Educational Articles

Cats + Parasites

  • One of the most common conditions affecting cats is allergy. An allergy occurs when the cat's immune system "overreacts" to foreign substances called allergens or antigens. Allergens and antigens are simply foreign proteins that the body's immune system tries to remove.

  • Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection caused by a one-celled organism or protozoa called coccidia. In cats and dogs, most coccidia are of the genus called Isospora. Isospora felis and Isospora rivolta are the most common species of coccidia found in cats.

  • Cuterebra is the genus or scientific family name of the North American rabbit or rodent botfly. Twenty-six species of Cuterebra are known to occur in the United States and Canada. Cuterebra larvae develop within the tissues of certain animal hosts, and during this phase of their life cycle, they are commonly referred to as 'warbles'.

  • Cytauxzoonosis is often fatal disease spread to cats by the Lone Star tick. The disease can progress rapidly and treatments are only moderately effective. Tick control and use of preventives is the best method to prevent this disease from developing in cats.

  • The ear mite Otodectes cynotis is a surface mite that lives on cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets. It is usually found in the ear canal but it can also live on the skin surface. The entire ear mite life cycle takes place on animals.

  • Demodecosis is a parasitic skin condition, caused by demodex mites. These microscopic mites can be found on the skin of all animals, but in some cases they proliferate to excessive levels and cause clinical signs. While demodecosis is more common in dogs than cats, there are two species of demodex mites that can affect cats: Demodex cati and Demodex gatoi.

  • The most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea, although any species of fleas, including fleas from rabbits, squirrels or other wildlife, can be found on cats. Even though fleas may be in your house, you probably will not see them. Fleas need to be eliminated from 1) your cat, 2) any other cats and dogs that you have, 3) your home and yard. Although most topical insecticides kill adult fleas, many have limited effectiveness because they only work for a few hours after application. Ensure that the product is labelled for use in cats, as some dog products may be poisonous to cats.

  • Harvest mites, also known as red bugs, trombiculid mites, scrub-itch mites, berry bugs or, in their larval stage as chiggers, are mites that are commonly found in forests and grasslands. Harvest mites are relatives of spiders.

  • Heartworms are a blood-borne parasite called Dirofilaria immitis that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. The female worm is 6 to 14 inches long (15 to 36 cm) and 1/8 inch wide (5 mm). The male is about half the size of the female. Heartworm disease is much more common in dogs.

  • Heartworms are a blood-borne parasite called Dirofilaria immitis that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. There is no drug approved for treating heartworms in cats. Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventative in areas where mosquitoes are active all year round.