How do cats get roundworms?

Roundworms are one of the internal parasites that can affect cats. Cats can get roundworms when they ingest roundworm eggs from the soil. Cats are known to ingest their own and other animal’s feces. Ingestion of the feces of infected animals is one mode of roundworm transmission. Rodents serve as intermediate hosts of roundworms. Cats get infected when they eat the carcass of infected prey. Roundworm infestation is common in kittens as they can get infected when they nurse from the mother cat.

In the medical world, roundworm infection is known as Ascariasis or toxocariasis. Toxora cati and Toxascaris leonine are the two species of roundworm that infect cats. As the name suggest, these parasites are round in shape and can grow to a length of 3 to 6 inches. Unlike other types of worms that attach to the walls of the intestines, roundworms would “swim” freely within the intestines. There are several ways by which a cat can be infected by these intestinal free loaders. Roundworm infection is most common in kittens. Rate of infection in kittens can be higher than 75%. Kittens would be infected by the parasites through the transmammary route. Larvae of roundworms that infect a cat can migrate from the intestinal tract and encyst in the cat’s body tissues. The larvae will lay dormant until they are awakened when the cat gets pregnant. Roundworm larvae in the mammary gland glands will be passed to the kittens through the milk. Cats can get roundworms by ingesting feces of infected animals. Ingesting feces is one of the unpleasant habits of cats. Aside from the yucky factor, this habit can also result to parasite infestation. Roundworm larvae can stay infective for a long time in the environment. Outdoor cats have the habit of covering their feces with soil. Roundworm infection can occur when the cat ingests soil that has roundworm eggs. Infection will also occur if the cat eats roundworm-infested prey. Cats are natural hunters of rodents. The mouse that the cat has hunted and eaten can be the source of infection.

What would make the cat owner aware that the pet is infected with roundworms? Mild infections would not show any signs. A heavy infestation though would result to poor coat condition. The cat would appear unhealthy as well given that the nutrients that should have been used up by the cat are consumed by the parasites. In kittens, the most common sign of infestation is a pot bellied appearance. Owners though would be certain that the pet is infested with these parasites if the pet vomit’s roundworms and if roundworms are present in the cat’s feces. Heavy roundworm infection would cause diarrhea and pneumonia. The presence of large numbers of worms in the intestines can result to intussusceptions, a condition also known as telescoping because one part of the intestine would slide into the next thereby causing an obstruction. One serious outcome of roundworm infection is the permanent damage to the eyes if roundworm larvae enter the eyes and cause an inflammatory response. The larvae can also migrate to other organs and cause serious damage. Roundworm is a public health concern as it would affect not only animals but humans as well. In humans, roundworms would cause a disease known as visceral larva migrans where the worms would infect the eyes, lungs, liver and brains and cause permanent damage to the organs.

Roundworm infestation must not be ignored. These parasites can cause irreparable damage not only to the pet but to the pet’s human family as well. Fortunately, with an appropriate deworming plan eradication of these parasites would not be difficult.