Worms. The mere mention of the word brings up images from our worst nightmares of squiggling, squirming, slimy creatures. While earthworms may be what most of us think of, there are far worse critters that can cause harm by living inside our, and our pets’, bodies. When it comes to cats, parasitic worms are so common, that your cat is very likely to contract them at least once in their lives. Luckily for cats and kittens, worms can easily be treated at home or by your veterinarian before they cause any serious damage. We just need to learn to look for the signs of an infestation and take action right away.
Signs of Worms in Kittens
Worms in kittens are common and a more serious affair than for adult cats. Because kittens are growing, they need all the nutritional components they can get, and having to share their intake with parasites causes problems that can quickly become detrimental to their health. Here are some signs to be on the watch for:
- Blood in stool
- Mucousy stool
- White rice-like, or sesame seed-like eggs in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Common Types of Worms in Kittens
The most common types of worms in kittens are roundworms, and that goes for adult cats as well. Roundworms can grow from 3-5 inches, live in the intestines, and eat the same food that your cat eats. As they grow, they produce eggs which are passed out in your cat’s waste. Kittens can become infested by roundworms when they drink the milk of their infested mother.
For adult cats, roundworms can occur when the cat eats an infected rodent or by ingesting feces containing roundworm eggs. We don’t mean that your cat is eating straight poop, but rather that when they come into contact with infected feces, say by stepping in a litter box, traces of the eggs can stick to their paws and fur, and later be ingested when they groom themselves.
Another common type of worm in kittens is tapeworms. Tapeworms are often seen in kittens who have had fleas. Fleas can become infested with the tapeworm eggs, and then may be ingested during grooming. Tapeworms grow in the large intestine and pieces of the worm filled with eggs will break off and be passed out through the cat’s feces. They can be spotted in the feces looking like small grains of white rice or sesame seeds. Not every dropping will contain these rice-like egg sacks, so pet owners need to stay on the lookout.
Hookworms are tiny, half-inch long worms that attach to the intestines and feed on your cat’s blood. These worms and their larvae may be passed out in the cat’s feces. The larvae can then penetrate a cat’s skin, or they may ingest them.
Other Parasites that Affect Kittens
Worms are not the only nasty creatures out there that want your kitten’s nutritional value. Coccidia is a single-celled organism that causes mucousy diarrhea in kittens. Giardia is another life form that causes frothy, greasy diarrhea. Diarrhea is something you don’t want your kitten to get because it saps them of electrolytes and hydration that they need to prosper. These parasitic organisms can be treated with prescription medication from your vet.
Treatment for Worms in Kittens
Your vet will perform a fecal exam to determine what type of worms your kitten has and give specific medications for those worms. Some medications cover a variety of worms. Most medications are given orally and may need to be repeated for several days, and then again in a few weeks. You can also get worming medications over the counter and administer them at home. Over the counter medications will typically cover tapeworms or hookworms in kittens and cats. The package will give you specific directions for dosage based on your cats weight. Follow the directions and repeat the dose one additional time two weeks later.
When treating your kitten at home, you must be on the watch for symptoms to subside. If diarrhea or vomiting persists, you will want to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. Worms in kittens can easily be solved, by when symptoms persist, it can lead to anemia and other serious problems.