Cat owners need to be intimately aware of the importance of gastrointestinal worm control in their cat via the regular use of a cat wormer. The benefits are for both the health of the cat itself and for the owner and other humans in the vicinity of the cat and its excrement.
Cats and kittens of all ages are susceptible to gastrointestinal worm infection and the development of an infestation of these parasites. Kittens born of an infected mother can actually be born with some forms of gastrointestinal worm infestations due to transfer of the infection across the placenta or infected later through the milk. Thus, regular use of an effective cat wormer product is an essential part of providing for optimal health care for your cat.
The main gastrointestinal worms infecting felines in Australia are roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm. Numerous effective treatments are readily available to owners to treat these infections. Several cat wormer products exist which treat some of these worms in conjunction with other feline parasites. These types of cat wormer products help make regular cat worming an easy and cost effective procedure.
Feline gastrointestinal worm infections can be present without any major or obvious clinical signs. However severe infections cause severe and debilitating symptoms. These symptoms range from diarrhoea, the appearance of a pot belly, increased appetite and poor skin and coat health through to symptoms of anaemia, failure to thrive (especially in infected kittens) and death. Any symptom should be taken seriously and veterinary advice sought. The regular use of a cat wormer product can prevent this type of devastation becoming a reality for your beloved cat.
It is a general recommendation that all kittens and cats be on a regular preventative program for these common gastrointestinal parasites. Even in the abscence of any clinical signs of infection if your cat has a low level worm infection it will not thrive at an optimal level of health.
Correct Wormer Dosage
Please check with your animal health professional for specific dosing instructions for your cat. In general, kittens will be given an appropriate wormer from birth at intervals of every 2 weeks till 8 weeks of age, then monthly till 6 months of age, and then be placed on the adult regimen of dosing with a cat wormer every 3 months. Any positive test for worms will necessitate a treatment schedule as devised by your veterinarian, which will differ from that mentioned above.
Dosage of most cat wormer products is weight dependant. Check the manufacturer's instructions prior to dosing any animal to avoid under dosing which may lead to ineffective control, or overdosing which may lead to side effects. Only products specifically registered for use in cats should be used. Kitten preparations are available for younger animals.
Due to the possibility of transfer of some gastrointestinal worm infections from a queen to kittens across the placenta and via the milk, pregnant and lactating animals should be treated regularly according to a schedule devised by your veterinarian. Product information should be read prior to dosing to ensure the safety of the chosen cat wormer product when used in pregnant or lactating queens.
Hygiene Practices to Prevent Worm Transfers
As the major route of infection for roundworms and hookworms in cats is via contact with the parasite's eggs, owners should be aware of the hygiene related to cat toileting areas and litter trays. All litter trays should be cleaned regularly and faeces removed as soon as possible after the cat eliminates in the tray. Since most cats wander between houses and come into contact with other cats, or the excrement or territory of other cats, treatment should be maintained at regular intervals even if impeccable litter tray hygiene exists in the owner's home.
Cats can become infected with tapeworms in several different ways. Ingesting infected fleas is a common means of infection with tapeworm in cats. Owners need to pay attention to their flea prevention program for all animals in the household in addition to regular worming in order to effectively control this type of tapeworm. Effective flea control requires an integrated approach aimed at killing adult fleas, preventing development of immature forms in the environment and specific environmental control measures. Cats which wander and eat rodents, dead birds or scavenge on other dead carcasses (for example on farms) may be at risk of becoming infected with hydatid tapeworm. Preventing access to feral animal carcasses, offal and the like, combined with the regular use of a cat wormer helps address infection of this type. Such cats may need to be given tapeworm preventative treatments at a more regular interval than other cats not exposed to such potential sources of infection.
Can Humans Get Cat Worms?
Whilst feline roundworm and hookworm infections cannot complete their life cycle if transmitted to humans, humans can still become infected. Rather than developing gastrointestinal worms from these infections, humans usually gain infections called larval migrans. These infections are due to the migration of the infectious larvae in the humans body from the point of infection (usually oral or via the skin). The route of migration is indicated in the name of the disorders cutaneous larval migrans (infection and migration in the skin) and visceral larval migrans (migration through the organs of the body, most often the eye, liver and brain). These infections can cause serious clinical symptoms in infected humans. Children are often most at risk due to their potential contact with parasite eggs in dirt, playgrounds and uncovered sandpits. Teaching children appropriate hygiene standards is essential in reducing the risk of contracting these infections. Further information can be gained from your general practitioner or veterinarian. This is yet another important reason to keep your cats wormed regularly and at a dose appropriate for their weight.
Feline gastrointestinal worm control programs are an important part of your cat's overall health management plan. Dosing with an appropriate and effective cat wormer at regular intervals, combined with litter tray hygiene and personal hygiene provides effective cover for most cats from these devastating parasite infections.