There are two broad categories of worms that cause concern among cat owners. Your cat might be fortunate enough never to be bothered by either, but forewarned is forearmed.
This is a mosquito-borne disease in which worms infest the animal's heart and nearby blood vessels, often with fatal results.
- Symptoms: Sometimes coughing, rapid breathing, vomiting, or weight loss, but this disease is difficult to detect and diagnose.
- What to do: There are no approved drugs for treating heartworm in cats, and other treatments may not be successful. The best course is to prevent your cat from catching heartworm. If this disease is a problem in your area, your vet can prescribe preventive medication for you to give your cat once a month.
Worms and other forms of intestinal parasites can infect your cat's stomach and intestinal tract. Most often these worms are transmitted via contact with other animals' feces.
- Symptoms: Sometimes appetite changes, coughing, diarrhea, or weight loss, but otherwise healthy animals may not show any symptoms. Some parasites, such as tapeworms, may be visible in the cat's feces.
- What to do: Take your cat for regular veterinary checkups. Your vet can detect and identify parasites by analyzing a fecal sample from your pet. Fecal-sample checks are generally done several times in a cat's first year and annually thereafter. If the fecal sample reveals parasites, the vet will prescribe the appropriate medication to safely rid your cat of whichever type is present. To prevent parasites from infecting your pet, keep the cat away from places where other animals have left feces.
Continued on page 6: Infectious Diseases