Please ensure your cat is up to date with his/her worming and flea treatment before coming to stay with us.
The most common worms that infect dogs and cats are Roundworm, Hookworm, Whipworm, Flea Tapeworm and Hydatid Tapeworm. To control these worms it is necessary to have a regular worming routine. It is important that worming take place whenever there is evidence of worms, no matter when your pet was last wormed.
Regular worming with an all-wormer is needed to remove intestinal worms. Kittens should be wormed every fortnight from 2 weeks of age until 12 weeks of age. They should then be wormed at 4 months of age. All cats over 4 months of age should be wormed every 3-4 months. This may vary depending on which product you use. Please check the packet for instructions.
Heartworm disease is a serious yet preventable disease spread by mosquitoes. A female mosquito ingests heartworm larvae from an infected cat while obtaining a blood meal. The larvae further develop inside the mosquito, and then the mosquito injects more mature larvae into another susceptible cat. This cat becomes infected with heartworm disease.
The heartworm larvae migrate in the cat’s body from the area of the mosquito bite and eventually enter the cat’s blood. Adult heartworms develop in the right side of the heart and major lung blood vessels, causing damage to these vessels and obstructing normal blood flow. Direct infection from cat to cat does not occur. The heartworm larvae must develop inside the mosquito to reach their infective stage. Once in the cat, the worms take about 8 months to mature to adults.
Once matured the worms make their way to the heart, although other organs can also be infected with heartworms. Cats are usually only infected with between 1-3 worms, whereas in dogs numbers are generally higher. However, cats do not tolerate heartworm infection as well as dogs & even one or two heartworms can cause death. Heartworms live in cats for around 2-3 years. Many cats do not have symptoms of heartworm disease until severe infection occurs. Symptoms include coughing, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, difficulty breathing and even sudden death. Finally, death results from heart failure.
Cats over 4 months of age should be confirmed heartworm-negative by a simple blood test before beginning any type of heartworm prevention. Year-round prevention is recommended in climates that support year-round mosquito activity.
Tapeworms can infect dogs and cats. Owners may notice rice-grain-like segments of tapeworms in faeces or in the fur around the anus. Most tapeworms will not make pets ill, but some can be contracted by owners and make them quite unwell.
Tapeworms are a different parasite to other types of worms found in dogs and cats. They have flattened, segmented bodies, while other worms have rounded bodies. Adult tapeworms live in an animal’s small intestine. Tapeworms vary in length from a few millimetres to several metres.
Tapeworms have no digestive system and they eat by absorbing nutrients through the body wall of each segment, which is responsible for feeding and reproducing for itself. Their food is whatever its host has eaten and which is in the intestines. Each segment is a hermaphrodite – it has both male and female organs! Once they have created fertilized eggs, the egg segments pass out of the host in faeces, and can sometimes be seen wriggling in faeces deposits. Many owners will notice rice-grain-like segments in their pet’s faeces, or attached to the fur around the anus. The eggs are then released and can remain viable for several years.
A tapeworm requires some time in an “intermediate host” usually a flea, to mature into adults. When the flea is ingested by your pet the immature tapeworm makes its way to the intestine, and starts its life cycle.
Tapeworm can be contracted by your pet swallowing a flea infected with a tapeworm. Your pet may swallow while self grooming.
Tapeworms generally cause little harm or inconvenience to their definitive hosts. Pets with tapeworm infections may experience digestive upsets, itching of the bottom and vomiting. Some worms can be several feet long and can potentially cause intestinal blockage, but this is exceedingly rare.
Infected cats often ‘scoot’ (drag their bottom) across the ground or carpet due to irritating tapeworm segments. Stringent flea control is a must for eliminating tapeworm from your pet’s life.
Hookworms are the most common feline intestinal parasite, infecting nearly 20% of all cats. Hookworms attach to a cat’s intestinal lining with hook-like teeth.
Hookworm infection is transmitted by ingesting the infective larvae (which usually live in soil) or by the larvae attaching to and burrowing through the cat’s skin. Once inside the cat’s body, larvae travel to the small intestine, mature, mate, and lay eggs. The eggs pass into the soil through the cat’s faeces. Hookworm can also be transmitted through a nursing mother’s milk.
Since hookworms can penetrate skin tissue, it is possible for people to pick up the larvae when walking barefoot on infected soil. Children should not be allowed to play in areas where cats defecate. Symptoms of Hookworm infection include anemia (severe cases), diarrhoea and diminished strength and vitality. In cats, an adult tapeworm can remove up to 0.8mL of blood each day! If a cat were carrying 100 parasites this would add up to 80mL a day. In a small pup, this would mean a significant proportion of its blood volume being removed in just a few days. Heavily-infected pups can lose 25 per cent of their red blood cells a day.
The worms feed on the host’s blood. Kitten can develop life-threatening anemia from blood loss even before eggs are detectable in the faeces. Hookworm disease is diagnosed by examining the faeces for eggs.
Worm larvae and adults can live in the intestine of animals or people and cause intestinal disease. The adult worms lay eggs, which are shed in the faeces of infested individuals and can serve to further spread the disease. Whipworms are found worldwide, especially in warm, humid climates. Animals get whipworms by ingesting (oral) worm eggs which develop into larval then adult worms.
Eggs are passed in the faeces of an infested animal and this contamination of the environment is the source of exposure for susceptible animals. Under ideal conditions, whipworm eggs can survive in the environment for years. Most cases of whipworm infestation show no signs of illness. Some animals may be in poor condition (rough hair coat, thin body) or have reduced performance. Heavy parasite infestations can cause diarrhoea, with or without blood, weight loss, and lethargy. In these cases, the worms can also cause blood loss or anaemia. Humans can get whipworms by ingesting (oral) soil or water contaminated by the faeces of infected animals or people. Most cases in humans do not show symptoms of illness. Heavy infections can cause gastrointestinal signs, especially in children. These can include abdominal pain, diarrhoea and rectal prolapse; growth retardations are also possible.
Adult roundworms live in the intestines of dogs and cats that have eaten small infected prey e.g. mice, or swallowed roundworm eggs in the soil or on their coat. Adult worms produce microscopic eggs which pass out in the faeces. These eggs usually lie in the soil or can be ingested by small hosts e.g. mice. Roundworm infection is transmitted through ingestion of eggs in an infected rodent, infected soil, or milk from an infected mother. The eggs hatch into larvae in the stomach, and the larvae travel to the small intestine where they mature into adults. The adults lay eggs, which pass out of the pet in faeces. The worms can also be transmitted from mother to puppies or kittens in utero. If humans ingest roundworm eggs, the eggs can cause infection. It is important to wash hands after handling cat faeces. Children should not be allowed to play on soil where cats defecate.
Children are especially at risk if they eat soil and/or they don’t follow the basic handling suggestions such as, discourage pets from licking faces, make sure people wash their hands, and do not place their fingers in their mouth, after handling pets.
Ingested eggs hatch into immature larvae which migrate through the human body causing a general non specific illness. If the larvae find their way to the eye, they can cause permanent damage to the retina and vision problems.
Symptoms of Roundworm infection include:
- Bloated belly
- Blood or mucus in the stool
- Loss of appetite
This tapeworm is different to the more common flea tapeworm’s segments which can be seen in your cat’s faeces. The Hydatid tapeworm is microscopic and you will not be able to see the segments although they too will be passed in the pet cat’s faeces. Hydatids can be a dangerous and potentially fatal disease to people. The cats at risk (and therefore the people) tend to be those in rural, agricultural areas or those who visit these areas from the larger metropolitan centres. People can act as an intermediate host for this tapeworm if he or she picks up eggs from an infected cat. These eggs will develop into cysts or hydatids in the organs of the human, in the same way that they will in the sheep or other intermediate host. If hydatids develop in the lungs, the liver or the heart of an infected human, severe disease can result and may only be cured by surgery. It is important to realise that it is the hydatid which affects people, not the adult worm.
So people cannot become infected by eating hydatids in the offal of sheep but he or she can become infected by picking up eggs from the droppings of cats. Because rural cats are most likely to have access to infected sheep offal, hydatid tapeworm infection is mainly a problem in rural areas. The hydatid tapeworm is probably best avoided by not feeding uncooked offal.
Lifecycle of a tapeworm The tapeworm needs two hosts to complete its life cycle:
- Intermediate host – such as sheep, pigs, cattle, goats, horses, camels, wallabies and kangaroos. Infection begins when the grazing animal eats dog, cat or dingo faeces infected with tapeworm eggs. The eggs hatch in the animal’s gut into embryos. These embryos penetrate the wall of the intestine and are carried in the bloodstream to vital organs such as the liver, lungs or brain, where they can develop into watery ‘blisters’ called hydatid cysts. These cysts contain around 30 to 40 tapeworm heads (the first segment of the tapeworm). A mature fertile cyst may contain several million such heads.
- Definitive host – such as dogs, cats and dingoes. Infection begins when the animal eats offal that contains hydatid cysts. The swallowed cysts burst and the tapeworm heads travel to the gut and attach themselves to the intestine wall. The tapeworms are mature after about six weeks. An adult tapeworm is only six millimetres long. Thousands can inhabit the gut of an infected animal. Each mature worm grows and sheds the last segment of its body about every two weeks. This last segment contains immature eggs. The eggs are passed from the animal’s body in faeces and may stick to the animal’s hair or contaminate the vegetable garden. The eggs are highly resistant to weather conditions and can remain viable for months. The eggs have to be swallowed by an animal (intermediate host) to form hydatid cysts.
Fleas are wingless, hard bodied, blood sucking ectoparasites. Not only are they a nuisance to you and your pet, but also they can spread disease and tapeworm. They need to be dealt with efficiently and effectively to prevent them from returning.
- 1) Egg: At .5mm in length, flea eggs are barely visible to the human eye; the female flea lays approximately one egg per hour. The flea egg is whitish, smooth & dry & easily falls off the coat into the environment. Flea eggs hatch in around 1 – 10 days, depending on conditions. Flea eggs & flea droppings are often found together. When your pet scratches itself, the eggs, (along with the droppings), fall off the animal. The droppings provide food to the larvae when they hatch. The eggs & droppings together have the appearance of salt & pepper. Environmental conditions such as humidity, light & temperature determine how quickly & how many flea larvae hatch from flea eggs. The lower the temperature, the fewer larvae will hatch. Optimal conditions for flea larvae to hatch are temperatures of 21 – 32 degrees C. Flea eggs fall off your pet when it jumps, scratches, moves & sleeps. Eggs are found all over the home, but in their highest concentrations in your pet’s preferred spots such as bedding.
- 2) Larvae: The larvae are vermiform (maggot like) like in appearance & up to 6mm long; flea larvae avoid light by residing deep in carpet fibres, under furniture & rugs & in crevices. At this stage they have no legs or eyes, but have chewing mouth parts. Flea larvae feed on adult flea excrement, food debris & dead skin.
- 3) Pupae: This is the transition stage between larvae & adult flea. After approximately 7-18 days the flea larvae pupate. It takes approximately 7 – 10 days for the larvae to develop into a flea, although it may be some time before the flea emerges from it’s protective cocoon. They are at their most resilient as pupae, and resistant to insecticides. The flea larvae spins a sticky, protective silken outer cocoon, (produced by the saliva of the larvae), covered with particles of debris such as dust, hair, lint etc. The pupae are found in carpet fibres, crevices etc. and are virtually undetectable.
- 4) Adult flea: The adult flea emerges when it is stimulated by environmental factors such as vibrations, warmth or breath of the host. The flea can come out of its cocoon within seconds of stimulation. The lifespan of an adult flea is around 2 – 3 months. The adult flea is around 1.5 – 4mm long, and dark brown or black in appearance. Adults suck blood from their host. Adult fleas begin laying eggs within 36 – 48 hours of their first blood meal. A female flea consumes up to 15 times her body weight in blood per day.
As you are now well aware only about 5 – 10% of the flea population exists on your pet so just treating your pet will not get rid of any flea problem. Fleas must be controlled on your pet and in your pets environment. Successful flea control must rid the pet and the pets environment of fleas. When an animal is allowed access to the garden, parks and other people homes with pets it is almost impossible to completely eliminate fleas from it environment. Knowing this, flea control should still be attempted.
Did you know only 5% of fleas live on your pet? You may be surprised to learn that only 5% of fleas are found on your pet. The other 95% – eggs, larvae and pupae, can be found in the immediate environment, such as your home or garden. Unfortunately, this commonly results in a constant source of re-infestation throughout the year.
To effectively control fleas there are a number of products on the market, including sprays, collars, washes, combs, powders, oral suspension and spot on treatments. Many of the above methods of removing fleas have limited effectiveness against fleas because they are only effective for a few hours after application, and most of them are only effective for the adult flea. Flea powders, sprays and shampoos will kill the adult fleas present on your pet at the time of application. If no treatment is applied to your pets “environment” your pet may be covered with fleas within a few days, after being treated.
To effectively control fleas all year round, you need a treatment that kills adult fleas on your animal PLUS their eggs and developing larvae in the environment. ‘Revolution’, ‘Advantage’, ‘Frontline’, and ‘Advocate’ are all spot-on products that treat infestations on the pet and in the environment by killing three stages of the flea’s life cycle. Please consult your vet for the best treatment for your animal.