Whack the worms!

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Intestinal parasites are organisms that grow, feed and live inside a host organism. Your pet cat can carry harmful intestinal parasites that could be life threatening to her and a source of infection to you as well. Here’s more on these intestinal parasites.

It is important to safeguard your cat and yourself by adopting an appropriate pet parasite control programme.
Common feline worms
There are three common feline worms that affect cats, they are hookworms, tapeworms and roundworms. Cats acquire parasites by ingestion of infective worm eggs, at birth (the mother passes on worms to her kittens) and from eating fleas or small mammals (like mice, rabbits, etc).
Diagnosis
Some intestinal parasites are microscopic and can be diagnosed by microscopic examination of your cats’ faeces for the eggs shed by the adult worms. The adult cat, carrying these worms will otherwise look clinically healthy.
The presence of tapeworms is indicated by the observance of tapeworm segments passed by cats’ faeces. Tapeworms are white, pinkish-white, or yellow-white in colour and are similar in size and shape to flattened grains of rice.
Hookworms are small whitish or reddish-brown worms, less than one inch in length that live in the intestinal tract and feed on blood. If the worms multiply, the cat will become anaemic, have poor physical condition, dull hair coat and reduced body weight and diarrhoea.
Roundworms live in the intestinal tract of the cat and can grow up to five inches in length. These worms are relatively large so they can easily cause an intestinal blockage as they multiply. The presence of roundworms is the cause of diarrhoea in young animals. Sometimes the worms are vomited. The worms consume the host’s food and can lead to shunted growth and the classical ‘pot-bellied: appearance’. These worms if present in large numbers can cause pneumonia also.
Treatment
Numerous deworming medications are available to treat these worms. A broad-spectrum dewormer can be used effectively. The larvae in migration cannot be killed by any of these medications. After the worms are cleared from the intestine, new worms that are completing their migration will replace them. This means that a second and a third round of deworming is necessary to keep the intestines clear. The cat should be dewormed at regular intervals. Please consult your veterinarian and adopt an effective pet parasite control programme to keep your kitty happy and healthy.
(Sudhersena, a volunteer at the Blue Cross since 1998 and an avid animal lover, owns nine cats and three dogs. She is associated with a number of animal welfare campaigns and programmes. For further information, contact: Blue Cross of India, 72 Velachery Road, Chennai-32 or e-mail at bci@bluecross.org.in)