Parasites and Deworming Your New Kitten
How Parasites Infect
Roundworms are transmitted to kittens by nursing on their mother, through coming into contact with parasite eggs in the environment or by hunting.
Hookworms are transmitted by burrowing into the skin, environmental contamination with eggs, or by hunting. Giardia and coccidia are spread through environmental contamination. Tapeworms are spread through hunting or ingestion of fleas.
If your kitten has worms, you may not be able to identify the parasite by looking at it. Sometimes roundworms will be evident in the stool as long, spaghetti-like strands. Tapeworm segments (small, white, rectangular) may be seen around the rectum.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) sets the guidelines that many veterinarians use.
They recommend that your veterinarian deworm your kitten at three, five, seven and nine weeks of age, and then place her on a monthly heartworm preventative product that also kills roundworms and hookworms.
Every kitten should also adhere to a monthly flea preventative (some products do all of this). ONLY use products that are recommended by your veterinarian. Just because it is sold in a reputable store does not mean it is safe!
Fecal samples should be checked for parasites two to four times in your kitten's first year and then one to two times per year thereafter. If your kitten is indoor-only, aim for two negative fecal examinations during kittenhood, and then annual fecal exams as an adult. This is important because fleas can transmit tapeworms to your indoor-only cat.
If your kitten becomes an indoor-outdoor cat, err on the side of performing fecal examinations twice per year.
Why Parasite Testing is Key
Why would indoor-only cats need to adhere to these deworming and fecal examination guidelines? We bring roundworm and hookworm eggs, as well as fleas, into the house on our shoes. Remember that fleas are a source of tapeworms. Few houses are completely free of rodents or insects, which act as carriers for many parasites. Also, raw food diets and raw meat out of the trash can are possible sources of infection.
Why would a kitten need both routine fecal exams and routine deworming? A fecal examination could result in a false-negative and deworming may not be 100 percent effective, but the combination of both decreases the potential for misdiagnosis.