Roundworms in Cats

Roundworms are one of the most common parasites to infect a cat’s intestinal tract. Cats can contract roundworms at any point in their lives, and the infestation can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Fortunately, roundworms are easily eradicated with medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

How Roundworms Affect a Cat

Roundworms attach themselves to an infected cat’s intestinal wall, where they proceed to suck the cat’s blood. A cat typically shows no clinical signs immediately after infestation, but in time, she may develop a potbellied appearance, or she may lose weight and have a dull coat. An infected cat may also cough up worms that are trying to migrate to her lungs.

Untreated roundworm infestations can lead to malnutrition in an affected cat. Kittens may also be at risk for developing pneumonia from roundworms that move into their lungs.

How Roundworms Are Diagnosed

Many times, cat owners suspect a worm infestation when they see worms in their cat’s litter box. Roundworms measure between 3 and 7 inches in length. They have roundish bodies and resemble spaghetti.

Your veterinarian can diagnose roundworms using a small sample of your cat’s feces. Worms and eggs can be detected in the sample, and recommendations can be made about which deworming product to use to clear up the roundworms.

How Roundworms Are Treated

After your veterinarian diagnoses roundworms in your cat, he or she will recommend a deworming product. Most of them work on the adult worms, but may not be completely effective on the developing worms, which is why you may have to give another dose of deworming medications several weeks after the first dose. Your veterinarian may also recommend periodic treatments of deworming medication to prevent reinfestation.

How Roundworms Can Affect People

Roundworms can infect people who come into contact with soil containing roundworm eggs. The eggs are somewhat sticky and can attach themselves to a person’s hands or fingernails, and the person can ingest the eggs if he or she puts his or her unclean hands in his or her mouth.

Once inside a person’s body, the roundworm eggs hatch, and the developing larva move through his or her body. This condition is called visceral larva migrans, and the brain, lungs and liver are the most popular organs to which the larva migrate. Symptoms of visceral larva migrans include fever, appetite and weight loss, an enlarged liver, coughing, asthma and pneumonia.

Another condition, ocular larva migrans, may also occur. In these cases, the larva migrate to a person’s eyes, causing vision loss and possible blindness.

How to Prevent Roundworms in People

Good hygiene is critical to preventing roundworm infection in people. Children need to wash their hands thoroughly after playing outdoors, and they should not play in areas where pets or wild animals eliminate. Cover sandboxes to keep neighborhood cats out of them, and consider using other deterrents in your garden and yard to prevent animals from using your yard as a bathroom.