Educational Articles

Cats + Parasites

  • Histoplasmosis is a chronic, non-contagious fungal infection caused by the soil-dwelling fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasma capsulatum is found globally and may infect both humans and animals. However, histoplasmosis is uncommon to rare in all but dogs and cats.

  • Hookworms are intestinal parasites of the cat and dog. Their name is derived from the hook-like mouthparts they use to anchor themselves to the lining of the intestinal wall. They are only about 1/8" (two to three mm) long and so small in diameter that they are barely visible to the naked eye.

  • Lung flukes are parasitic organisms called trematodes. The most common lung fluke to affect cats in North America is called Paragonimus kellicotti, also known as the North American lung fluke. Other species of lung flukes can infect cats in other areas of the world, but are rarely found in North America.

  • Roundworms are one of the most common intestinal parasites of the cat. They can be an important cause of illness, even death, in kittens. As their name implies, these are large-bodied round worms, averaging about 3-6 inches (8-15 cm) in length. They do not attach to the wall of the intestine, as some intestinal parasites do. Instead, they are literally "swimming" freely within the intestine.

  • Tapeworms are intestinal parasites of the cat and dog. They are classified as cestodes. They belong to a different family than hookworms and roundworms, which are the other common intestinal parasites of dogs and cats. Several types of tapeworms are known to infect cats. Dipylidium caninum is by far the most common species observed in cats.

  • Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids similar to scorpions, spiders and mites. All ticks have four pairs of legs for a total of eight legs as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects by comparison have three pairs of legs (6six total legs) and one pair of antennae.

  • Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by infection with the organism called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). This is a microscopic single-cell protozoal organism related to coccidia. Virtually all warm-blooded animals, including people, can be infected with this organism. It is an extremely well adapted parasite and rarely causes significant disease to the individuals it infects.

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