What Is The Best Dewormer For Your Cat?
A dewormer, or anthelmintic, is a drug used to expel parasitic worms and other intestinal parasites from a hosts body. There are many parasite that find your cat as an ideal host, and most pet owners have to deal with one parasite infection or another in their pets lifetime. Depending on the type of parasite your cat has, will determine which dewormer is best suited to kill it.
Gastrointestinal parasites, the type treated with dewormers, are common in domestic cats, with prevelance rates as high as 45% recorded. It is widely recommended to have a deworming schedule in place throughout the lifetime of your pet, starting from birth.
Video: What Do Worms in Cats Look Like?
Common Gastrointestinal Parasites in Domestic Cats
Almost all domestic cats will become infected with roundworm at some point in their lives, usually when they are kittens. This is due to roundworms may spread in many different ways, making it easy for them to spread quickly amongst an animal population.
How does my cat catch roundworms?
Roundworm can be spread by transplacental transfer, meaning the kitten can become infected from his mother via the placenta before he is even born. It can also be spread when a cat catches and eats an infected rodent.
Can I catch roundworm from my cat?
Although infections in humans from the dog roundworm are much more common, it is also possible to catch cat roundworms and children are most at risk. Many people who are infected never develop symptoms, however in those that do it can be serious and can cause vision loss and damage to the internal organs.
Adult hookworms are very small and barely visible to the naked eye. There are many different species of hookworm, but the species most commonly found in our domestic house cats is Ancylostoma Tubaeforme.
How does my cat catch hookworms?
Hookworm is most commonly caught by the ingestion of hookworm larvae, found on the ground after hatching from an egg. It can also be spread through colostral transfer, which is the transmission of hookworms through the female cats milk to her kittens.
Hookworm larvae are also capable of penetrating intact skin and paw pads, which then bury into your pets circulatory system. Rodents can also become infested with cat hookworm and this is thought to be the most common form of secondary infection for our domestic house cats.
Can I catch hookworm from my cat?
Yes. If you walk barefoot on contaminated soil (that your cat has used as a toilet, even if you have removed the feces) then the larvae are capable of penetrating unbroken skin, usually in the heel or hands of people. This causes an itchy condition known as cutaneous larval migrans.
As the worm makes its way up the limb, a raised red track can show where the larvae has traveled and may move day to day. Infestations often resolve within 5-6 weeks without medical intervention, as the larvae cannot survive in a human host.
Is hookworm dangerous?
Hookworms are very destructive to your pets digestive tract, chewing and eroding the lining and causing inflammation. It is also highly zoonotic (passed onto humans) therefore prompt treatment of all pets and effected people should be undertaken upon a positive diagnosis in one pet.
Tapeworms are segmented and feed through their skin. They can be anything from a few centimeters, to a few feet in length and there are many different species, each one usually specific to a certain selection of host species. If your cat has tapeworm, you may notice what looks like grains of rice dried into the fur around his anus, or you may find segments on his feces. These segments contain many eggs, and complete the life-cycle of the tapeworm.
How does my cat catch tapeworms?
Tapeworm eggs that have been excreted from an infected animal are eaten by fleas, where the tapeworm egg hatches into a cyst. The cyst stays dormant in the flea, until the flea is accidentally ingested by another cat or dog, or the same host where the cycle begins again.
Can I catch tapeworm from my cat?
Yes, although this would require ingesting an infected flea, which is very rare indeed. Humans are more likely to catch tapeworm from under cooked pork, which is a different tapeworm entirely.
Whipworms are between 45 and 75cm long and more commonly effect dogs than cats. The cat whipworm is known as trichuris trichiura and will invade your cats large intestines once ingested, where the whipworm burrow and anchor themselves. This causes an immune response in the large intestines, causing inflammation which restricts the ability to digest nutrients from food, meaning the cat often becomes lethargic and loses weight.
How does my cat catch whipworms?
Cats are usually infected through the ingestion of an infected rat or mouse. They can also catch it from the soil when licking their paws, and in infected food and water.
Can I catch whipworms from my cat?
No. Whipworms are species specific, and require their specific host in order to survive, much like human head lice!
Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Parasites
Parasites are so well adapted to living inside their host, that they can often go undetected for several life cycles. It is only when the number of parasites becomes too large, or the parasite causes a secondary illness with its own set of symptoms, that parasite infestation becomes an obvious cause for concern.
Your cat may be infested with more than one type of parasite, and this is often the case with animals that have been abandoned, or animals that live on the street or in the wild. A full fecal and blood exam should be conducted at your vets, who can run tests to discover which parasites are living inside your pet.
Gastrointestinal parasite infestation manifests itself most visibly in young kittens, who may fail to thrive, have pot bellies, suffer from anemia and malnutrition and in extreme cases, if left untreated can be fatal. Some parasites can be transmitted in the mother cats milk, so it is important that the mother cat is given deworming medication, as well as all kittens in a litter and any other cats in the home.
Depending on your geographical area, your cat may be more likely to be exposed to specific parasites over others, so your local vet can give you area specific advise on which dewormers are most effective in your area. Deworming medication also has to be given on a regular schedule, normally every three months, as a preventative against infestation.
When treating an animal who has already been positively identified as suffering from an internal parasite, several doses over the course of weeks or months are needed to ensure that the parasite is killed at each stage of the life cycle.
The most effective treatment worldwide for treatment of the most common internal and external parasites is a spot-on treatment called Advocate. Advocate is effective against fleas, flea larvae, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworms and Sarcoptic mange, ear and Demodex mites. This is only available with a prescription from your vet, however once you have the prescription you can easily purchase the pipettes cheaply online here.
Other easily available treatments include:
This medication kills only tapeworms, and is highly effective in doing so. It should not be given to kittens younger than 4 weeks of age, and should be used with veterinary advice only in older and sick animals.
This dewormer is falling out of fashion within the veterinary community as it is specific to the treatment of roundworms only. It is also only effective to roundworms that are in the cats intestinal tract, and not roundworms migrating in other parts of the cats body.
Fenbendazole is a powerful dewormer, currently on label for use only in dogs. This does not make it any less effective in cats, however, and is a great front line option for animal rescuers. Feral and neglected cats are likely to have more than one type of parasite, and fenbendazole given over three days can be highly effective in killing most of these parasites.
This drug is very gentle to your pet, and therefore recommended when treating very young or very old or sick cats. It is highly effective against hookworms and roundworms, and kills tapeworms but does not expel them from the body like fenbendazole or praziquantel will, so further treatment or mixed dosages are necessary where a tapeworm infection is confirmed.
Pyrantel Pamoate also has a high safety margin on dosage, with dosages upto 10x the recommended dose reported with no major side effects.
As with most things in life, with parasites prevention is better than cure. There are several things you can do to reduce the risk that you, your family and pets will become infected with gastrointestinal parasites.
- Remove feces from your garden as soon as possible to prevent eggs hatching and contaminating the soil.
- Empty litter trays daily
- Ensure hand washing is done thoroughly, regularly and with an anti-bacterial soap
- Deworm all pets regularly
- Do not allow children to play in outdoor sand pits, where feral cats often toilet
- Monthly flea and tick control
- Avoid overcrowding animals
If any of the animals in your home require treatment for parasites, you should ensure that you follow all of the above points to prevent reinfection.