Probably the most common and worst summer ailments in cats are parasites. They are not only a cause of serious irritation but if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues. Luckily with the many products available on the market we, as responsible cat owners, can take matters into our own hands and ensure a healthy summer for our felines. Pet owners usually know how their cats are coping in warm weather. It is best to be aware of any potential discomfort.
All cats are affected by worms, even kittens may become infected at a very young age. It is important to use products specifically formulated for cats and try to alternate between different brands, as worms can build up a resistance to products. Kittens need to be de-wormed for the first time between six and eight weeks, when they receive their first vaccinations. Then they need to be de-wormed again at 12 and 16 weeks and after that once a month until six months of age. Cats older than six months need to be de-wormed every three months for the rest of their lives.
Fleas might seem like a tiny little irritation but can soon lead too much more serious health issues if left untreated. They multiply in no time and spread from pets and lay eggs all over your house. Getting rid of them once settled can be a severe headache, so prevention is surely better than treating the itchy end result.
Fleas have three life stages: eggs, larvae, and adults. Other health issues that they are associated with, apart from itchy bites, include skin allergies and tapeworm infestations. Fleas carry tapeworms and when a cat swallows a flea while grooming herself, she may become infected. They are best controlled with a combination of adulticides and insect growth regulators. This approach breaks the fleas’ life cycle and prevents them from multiplying.
The tapeworm needs an intermediate host, like a flea, which passes the larval stage of the tapeworm and then to the final host, your cat, where the larvae can develop into an adult tapeworm. Once the tapeworm reaches maturity, in approximately two to three weeks, proglottids break off and leave the body via feces or crawl out of the anus. It has the appearance of rice grains. Once outside the body, the proglottids dry out, releasing the eggs which are eaten by flea larvae or ingested by a rodent and the cycle begins once again.
The most common tapeworm found in cats is Ipylidium Caninum. The proglottids are passed in feces and eaten by flea larvae. Once inside the flea larvae, the egg hatches and becomes Cysticercoid. The flea larvae develops into an adult flea, sucking blood from your cat. The cat ingests the flea during grooming. Once inside the stomach, the flea is broken down and the cystercoid is released. It hooks onto the lining of the small intestinal wall and develops into an adult tapeworm.
Unfortunately there are very few outward symptoms of tapeworm infection. It is usually seen when owners notice rice-like segments around the cat’s anus, feces or in the environment where the cat lives or sleeps. The fur may also take on a poor appearance and heavy infestation may cause your cat to lose weight. You should immediately use an effective de-worming tablet or injection and treat the cat and environment for fleas at the same time.
Bedding should be washed in hot water and all other pets in the household should be treated for fleas and tapeworm.
Ticks, typically found in grassland or woodland, can also lead to health problems for your cat. One of the diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease. It is a very serious illness and is caused by the Borrelia bacteria carried by the Ixodes ticks. Hotter summers can cause an increased incidence of the disease and is unfortunately often misdiagnosed by veterinarians.
Symptoms include loss of appetite, raised temperature, lethargy, lameness, painful joints, and enlarged lymph nodes. These symptoms can easily be associated with many other diseases but a blood test can confirm Lyme disease. Treatment includes a course of antibiotics and is only really effective soon after infection, so speedy diagnosis is of the utmost importance.
Signs that your cat is not happy in the heat include heavy panting, bright pink or red tongue and gums, drooling, they may lie down more often or breathe heavily, sweaty palms, restlessness, excessive grooming as a way to cool off.
They may even lose their appetite in heat. It is not a cause for concern but if they eat very little or vomit after eating, you should contact your veterinarian.
Ensure that your cat always has access to clean, cool, freshwater. Brush them regularly to get rid of any extra hair that might be heating them up. Ensure there is always access to a cool and sheltered area inside and out. You can even consider keeping your cat indoors, especially between the hottest hours. Cats with light ears are prone to sunburn, so apply sun lotion to protect them.