Ascariasis in Cats
Ascariasis is a disease caused by the intestinal parasitic roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides. The roundworms are often quite large -- up to 10 to 12 centimeters in length -- and can be present in extremely high numbers within an infected cat. Infection can lead to abdominal swelling, colic, gastrointestinal issues, and even intestinal rupture.
The following symptoms are common in cats that have roundworms:
- Abdominal swelling
- Abnormal feces
- Poor nursing (in females)
- Coughing (caused when the roundworm larvae have migrated into the animal's lungs)
Adult cats can become infected through the ingestion of roundworm eggs, which are found in infected food, water, vomit, or feces. Kittens can then contract the parasite during the pregnancy, or by drinking milk from the infected mother. If only one of the newborns in a litter is exposed to roundworms, the entire litter will be at risk of contracting the parasite.
Upon examination of the cat, a swollen abdominal region is commonly detected. There may also be signs of weakness and loss of appetite. A fecal swab will then be taken to detect the presence of roundworm eggs. Dead roundworms being passed out of the body is another reliable indicator of the disease.
Treatment for roundworms is completed on an outpatient basis using specific drugs that kill roundworms and roundworm larvae. In severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove more of the roundworm matter.
Living and Management
It will be important to take your cat back to the veterinarian for a repeat fecal examination to ensure that all of the roundworms, including the larvae, were eliminated from its body.
There are no known preventative measures for roundworms.