White cat sitting on woman’s lap

Key takeaway

Worms in cats can pose health risks if left untreated. Cats can get worms after coming in contact with infected feces or parasite eggs. Symptoms of worms in cats include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, swollen belly, and a dull coat. Learn more about the symptoms of worms in cats and how to tell if your cat has worms.

Parasitic worms are a relatively common health condition in cats. These worms can cause a number of health issues in your cat and the impact they have on your cat’s health can, in turn, lead to other illnesses, infections, and diseases. Therefore, it’s important to act when you notice signs of worms in your cat and seek treatment as soon as possible.

So what are the symptoms of worms in cats? Symptoms of worm infestations in cats vary depending on the type of parasite they’re infected with but may include a dull coat, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, to name a few. To learn more about the signs and symptoms of worms in cats, read this article from start to finish. You can also use the links below to skip to any section in the article.

What Are Worms In Cats?

Worms in cats are parasites that can infect cats and lead to all kinds of health problems. There are a variety of different worms, each of which can affect different parts of your cat and bring about different symptoms. The courses of treatment for worms will generally depend on the type of worms that have infected your cat as well as the symptoms your cat has been displaying.

There are a number of different ways for your cat to contract worms. For instance, your cat can be infected by two of the most common parasitic worms—roundworms and hookworms—by ingesting feces that contain the worms’ eggs or by eating prey that’s infected with the parasite.1 Parasitic worms are a very common health condition in cats. In fact, parasitic worms can impact up to 45% of cats in some populations.2

Graphic listing types of worms in cats

What Are Symptoms Of Worms In Cats?

Before you can get treatment for worms in your cat, you must recognize the condition. The difficult part of this is that the symptoms of worms in cats can vary depending on the type of worm affecting them. Below, we’ll describe the symptoms associated with different types of parasitic worms.

Graphic displaying symptoms of worms in cats

Symptoms of Roundworms

Roundworms are a very common type of parasitic worm found in cats. This type of worm is especially common in kittens. Symptoms of a roundworm infestation in your cat may include1:

  • Lack of growth in kittens
  • Dull coat
  • Bloated or swollen belly
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (which may contain mucus)

Symptoms of Hookworms

Most cats infected with hookworms display no outward symptoms, thus a diagnosis of a hookworm infestation is typically made by examining fresh cat feces under a microscope. However, some of the symptoms that may accompany this condition include1:

  • Anemia
  • Loose stool
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms of Tapeworms

Tapeworms are segmented worms that reside in the intestines of infected cats. They’re most commonly contracted through eating fleas, but may also be acquired by eating infected mice, rats, or, in certain areas, reptiles. Symptoms of a tapeworm infection can include1:

  • Inability to normally absorb and digest food
  • Malaise
  • Abnormal appetite
  • Poor hair coat
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures (in rare cases)

Symptoms of Lungworms

A lungworm infection affects your cat’s lower respiratory tract and can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Although no outward signs may be present, potential symptoms of a lungworm infection can include3:

  • Moderate to severe coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Respiratory problems

Symptoms of Heartworms

Heartworms are parasitic worms that can be transferred to cats who are bitten by an infected mosquito. Once heartworm larvae enter the cat’s bloodstream, they mature, grow, and reproduce inside the cat. If left untreated, heartworms can spread to the lungs, heart, and major arteries, resulting in a potentially life-threatening condition. When it comes to heartworms, some of the symptoms to watch out for include4:

  • Vomiting (possibly with blood)
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficult breathing and coughing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Noticeable lack of energy
  • Weight loss

How To Check For Worms In Cats

Veterinarian examining sample under microscope while coworker holds cat

If you pick up on signs of worms in your cat, you may want to check them for worms. However, diagnosing a cat with worms can be tricky since the symptoms of worms in cats aren’t always visible. Luckily, vets have several tests that they conduct in order to determine the presence of worms in your cat. In addition to assessing any visible symptoms, vets may conduct the following tests during the diagnostic process:

  • Fecal floats: Vets can mix your cat’s feces with a specialized solution that makes worms’ eggs float to the surface and then examine the sample under a microscope.
  • ELISA tests: An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test measures antibodies in the blood and can be used to detect the presence of parasitic worms in your cat.
  • PCR tests: A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a tool used to determine whether the genetic materials of certain parasitic worms are present in your cat.

How To Get Rid Of Worms In Cats

Once you notice the symptoms of worms in cats, it’s important to take action. Schedule an appointment with your vet to confirm the diagnosis and review available treatment options. Oftentimes, cats exhibiting symptoms of worms may be treated using over-the-counter medications or prescription medications, which can be administered orally, topically, or via injection.1 Always consult with your veterinarian before embarking on a course of treatment.

Can You Prevent Worms In Cats?

As they say, prevention is the best medicine. While you may not be able to monitor your cat 24 hours a day, you can reduce the likelihood that they contract worms by following these best practices2:

  • Regularly remove feces from your cat’s litter box
  • Disinfect the litter box with cleaning solutions such as diluted bleach
  • Avoid overcrowded areas
  • Avoid feeding your cat raw meat
  • Administer monthly dewormer and flea medications
  • Keep your cat indoors

Following these practices can help prevent your cat from contracting worms. At the same time, it’s also a good idea to keep up with regular veterinary appointments and bring any concerns to your veterinarian.

Graphic with tips for preventing worms in cats

Final Notes

Now that you’re able to recognize the symptoms of worms in cats, you can take action when you notice a problem. Remember that it’s best to act sooner rather than later when you notice symptoms of a worm infestation in your cat. Worm infestations in cats are typically very treatable but can lead to further health problems if ignored.

Whether you’ve noticed the symptoms of worms in your cat or your dog has diarrhea, Dutch is an excellent resource for pet owners who want convenient, high-quality care for their furry friends. With our pet telemedicine platform, all you have to do is schedule an online consultation and you’ll be able to meet with a qualified veterinarian who can assess your cat’s symptoms, provide a diagnosis, come up with a treatment plan, and provide ongoing care. Using Dutch, you can even get your pet’s prescription medications delivered right to your door. Connect with a vet on Dutch today to access the care your pet deserves.

References

  1. Peregrine, Andrew S. “Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, Aug. 2018, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/digestive-disorders-of-cats/gastrointestinal-parasites-of-cats

  2. “Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, June 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/gastrointestinal-parasites-cats

  3. Ballweber, Lora R. “Lungworm Infection in Cats.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, Aug. 2018, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/lung-and-airway-disorders-of-cats/lungworm-infection-in-cats

  4. “Heartworm in Cats.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/heartworm-cats