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Cat Parasites at a Glance

Jul 25, 2008
While not usually fatal, cat parasites are a common occurrence. If left untreated, they may cause serious damage, so it's a good idea to know something about them.

Here we'll discuss some of the more common feline parasites and associated warning signs. In some cases, these creatures may weaken your cat and expose her to possible secondary infections that could be life threatening.

Ear Mites in Cats -- Feline ear mites are the most common cause of outer-ear inflammation in cats. Frequent scratching of the ears and head shaking are the most common symptoms. The most obvious sign is a build up of dry, black wax that resembles coffee grounds.

Ear mites need to be treated by a veterinarian since improper cleaning of the ear can make the condition worse and damage the ear. In more severe cases, these tiny crab like parasites can cause a rupture of the ear drum, and may lead to secondary infections, seizures and deafness.

Giardia -- Giardia is a single-celled parasite or protozoan that causes an intestinal infection known as Giardiasis. Infection is relatively rare in healthy cats. The organism is protected by an outer shell, so it can survive outside the body for an extended period.

This condition may lead to vomiting, acute diarrhea, and bowel movements containing blood. Your veterinarian will prescribe anti-parasitic treatment along with methods to counteract the dehydration that goes along with it.

Worms in Cats -- Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whip worms are some of the more common worm-type parasites that affect cats. Worms generally either swim in the intestines or latch on to the intestinal wall. They either feed on tissue and blood, or rob your cat of nutrients.

Worms can lead to a variety of symptoms, including anemia, weight loss, excessive vomiting and diarrhea, and constipation. Worms can cause serious illness or death if left untreated, especially in kittens and elderly cats. For example, it's possible for a severe roundworm infestation to form a blockage in the intestine of a kitten.

Testing for worms should be done at least once per year via stool sample. Treatment may involve multiple applications in order to eliminate the worms.

Fleas -- Fleas feed on your cat's blood and may cause severe discomfort in some cats. Symptoms of flea infestation include itching along with excessive licking and scratching.

Flea control is required in order to control another cat parasite, the tapeworm. Cats frequently groom themselves and may swallow fleas. If the flea has consumed a tapeworm egg, your cat may become infested.

Eliminating fleas requires treating both your cat and the environment she lives in, including eliminating the eggs.

Excessive vomiting and diarrhea are a side effect of some parasites, which leads to dehydration. Dehydration is highly dangerous and can cause death. If you suspect your cat has a parasite, contact your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
About the Author
Author Kurt Schmitt has created a website for cat lovers including information on cat parasite symptoms and signs and other common cat health problems
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