Intestinal worms are a common problem in kittens and regular worming is an important part of responsible pet ownership. But how do you spot, treat and prevent worms in kittens?
What are worms?
Worms are a common parasite in cats and I often treat kittens for worms in my surgery. Most cats will catch worms at some point in their lives and every kitten is susceptible to them as they’re often passed from their mother through their milk or placenta.
Although worms rarely cause serious problems in adult felines, because they live in your kitten’s intestines, worms can steal food and damage the gut lining. This can then lead to serious illnesses such as dehydration, anaemia and gut blockages.
What are the most common types of worms? And how do kittens get them?
The worms I see most often are roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms – these are the three most common types of worms in kittens. Here’s what to look out for…
- Roundworms: very common, particularly among kittens as they can be transferred via the mother cat’s milk. Roundworms look like spaghetti and can grow up to 15cm long.
- Tapeworms: look like flat ribbons made up of numerous segments, they can grow up to 50cm long. Tapeworm eggs are passed on to your cat via fleas and vermin they may have eaten.
- Hookworms: a type of roundworm, these are small intestinal worms transferred via contaminated water or soil and can be dangerous to young animals.
What are the symptoms?
Cats often don’t show any outward signs of worms, which is why regular preventative treatment is so important. While you won’t normally see an adult worm, a tapeworm segment (about the size of a grain of rice) can sometimes be spotted wriggling around a cat’s bottom.
However, there are some common symptoms you should keep an eye out for:
- ‘Scooting’ – your kitten dragging their bottom along the ground
- Visible worms or eggs in your kitten’s faeces or fur around its bottom
- Diarrhoea or vomiting
- Dry, coarse fur
- Weight loss or changes in appetite
- Swollen abdomen
If your kitten has worms for a prolonged period of time these symptoms may become more obvious.
How can worms be treated?
From about six weeks old, cats should have monthly worming to prevent against roundworms (including hookworms). From six months old, they need treatment for roundworms and tapeworms every three months.
For me, the best way to treat worms is by using a veterinary prescribed prescription-only product. If you suspect that your kitten has worms, speak to your vet straight away. They’ll be able to recommend the best course of treatment, the best wormer to treat multiple species of worm and ensure your pet isn’t suffering from any nasty side effects.
How can I prevent my kitten from getting worms?
I always say that prevention is better than cure, so it’s crucial that you stay on top of your kitten’s regular worming treatment regime. While worms can be an unpleasant nuisance for both kitten and owner, they’re very preventable. Always follow your vet’s advice on the best course of treatment to choose for your pet.
Your kitten can also catch worms from fleas so it’s important to make sure that your pet is regularly checked and treated for any flea infestations.
What are the risks to humans?
Although relatively rare, worm-related disease can pose a risk to humans, particularly to children if they become infected through contaminated soil. Cat worms cause damage to humans by lodging in organs such as the liver, heart, brain and eyes. If this happens, make sure you get treatment immediately.