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Roundworms in Cats: Are Your Other Pets at Risk?

Corey Kagan Whelan
June 27, 2017

Does your cat have roundworms? Here's everything you need to know about how to prevent the common, easily treated disease from spreading to your other pets and the rest of your family.

Did you know that roundworms can be passed on from your cat to your other pets, or even your kids? While this is a scary thought, there is no need to panic, as there are many preventative measures you can take to protect your entire family from this common, easily treated disease. Here's everything you need to know about roundworms in cats.

How Do Cats Get Roundworms?
Roundworms are intestinal parasites that can grow to be six inches long. These pesky parasites can cause illness, which can be potentially fatal in kittens or older cats. If an infected cat gives birth to kittens, those kittens can be infected before they are even born, explains Dr. Marcia Landefeld, a veterinarian at the Feline Veterinary Hospital in Long Island, New York.

Cats can also get roundworms by ingesting or coming into contact with the stool of infected animals, she adds. "This occurs when animals share litter boxes with infected cats or go outside and step in the feces of infected animals. This is how humans can get it, as well." Your cat can also get roundworms from eating mice, cockroaches or birds, says Dr. Elizabeth McKinstry, a veterinarian in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

What Are the Symptoms of Roundworms in Cats?
While many cats infected with roundworms remain asymptomatic, others will display a variety of symptoms, including malnourishment, vomiting and diarrhea. You may also find that your cat has a potbelly, dull coat and generally unkempt appearance.

In addition, your cat may experience an upset stomach and a decrease in appetite. Lastly, as roundworms swim freely throughout your cat's intestine, they may be visible in your pet's stool. Dogs infected with roundworms typically display the same types of symptoms, so if all of your pets seem to be under the weather, this insidious parasite may be the culprit.

What Can You Do to Prevent Your Cat From Getting Roundworms?
According to Dr. McKinstry, it is incredibly common for kittens to be born with the parasite, because as larvae, roundworms are able to travel through the placenta and mammary glands. As such, deworming is essential in kittens. In an effort to ensure that immature worms and roundworm eggs are destroyed, you should deworm your cat multiple times. And, if you have an outdoor cat, you should administer a deworming medication, such as an anthelmintic, on a regular basis.

Due to the contagious nature of this parasite, all cats should be regularly tested for roundworms as a precautionary measure, and those that go outdoors should be tested several times a year. In fact, "the best way to prevent roundworms is to keep your cat indoors," says Dr. Landefeld.

If you're worried that your cat might have roundworms, you should bring her to the veterinarian, who can use a stool sample to make a diagnosis. According to Dr. Landefeld, your vet might prescribe topical products, such as Revolution, Advantage Multi and Profender, as ancillary treatments.

What Can You Do to Prevent the Rest of Your Family From Getting Roundworms?
Clearly, the best way to prevent the spread of roundworms is to try to prevent your cat from becoming infected in the first place. But there are a variety of steps you can take to protect your family if you do have an infected kitty in the house.

"Infection is common in children, who often put things in their mouths and don't wash their hands enough," says Dr. Landefeld. As such, Dr. Landefeld recommends that your whole family and the pet sitter engage in thorough hand washing throughout the day, especially after cleaning your cat's litter box.

You'll also want to clean the touch points in your home as often as possible. For instance, "if your cat has a habit of jumping up onto surfaces like counter tops where you prepare meals, make sure to wipe them down with a strong cleanser prior to food preparation," says Dr. McKinstry. Another preventative measure you can take is to keep your pets and children out of areas where other animals may relieve themselves, such as deep-wooded forests or even uncovered sandboxes in the park.

Now that you know how to treat roundworms in cats, keep your kitty in top shape by learning about Cats and Heartworm Disease.

Corey Kagan Whelan is a freelance writer living in New York. She loves both cats and dogs, and so her household has always included a couple of each.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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