Does Your Cat Need Deworming?

Many cats need a regular deworming schedule

Did you ever see your cat throw up something that looks like spaghetti? Or find what look like grains of rice in her litter box? Not to wreck your dinner, but that “spaghetti” was probably roundworms, and the “rice” was likely tapeworm segments. The good news is that these parasitic infestations can be easily resolved with regular deworming.

Regular Deworming

Most cats benefit from regular deworming. “A cat’s living situation will dictate whether they should be kept on a regular deworming schedule. For example, an indoor cat in a rural setting may still have an opportunity to hunt rodents indoors, in which case they should be on a regular deworming schedule. Or, if a cat is indoors only but lives with other cats who are indoor/outdoor and hunting, they should also be on a regular deworming schedule. Cats that live with dogs that go on neighborhood walks or interact with other animals have a greater risk of exposure than indoor only cats living in a city high-rise,” says Leni K. Kaplan, MS, DVM, of Cornell University’s Small Animal Community Practice.

It is plain to see that cats that go outside will be exposed to parasites, but it can be easy to forget that indoor-only cats can be exposed. Any animal that your cat interacts with that goes outside could potentially be bringing unwanted parasites into your household, and it is even possible to bring in parasites yourself (for example, if you step in infected feces outside and your cat sniffs your shoes).

For cats that are at low risk for internal parasites, such as indoor-only cats that do not hunt regularly or indoor-only cats that live with other indoor-only pets, regular deworming is often not necessary. You can always deworm your cat if you notice a problem.

If you are uncertain about whether your cat needs to be regularly dewormed, honestly discuss his/her environment and lifestyle with your veterinarian or a veterinary technician.

Signs of Intestinal Parasites

Signs that your cat may have intestinal parasites include:

  • Weight loss
  • Distended abdomen (especially in kittens)
  • Unthrifty with poor hair coat
  • Presence of worms in stool
  • Presence of worms in vomit
  • “Grains of rice” on hair around anus

If you suspect that your cat has worms, bring a stool sample to your veterinarian’s office for a fecal exam. The staff can evaluate your cat’s stool for the presence of parasite eggs and sometimes even larva or adult worms. Your veterinarian may also want to examine your cat, particularly if the fecal is negative (no signs of parasites).

A fecal exam only evaluates a small amount of feces, so your veterinarian may still suspect that worms are the cause of the problem based on the information you provide and his or her physical examination findings.

Choosing a Dewormer

There are a variety of deworming products on the market (always look for the name of the active ingredient, not the brand name, if you buy over the counter). “I strongly suggest that owners consult with their veterinarians regarding which deworming products are given for a cat,” says Dr. Kaplan. “Considerations regarding products include what specific internal parasites need to be targeted for a given patient and the most effective way of delivering the deworming medication (for example: oral vs. topical).”

Treatment frequency will depend on the product being used and whether it is being used as a preventive or to resolve an active infestation. Most dewormers only target specific stages of a parasite’s life cycle, so it is often necessary to give a second dose a few weeks after the first dose to be sure that treatment is successful. For routine preventive use, most products are given monthly.

After your cat has been given a dewormer, don’t be surprised if she passes worms in her stool or vomits some up. Some dead worms are absorbed in the intestines, but many pass out with the cat’s feces.

Deworming Drugs

Epsiprantel: Tapeworms

Febantel: Tapeworms

Ivermectin: Hookworms

Milbemycine oxime: Mites, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms

Moxidectin: Hookworms, mites, roundworms, mites

Piperazine: Roundworms

Praziquantel: Tapeworms

Pyrantel Pamoate: Hookworms, roundworms

Selamectin: fleas, heartworms, mites, roundworms, hookworms