Cats are susceptible to a plethora of common tapeworms and parasites, including nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes. These parasites are often referred to as worms.
The type of worms that affect a cat’s body can be divided by their location in the host in 2 major groups:
Roundworms or Ascarids (Toxocara cati & Toxocara leonina) – They are the most common intestinal parasites in cats, regardless of age.
Common types of roundworms resemble the worms we see in the garden. They are long, thin and pointed at each end.
Tapeworms (Taenia spp. & Dipylidium caninum) – They are long, flat worms, composed of many different segments.
Each segment contains worm eggs. Tapeworms are more commonly seen in older cats.
Hookworms (Ancylostoma spp. & Uncinaria spp.) – They are small, half-inch long threads. As the name itself suggests, Hookworms hook themselves on the lining of the cat’s intestines.
Whipworms (Trichuris spp.) – They have a thin, whip-like front end and a thicker back end. Whipworms are rarely seen in cats.
2. Non-intestinal worms
Heartworm (Dirophilaria immittis) – The Heartworm is a filarial worm that resides in the cat’s pulmonary artery. Heartworm infestation in cats is not as common as in dogs.
Subcutaneous worms (Dirophilaria repens) – This parasite resides under the skin, where it forms small nodules. Just like the Heartworm, subcutaneous worms are relatively rare in cats.
Lungworms (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus) – They reside in the cat’s airways and unfortunately are quite common.
Eye worms (Thelazia calliforniensis) – Eye worms are not very common in cats. If present, they can be found in the tear ducts, between the eye and the lids and under the third eyelid.
How does a cat get worms?
The means of worm transmission varies from one type to another.
Since most worms are shed in the environment through the feces, the most common way of infestation is by ingesting feces of infected felines.
Kittens usually get worms from their mothers. It is interesting that some worms pass through the placenta and infect the unborn kittens, causing prenatal infection.
Other worms are secreted via the milk.
Certain worms need a vector intermediate host. A vector intermediate host is an animal in which certain phases of the worm’s growth happen.
Therefore, the transmission of worms can also occur via an intermediate host.
Common intermediate hosts include fleas, mosquitoes, rodents, and birds.
The cat can get worms if she swallows infected fleas during grooming, if she gets bitten by an infected mosquito or if she hunts and preys on infected rodents and birds.
As upsetting as it sounds, it is essential to know that at some point in your cat’s life, they will undoubtedly be affected by worms. It is an inevitable part of feline life and your life as a pet parent.
Certain worms cross the species barrier and can be transmitted to other household pets (ex. dogs) and even humans. To protect everyone from getting worms, you need to implement cat worming treatment in your regular cat care regimen.
Are worms dangerous?
Several factors influence the importance of worms as well as the level of danger they impose on their hosts. Those factors are:
- Prevalence – referring to how common the parasite is.
- Pathoginicity – referring to what potential harms the worms do for the host
- Zoonotic potential – referring to whether the worms can be transmitted to humans.
- A combination of these factors
The rising popularity of cats traveling with owners plus current climatic changes influences the present epidemiological situation, by introducing new parasites into presently non-endemic areas.
Welfare organizations that relocate cats from one country to another, also contribute to the problem.
The more widely distributed the worms get, the more prominent threat and the danger they impose. The consequences of worms can be divided in short-term effects and long-term effects, some of which can be damage to the intestinal tract.
When the cat gets worms, the infestation initially affects the digestive system.
This is because most worms (roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms) live in the intestines and stomach. The first symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- Enlarged tummies
- Dull coats
- Pale gums
- Blood in the vomit and stool
If left untreated, tapeworm infestations and all other parasites can have devastating effects on the cat’s health that extend from just dramatic weight loss.
In some cases, worms can be fatal, especially for kittens with underdeveloped immune systems and cats with compromised immune systems.
Even healthy cats are in danger, because over time the worms weaken the immune system, thus decreasing the cat’s power to fight against them. Common long-term effects include:
- Anemia – the worms that attach to the intestinal lining and feed on blood can cause severe blood loss
- Intestinal blockage – if the worm population is too dense it can pile on one place and create a blockage
- Prolapsed rectum – severe infestations followed by chronic diarrhea and irritation cause the rectum to slip out of its place and protrude from the cat’s rear end.
The main problem with worms is that in most cases the cat is asymptomatic up until the point the infestation becomes so severe, the cat’s life is threatened, and the treatment options are limited and inefficient.
Therefore, instead of treating worms, the accent should be placed on preventing worms. The simplest solution is usually the best – use the best cat dewormers and regularly treat your cat for worms.
Treatment for Cat Worms
As stated, using the best cat dewormers and regularly treating your cat for worms is the right path to raising a worms-free cat. That means no more messes in the litter box or you asking yourself, ‘what’s wrong with my cat?’
However, the term worm-free is used loosely, since worms cannot be definitively eliminated and deworming treatments only get rid of those worms that are present at the time of treatment.
Therefore, deworming with a reliable and all-around great product should regularly be repeated.
But with so many treatments available how to know which is the best cat dewormer? And how regularly cat worming treatments should be used?
Not only is the range of deworming products vast, but so are the ways of administering them.
Traditionally cat dewormers come in the form of tablets, though some of the best dewormers now come in liquid form.
Since cats are picky eaters and usually detect when their snack has a pill inside, many pharmaceutical companies have developed small and palatable treats that contain active substances against worms.
Other deworming treatments include spot-on liquids, pastes, granules, and injections.
If you’re worried about dewormer solutions and how to treat your cat, stay safe and whenever you need a deworming product go to your vet for guidance, even if you’re only interested in an OTC single dose or natural dewormer.
Your vet is qualified to determine which dewormer suits your cat best.
Also not all cat worming treatments cover all worms. Your vet will choose a dewormer with a broad spectrum of efficiency or combine different cat worming treatments.
Deworming Your Cat
Regardless of whether you choose a tablet, spot-on product or injection as your best deworming product, it is vital to use it regularly.
How often depends on:
- Legislation in individual countries – some countries have determined the minimal number of cat worming treatments per year.
- Type of deworming product – the efficiency of every product diminishes with time. That time is different for different products. Some tablets offer excellent protection only for a month, while some spot-on products protect for six months.
- Local epidemiological circumstances – if you live in an area where certain worms are quite common, it is recommended to repeat the deworming treatment more often.
- Individual risk assessments – if your cat lives indoors, the infection pressure is low and eating infected animals is unlikely.In that case, your cat belongs to risk group A and needs to be examined 1-2 times per year and treated according to findings.
If your cat is free to roam, the infection pressure is high, as well as the chances of praying on infected animals.
If this is the case your cat belongs to risk group B and needs to be tested and treated at last four times per year.
If the individual risk cannot be clearly assessed, your cat should be tested and treated at least four times per year, regardless whether she turns positive or negative on the test.
Other individual factors include raw meat diets and previous exposures.
Generally kittens should be first dewormed at three weeks of age.
After that, they should be dewormed every two weeks until weaning.
After weaning and up until the age of 6 months, they need monthly deworming.
Pregnant queens should be dewormed at the end of the gestation period to prevent lactogenic transmission of roundworms.
Lactating queens should be dewormed once during lactation concurrently with the first treatment of the kittens.
Adult cats used in events like shows and competitions should be treated a maximum of 4 weeks before and 2-4 weeks after the event.
Cats that live with children or immune-compromised individuals should be tested once a month and dewormed according to findings.
Essential to consult a vet if cat is very poorly
As previously mentioned, some cats show no symptoms of worm infections until the point their conditions are so aggravated that their lives are at risk.
The other problem is that even if the cat shows symptoms, the initial symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss) are not distinctive to worm infections.
Additionally, owners of cats that live outdoors are not able to notice those symptoms in time.
All symptomatic cats should be brought to the vet. The vet will take your cat’s complete history and perform a physical examination, as well as relevant parasitic diagnostic procedures.
With so many types of worms, it is understandable that there is no universal treating approach and it is essential to know what you are dealing with. If the vet suspects intestinal worms, they will check your cat’s stool.
If you are experienced cat owner, have previously dealt with similar issues and suspect worms, you can save time and bring your vet a stool sample of your cat when you go for examination.
If the vet suspects heartworms, he will take a routine blood sample and test it.
Once a specific worm infection is diagnosed, the cat will be appropriately treated and preventive measures put in place.
Best Cat Dewormer – Product reviews
To make things easy, we have compiled a list of the 5 best cat dewormers.
1. Bayer Tapeworm Cat Dewormer
As the name itself suggests, the Bayer Tapeworm Cat Dewormer offers efficient treatment against common tapeworms like Dipylidium caninum and Taenia pisiformis. Unlike some over the counter dewormers that come in liquid form, the Bayer tapeworm dewormer comes in an easy-to-administer tablet. There is also the Bayer Drontal Broad Spectrum Dewormer for those who would like an allwormer solution.
The active antiparasitic drug in the product is praziquantel.
It can be used in all cats older than six weeks.
Each Bayer Tapeworm Cat Dewormer tablet contains 23 milligrams praziquantel.
Cats under 4Ibs should be given ½ tablet while cats weighing between 5-11Ibs should be given 1 tablet.
Cats over 11Ibs should be given 1 ½ tablets.
Bayer Tapeworm Cat Dewormer comes in the form of a chewable tablet.
If your cat does not like to chew it, it can be easily administered by crumbling and sprinkling it into your cat’s food.
Although the Bayer Tapeworm Cat Dewormer is available over the counter it should never be used without your vet’s permission and guidance. Look out for Bayer tapeworm dewormer tablets the next time you’re in your local pet store.
- Safe to use in young kittens
- Easy to administer, chewable tablet
- Effective as a one-time dose
- Efficient only against tapeworms
- Can cause salivation and diarrhea as side effects after administration.
2. Panacur Dewormer
Panacur is an antiparasitic drug that has fenbendazole as main active substance.
The fenbendazole is efficient against roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, certain tapeworms and lung worms.
In most cases, fenbendazole is not efficient if used as a one-time dose.
To achieve maximal protection, it is recommended to use it once a day, for several consecutive days.
The recommended daily dosage is 25 milligrams per pound or 50 milligrams per kilogram.
Panacur comes in the form of granules, which are relatively easy to administer. You can also mix it with a small amount of your cat’s regular food. If you use kibbles, moisten them before mixing.
Although Panacur can be obtained over the counter it should never be used without your vet’s permission and guidance.
As with any other drug, Panacur should not be used in cats with known hypersensitivity or allergy to fenbendazole.
- Broad spectrum of efficiency
- Easy to administer granules
- Can cause vomiting as side effect after administration
- Not effective as a one-time dose.
3. Excel Roundworm Liquid Cat Dewormer
The Excel Roundworm Liquid Cat Dewormer is a liquid product that effectively removes large roundworms in cats and kittens.
The Excel Roundworm Liquid Dewormer comes in the form of easy to feed and delicious vanilla-flavored liquid.
The active ingredient is piperazine as piperazin citrate.
Each teaspoon of 5 milliliters contains 250 milligrams piperazine citrate.
The recommended dosage is ½ tablespoon per 5Ibs of body weight. 14 days after the initial administration the drug needs to be re-administered in the same dosage.
After that to prevent re-infestation, the drug should be used every 30 days.
The Excel Roundworm Liquid Dewormer includes convenient dosing cup as its cap.
The dewormer should not be used in kittens younger than six weeks of age and cats under 2Ibs of body weight.
It is also not recommended for pregnant and nursing queens.
- Great taste that cats and kittens love
- Comes with dosing cup
- Efficient only against roundworms
- Needs frequent re-administration
- Not suitable for pregnant and lactating queens.
4. Pro-Sense Liquid Cat Dewormer
The Pro-Sense Liquid Cat Dewormer is used for treating and controlling roundworms making it a great roundworm dewormer.
The active ingredient in this product is piperazine citrate.
The Pro-Sense Dewormer is an easy-to-use liquid formula that can be administered directly or added to the cat’s food. The recommended dosage is ¼ of a tablespoon per 2.5Ibs of body weight.
For maximal protection, the Pro-Sense Liquid Cat Dewormer requires frequent administration.
14 days after the initial administration the drug needs to be re-administered in the same dosage.
After that to prevent re-infestation, the drug should be used every 30 days.
The dewormer should not be used in kittens younger than six weeks of age and cats under 2.5Ibs of body weight. It is also not recommended for pregnant queens.
- Easy to use, liquid formula
- Efficient only against roundworms
- Needs frequent re-administration
- Not suitable for pregnant and lactating queens
5. Naturpet D Wormer
The Naturpet D Wormer is a 100% natural product, potent against a variety of worms, including roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and hookworms. Additionally, it can also be used to control fleas and lice.
The Naturpet D Wormer uses herbs as active ingredients.
The product contains Wormwood and Black seeds, which when combined act as powerful antiparasitics. The product soothes and heals the digestive system from the damage caused by worms.
The Naturpet D Wormer comes in the form of easy to administer liquid.
Just use the included plastic dropper to squirt the appropriate dosage of the drug on top of your cat’s food.
To determine the appropriate dosage, use the chart that comes with the product. The product needs to be used twice a day, on a daily basis and at least one week after all signs of worms are gone.
Every bottle contains 100ml, which depending on your cat’s weight is enough for 2-7 deworming treatments.
- 100% natural product
- Safe and efficient
- Soothing and healing effect on the digestive system
- Protects against fleas and lice
- Needs to be used daily.