Q. My 16 year old indoor cat has lost most of her body weight in the last couple of weeks. I think she may have worms. What do I do?
JESSICA L DESROSIERS
A. Weight loss can be a serious sign of many underlying conditions in older cats, most notably metabolic issues such as thyroid disease or organ dysfunction. If no worms are visible in her stool, bringing in a stool sample to check for them, or making a wellness exam to check for any other causes of the weight loss are best to help find why your cat is losing weight prior to just treating for worms.
If worms are present, then determining the type of worms they are is the next step. Worms generally cause digestive upset in cats such as vomiting or loose stools in addition to weight loss in large infections. The two most common types include roundworms (long spaghetti-like strands) and tapeworms (small rice grain segments). Roundworms can generally be cured with any over the counter wormer, however tapeworms need a wormer specific to them to be given. Tapeworms are also spread via contact with fleas, so starting a flea prevention treatment can help prevent further infections. Cleaning all bedding and the environment your cat is in will also help for any type of internal parasite infection.