There are a number of internal and external parasites that commonly affect cats.
Regular treatment with appropriate products is necessary to control or eliminate them.
The most common ectoparasites, fleas are attracted to the body heat of cats and dogs where they feed and can then be transported around the house. They breed and spend most of their lives in the environment, so in centrally heated houses can reproduce all year round.
There are several different species of flea, but the commonest by far on cats and dogs is the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis.
Flea bites cause itch leading to over grooming in many animals and severe allergy in some. Signs of a flea infestation include itchiness, fur loss, sore areas and crusts especially on the head and body (less so on the limbs), black specks in the coat (flea dirt stains wet cotton wool a rusty colour), and bites on contact humans.
Fleas can also carry the tapeworm Dypillidium caninum, feline infectious anaemia (Mycoplasma haemofelis) and, rarely, cause cat scratch disease (Bartonella hensellae) in humans.
Kill adult fleas on cats by using a monthly flea spot on such as Advantage (Imidacloprid). There are also collars, tablets and other spot-ons, which can be prescribed by a vet.
Treat the environment. Regular vacuuming of floors and soft furnishings with careful disposal of the resulting debris is important, and annual treatment with Indorex (available in our dispensary) should treat or prevent environmental infestations. Take care to follow the instructions carefully (the spray is harmful to fish and beneficial insects.)
The roundworm Toxocara cati is a common parasite of young cats. Infection is often acquired through the mom`s milk while kittens are suckling. All kittens should be treated for roundworm, which can cause serious intestinal problems in young cats, and can infest adult cats and, on rare occasions, people (although T.cati is less dangerous than T.canis the dog roundworm). Kittens should be treated ideally from 2 weeks old with a good quality age appropriate wormer such as Panacur (Fenbendazole). Adult cats should be wormed regularly every 3 months with a tablet such as Drontal cat; other prescription medicines or spot ons are also available.
Tapeworms are frequently a problem in cats that hunt regularly, although all cats should be wormed every 6 months or so as these parasites can be transported on shoes and by flying insects. Even indoor cats may be exposed. All cats with a flea infestation should also be treated for tapeworm because of the association between fleas and Dyplidium caninum, the flea tapeworm.
Tapeworms (Taenia species) can be acquired from swallowing fleas and ticks, and from hunting rodents and birds. While they rarely cause significant disease in cats in the UK they may occasionally infect humans. (In Europe, cats can carry Echinococcus multilocularis, which is a very serious parasite in humans.)
We recommend treating cats for tapeworm at least every 6 months, and every 1-3 months for active hunters or those on a raw diet. Droncit (praziquantel) is available as a tablet or spot on, and is combined with other parasite treatments in some prescription only preparations.
Ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) are common in kittens but can infect older cats too. They are very contagious. Usually they cause irritation and a build-up of dark crumbly discharge in the ears. Although it is relatively easy to treat these mites, cats’ ears are very sensitive and treatment usually requires veterinary prescribed medication- eardrops or spot on preparations.
Lice may be seen in very young or debilitated cats. They are susceptible to most flea treatments, for example Imidacloprid (Advantage).
Harvest mites (Neotrombicula autumnalis) occasionally cause intense irritation of the feet, belly and ears in late summer. They may be just visible to the naked eye as clusters of tiny orange dots. These mites can be difficult to diagnose and treat and suspected cases should be examined by a vet.
Ticks, usually Ixodes ricinus, are occasionally seen on cats, less so than on dogs because cats usually groom them off before they attach.
If a tick has attached and begun to swell it is best removed by a vet to ensure complete removal, ideally within 24 hours, to reduce the risk of transfer of disease. Fipronil spot-ons can be used as preventative treatment, and we can prescribe collars or other spot on products if required.