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Cats + Parasites

  • An allergy occurs when the cat's immune system overreacts or is hypersensitive to foreign substances called allergens. When a flea bites a cat to consume a blood meal, some of its saliva is injected into the skin. In an allergic cat, just one bite can result in intense itching that can last for days. Many flea-allergic cats chew or lick the hair off their legs. Since the flea saliva causes the reaction, the most important treatment for flea allergy is to prevent fleabites by treating the cat and environment for fleas. Corticosteroids can be used to block the allergic reaction and give immediate relief to a cat suffering from the intense itching of FAD.

  • The most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea, although any species of fleas, including fleas from rabbits, squirrels or other wildlife, can be found on cats. Even though fleas may be in your house, you probably will not see them. Fleas need to be eliminated from 1) your cat, 2) any other cats and dogs that you have, 3) your home and yard. Although most topical insecticides kill adult fleas, many have limited effectiveness because they only work for a few hours after application. Ensure that the product is labelled for use in cats, as some dog products may be poisonous to cats.

  • Harvest mites, also known as red bugs, trombiculid mites, scrub-itch mites, berry bugs or, in their larval stage as chiggers, are mites that are commonly found in forests and grasslands. Harvest mites are relatives of spiders.

  • Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are a blood-borne parasite that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. Recent studies of cats with heart and respiratory diseases have found an incidence of heartworms that is far greater than previously thought. Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventives. There are excellent heartworm preventives now available for cats, making prevention of heartworm disease safe and easy.

  • Heartworms are a blood-borne parasite called Dirofilaria immitis that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. There is no drug approved for treating heartworms in cats. Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventative in areas where mosquitoes are active all year round.

  • Hookworms are intestinal parasites of the cat and dog. Their name is derived from the hook-like mouthparts they use to anchor themselves to the lining of the intestinal wall. In general, cats tend to harbor relatively few hookworms when compared to the large numbers found in dogs.

  • Lung flukes are parasitic organisms called trematodes. The most common lung fluke to affect cats in North America is called Paragonimus kellicotti, also known as the North American lung fluke. Other species of lung flukes can infect cats in other areas of the world, but are rarely found in North America.

  • Roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites of the cat. Almost all cats will become infected with roundworms at some point in their life and most often as kittens. Roundworms are not particularly harmful to adult cats, but large numbers may cause life-threatening problems in kittens and debilitated older cats.

  • Tapeworms are flat, segmented intestinal parasites of the cat and dog. The tapeworm uses its hook-like mouthparts for anchoring to the wall of the small intestine. As the adult tapeworm matures, individual segments called proglottids break off from the main body of the tapeworm and pass in the cat's feces. When segments of the tapeworm break off and pass into the cat's stool, they can be seen crawling on the surface of the feces.

  • Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their host and can in turn transmit diseases to your cat or even you. They are prolific breeders and their life cycles can extend through multiple seasons. Prompt removal or use of preventatives limit or prevent the spread of disease, or kill the ticks.