations, and have a loss of appetite.

Veterinary Diagnosis of Parasitic Worms

Parasitic worms are most often diagnosed in a veterinarian’s office with a fecal exam or fecal floatation test. The clinic will ask a pet owner to bring a sample of her cat’s stool. A fecal exam is when a sample of a cat’s stool is looked at under a microscope so a vet can see microscopic parasites or signs of them.

The fecal flotation test uses a small container in which a cat’s stool is placed and has a filtration basket that resembles a strainer. A special solution is placed with the sample and any worms or parasite eggs present will float into the filtration basket so they can be easily collected and examined.

Diagnosing parasitic worms in cats is a simple matter that can begin at home. If one suspects their cat has a parasitic infection, he should be seen by a veterinarian before the infection gets worse.