If you are feeding your cat (or dog) a diet of wet or dry pet food from your grocer’s shelves, chances are the pet food is chock full of unhealthy animal by-products. While it is not a common occurrence to find worms in your pet food, it is a possibility. Because most brands of low-grade pet food contain animal by-products, which means the food may contain any number of slaughtered animal carcass parts such as head, bones, undeveloped eggs, feathers, and most importantly intestines, worms can be passed along to pet food that ends up on store shelves. The most common type of worm or parasite found in animal intestines is the roundworm.
There are more than 80,000 different species of nematodes (roundworm) in existence today and more than 15,000 of these animals are parasitic. Roundworms are unsegmented and they have long, cylindrical bodies. They do not have a circulatory or respiratory system. These spaghetti-like creatures do, however, have a complete digestive system and a hearty appetite. Roundworms live in the animal’s intestine by constantly feeding off of the animals partially digested intestinal contents. While most food is taken in through the worm’s primitive alimentary tract, some of the worm’s food may also be absorbed through the cuticle.
Roundworms are usually large in size and they occur in very large numbers, so they are quite easy to see. If you noticed roundworms in your pet’s food, contact the manufacturer immediately and discard all of the pet food. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see any additional worms in other packets or boxes of food, eggs may still be present, so it’s best not to take any chances. Keep in mind that roundworm infestations can cause severe damage to your pet’s organs such as the lungs, heart, liver, and intestines. The damage will become worse and worse as the roundworms multiply.
In some cases there are no symptoms of roundworms at all, and in others symptoms may be serious and may include: anemia, constipation, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, coughing, dull coat, and even pneumonia.
If you suspect that your pet may have roundworms, there are several ways to diagnose an infection. Your vet may take a smear of your pet’s feces and examine it for worms or eggs or they may use the sugar or salt flotation of the fecal material method. The good news is, once diagnosed roundworms are quite easy to treat. There are several effective medications used by vets to kill roundworms. Many of the medications do not kill the eggs, so your pet will have to go through multiple cycles of treatment. Female worms can produce as many as 200,000 eggs per day.
There are many simple ways that you can prevent roundworms in your dog or cat. These include:
·Keeping your cat indoors, which lowers the risk of contact with dead rodents and other animals
·Keep your cat flea free
·Do not allow cats to use sandboxes and gardens as litter boxes
·Use preventative pet meds (talk to your vet)
·Treat adult cats/dogs on a regular basis whether you suspect roundworms or not