It’s hard to write an article about parasites without being, well, disgusting. Unfortunately, the insides of cats make a comfortable residence for a variety of unsavory organisms.
Veterinary journals may list scores of the obscure feline parasites, but according to Anne Zajac, DVM, PhD, associate professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, the most common are: roundworms, hookworms, coccidia, giardia, heartworms and tapeworms.
Parasitologists see those repulsive pathogens differently than the rest of the world. They even speak affectionately of them. “We love our parasites,” Zajac laughs.
James L. Mau, a biologist and consultant parasitologist from Ashland, Ore., admits that he views the world through parasitic glasses “The goal [of the parasite] is not to be fatal, but to survive inside the host in order to reproduce. The organism would ask, ‘How do I exploit you for my survival?’”
Parasitic infections in adult cats seldom cause life-threatening problems, but if the cat is immune-compromised, it could be fatal. “With multiple infections and organisms the host can be overwhelmed,” Mau says.
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