Creepy Crawlies!

Happy Spring to everyone, we know our kitties are all glad to see the warmer days and the longer sunshine hours.  But with the advent of spring we are also starting to think more about parasites.


How do our pets get parasites?  Well it’s easy but it depends on the type of parasite, some come from contaminated water while others come from insects or rodents. While still others can be ingested just from normal grooming or exposure to other infected cats.  Let’s review the most common parasites we see here at Killarney Cat Hospital.


Ear Mites

Any age cat can be affected but we do find them most often in kittens and outdoor cats.  They are microscopic critters who live and feed on and in ears leaving behind crumbly black droppings.  Ear mites are VERY itchy and can be diagnosed by looking at an ear swab under the microscope.  We can see secondary ear infections occasionally in cats that have ear mites so if the irritation isn’t clearing up just by treating the ear mites we might need to check them again.  Ear mites are transmitted by close contact with an infected individual so if one kitty in the house is diagnosed with ear mites every kitty should be treated.  They often respond really well to treatment.


A protozoan parasite that you may have heard referred to as ‘Beaver Fever’.  It causes diarrhea and is transferred via contaminated water or grooming another infected pet.  It can also infect people so don’t forget about the importance of hand washing!  Cats have to be infected for 1 to 2 weeks before we can find evidence of this parasite in a fecal test.  Giardia when free in the environment form cysts which can last for months in the environment and for some stubborn infections we resort to bathing our kitties on a regular basis in addition to medications – as you can imagine this is not fun for any of the involved parties!


Most often recognized at home when owners find ‘grains of rice’ looking material next to the bum or in the litterbox.  Cats have to ingest an infected host to pick up this parasite but that can be a mouse, a bird or a bug.  While eliminating this parasite can be done with routine deworming medications their eggs can live up to a year in ideal conditions and obviously kitties can become re-infected by continuing to hunt.  Tapeworms are another parasite that can be transmitted to people through open wounds.


Another parasite that is occasionally found by the owner either in the poop or in vomit it’s usually described to us as ‘spaghetti-like’.  Transmitted to kittens as they are nursing or from contaminated food or water or from hunting, it is one of the more difficult parasites to deal with once it is in the environment because the eggs can remain infective for years and will survive composting and sewage treatment.  Deworming medication can be very effective at removing adult roundworms from the intestinal tract of our pets.   Also be aware as it is considered to be easily transmitted to humans – especially young children.  Don’t forget to wash your hands!


A parasite that we often find when dealing with diarrhea, it is transmitted by ingesting eggs in food, water, or grooming and while hunting.  With this parasite it takes a few days in the environment before the eggs will become infective so you may not see anything but your kitty can still pick it up by walking over a contaminated surface and then grooming their paws.  Prompt disposal of feces and controlling flies and other bugs is critical to eliminating recurrent infections.  This parasite is not eliminated by the most common dewormers so fecal testing is important.  Fortunately this parasite is species specific so people in the house with the kitty don’t have to worry about co-infection.


Those are our most common parasites we see here at Killarney Cat Hospital, we have also seen hookworms, fleas and there is the risk of ticks here in Calgary.  For our travelling kitties we do have to remember heartworm risk in other provinces and countries.  If you have any questions please call us, if your pet is up to date on their annual wellness visits with us and you just feel the need to get some more dewormer after reading this we can likely help you out.  Also look for a promotion on fecal testing in the month of April that will go along with our ‘What to Expect When Your Adopting’ Focus.