Ah, poor Shy Boy.
Shy Boy is the largest among our three outdoor boys. He's also the most trouble. Out of all the outdoor cats, if someone is going to get lost, snag a paw on barbed wire, or yes, get cat worms, it's Shy Boy.
We took him to the veterinarian a while ago for a follow up visit for his urinary tract issues. Shy Boy gets terribly car sick, so when he let loose with the most foul-smelling diarrhea I'd ever encountered before we even got through the doorway of the animal hospital. It was so bad that I asked the vet tech for help cleaning up my poor kitty - he'd gotten stool all over himself.
At that point, Dr. M came into the room. "Wait!" she said. "Get a stool sample before you're done." Well, okaaay....but I was actually glad she asked for it, because in the next minute, she came back into the room and wagged a finger at poor Shy-Shy. "Sorry, big guy," Dr. M said, "But you've got whip worms."
ICK. Worms! If there's anything that grosses me out, it's parasites. When our dog had a tapeworm, I had a tough time petting her for two days even though both Dr. Google and the veterinarian said I couldn't get a tapeworm just by petting my dog on the back. But worms in my cats! I snuggle with these guys all the time. ICK!
Here's the ugly truth about worms in cats: outdoor cats can pick them up anywhere. Shy's diarrhea was the first symptom of a whipworm infection. Whipworms can cause diarrhea, especially blood diarrhea, as well as dehydration, anemia and weight loss.
Fortunately, Dr. M. caught the whipworms early, and Shy was treated effectively with wormer. All of our outdoor cats get treated with wormer once a year when they visit the veterinarian, and a monthly dose of Frontline for fleas and ticks.
Whipworm eggs can live in soil, food, water, feces and animal flesh. In the soil, the eggs can actually live for months on end. Shy Boy probably contracted worms simply by eating an infected mouse, or perhaps digging in infected soil, getting eggs on his paws, and licking them.
The good news is that most veterinarians perform a test called fecal flotation whenever you bring your pet to the animal hospital for vaccinations. This test is simple. Stool samples are placed on a slide, and the eggs or parasites "float" to the top. They can be viewed under a microscope. Once identified, the right medicine can be prescribed by the veterinarian for your cat.
Worms in cats aren't pleasant, but thank God we live in a time when medication to kill parasites is readily available and affordable.