How do I know if my cat has worms?

Parastic worms in cats
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You should be concerned that your cat might have worms if he or she is an indoor/outdoor cat and enjoys hunting. That should be a heads-up situation prompting you to be aware of the possibility of your cat having worms (by which I mean parasitic worms in your cat’s gut). The most common are tapeworms and roundworms but there are several species of feline parasitic worm. If your cat goes outside and you know that he or she catches and eat mice then as a precaution and as a proactive step you should give her deworming pills but just make sure that they’re right ones by checking with your veterinarian.

In my personal experience, one clear sign that your cat has a tapeworm is when segments of the worm are visible around your cat’s bottom or in your cat’s stool. Indeed, segments of tapeworm may be visible in your cat’s bedding. They look like rice but they move. They are quite disgusting.

Another point worth making is that clinical signs of a parasitic worm infestation in your cat may not be visible until the population of worms hits a certain level because cats sometimes tolerate worms quite well.

If they are causing a problem, you may notice a change in the appearance of your cat’s stool, which may include the passage of mucus or blood. There may be a decline in your cat’s general health including a decreased appetite, loss of weight, diarrhoea and anaemia. Another sign of ill-health in your cat due to worms is the visibility of your cat’s third eyelid. This comes across your cat’s eye from the corner of the eye nearest the nose. The illustration below shows it.

Protruding feline third eyelid
Protruding feline third eyelid

Other possible signs of a worm infestation in your cat might be a distended stomach. The fur might feel coarser and rougher and lack its usual lustre. Another possible sign would be lethargy which is a knock-on effect from loss of appetite and finally your cat might be dragging him or herself along the carpet to alleviate irritation.

What worries me the most is that if your cat is an outdoor cat and is hunting you can more or less presume that there’s a good chance that your cat will get worms but there might not be any symptoms. This leaves you in a position of uncertainty as to what to do. Do you give your cat worming pills which are poisonous or do you wait for symptoms to show?

Veterinarians will say that you should worm your cat regularly as a precaution. A barrier to doing this is the difficulty in giving pills to cats at home.

It may be sensible to mention that there are many different characteristics of feline diarrhoea and it is possible to work back from the characteristics of the diarrhoea to figure out the illness that caused it. My research indicates that one sort of diarrhoea points to a parasite infestation and that is when it lasts a week or longer. Diarrhoea which lasts a week or longer may be caused by a parasitic infestation i.e. worms. It may also be caused by malabsorption syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or a chronic ailment such as colitis.

The emphasis on the characteristics of your cat’s stool points to the obvious suggestion that as a cat owner you need to be able to see your cat’s stool. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat it is likely that you won’t see it because he’ll do it outside wherever it suits him. This failure in a cat’s owner’s ability to check on their cat’s stool hampers diagnosis of worms and indeed other ailments. This leads to an emphasis on taking precautionary measures such as regular deworming pills.

I’m not a veterinarian. I’m just trying to highlight some possibilities and the information I provide is from my own experience and from good research through mainly books that I have on the subject. There is no substitute for seeing a veterinarian and it is always better to play safe and take steps rather than to delay.


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