About Cat Roundworms Roundworms (Toxascaris leonina and Toxocara cati) are the most common intestinal parasite of cats, with an estimated prevalence of 25% to 75%, and often higher in kittens. The adult roundworms are 3 to 5 inches long, cream-colored, and live in the cat’s intestine. The adult female worm produces fertile eggs that are passed in the infected cat’s feces. The eggs require several days to several weeks to develop into the infective larva stage.
Cats become infected with Toxocara cati by ingesting eggs or by eating rodents (transport hosts) that have larvae in their tissues. Kittens can become infected by larvae that are passed through an infected queen’s milk. In those cases, it is possible for kittens to become infected soon after birth. Cats become infected with Toxascaris leonina in a manner similar to Toxocara cati, but unlike Toxocara, the parasite is not transmitted through the milk.
Roundworm infections can potentially become life-threatening if the numbers are so great that intestinal blockage occurs. Usually, roundworm infections are relatively benign when compared to other intestinal parasites. However, infected kittens are in serious danger if left untreated. Diagnosis is confirmed by finding parasite eggs in the stool during microscopic examination. Many medications are effective, but reducing exposure to the feces of an infected cats and prohibiting hunting are the best means of prevention. Treatment of queens prior to breeding reduces the likelihood that the parasite will infect kittens.
Visceral larval migrans and ocular larval migrans are diseases caused by the migration of Toxocara larvae through the tissue of people, particularly children. Although these diseases are rare, they can be quite serious, especially when they occur in young children. They can be easily avoided by preventing ingestion of Toxocara eggs in contaminated soil or on the hands.
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