Worms and Your Cat

Disgusting as they may seem, these parasites are easily preventable with the proper precautions.

Disgusting as they may seem, these parasites are easily preventable with the proper precautions.

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.

**Get the June 2011 issue of CAT FANCY to read the full article or click here to purchase a PDF version.**

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