Why it is important to protect against intestinal worms in kittens / cats

worm vector bought from shutterstock[1]

Intestinal worms are parasites that live in a cat’s intestines. All cats can get worms, but kittens are most at risk! Worms can make your kitten very sick causing weight-loss, diarrhoea and even death.

Cats are infested with worms by everyday contact with eggs in soil that has been contaminated by poo, from eating fleas whilst grooming, or through close contact with other animals.

Whilst uncommon, you and your family can catch worms from your kitten or cat. Babies and small children are most at risk as their immune systems are not fully developed and they often forget to wash their hands after playing with their kitten. Therefore, it is important to teach children to wash their hands.

The common intestinal worms that we medicate against are Roundworm, Hookworm and tapeworm. Worming should be done regardless of whether worms are seen in poo or not, as many are too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Symptoms of a worm infestation can be varied. Signs to look out for are:

  • Poor growth
  • Poor coat, loss of vitality and lethargy
  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Abdominal pain as a result of inflammation of the intestinal wall
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Blood in poo as a result of intestinal bleeding
  • Itchy sores (often on paws)

Recommended worming prevention program:

  • 6-12wks old: Fortnightly tablet
  • 3-6mths olds: Monthly tablet
  • 6mths onwards: Tablet every three months

Alternatively, there are products available that incorporate intestinal worming with fleas and heart worm prevention

Regular poo picking in your garden is also extremely important!

What does the F3 & FIV vaccination protect my cat against?

vaccination

Cat Flu

Just as we get flu, so can cats and just as easily! Cat flu is a highly contagious virus that can be contracted by cats of all ages.

Symptoms of Cat flu include:

  • Moderate fever
  • Loss of appetite, sneezing, eye and nasal discharges
  • coughing
  • Ulcers and blisters on the tongue
  • Mild to severe pneumonia

Kittens are particularly affected, but the disease can be dangerous in any unprotected cat, as effective treatment is limited. Even if a cat recovers, it can remain a carrier for life and continue too infect other cats as well as suffer from chronic sneezing and runny eyes. Vaccination is therefore tremendously important.

Feline Infectious Enteritis

This highly contagious virus is so resistant that it can survive outside up to a year outside a cat’s body! Therefore, as most cats will be exposed to it during their lifetime vaccination against this potentially fatal disease is absolutely essential.

Symptoms of Enteritis

  • Listlessness
  • Diarrohea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe dehydration
  • Fever

Happily, the vaccine itself is very effective at preventing the disease.

Feline AIDS (FIV)

Feline AIDS (FIV) is transmitted in cats by deep bite wounds and scratches. Therefore, outdoor cats which fight with other cats are at higher risk of contracting FIV.

Cats infected with FIV may remain healthy for a number of years. While some infected cats show no signs of the disease, others may become unwell and suffer from constant infections among other symptoms. As the disease progresses the immune system becomes too weak to fight off infections. As a result the cat will die of theses infections. However, FIV can easily be prevented through a course of vaccinations

Why should I vaccinate my kitten or cat?

vaccination

New born kittens are usually protected from disease for the first few weeks of life by their mother’s milk, but this is only short term, and by about seven weeks of age this immunity provided by the mother starts to wear off, leaving kitten un-protected against life-threatening diseases unless they are vaccinated.

Kittens need to have a course of ONE TO THREE or FOUR vaccinations to be protected against disease depending on whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat. It is important that your kitten stays indoors until they have had the full course of vaccinations.

Recommended vaccination program:

INDOOR cats only need the F3 Vaccination program

OUTDOOR cats need both the F3 & FIV vaccination programs

6-8wks                    F3 Vaccine (Cat Flu 2 types, Feline enteritis) 

12wks                      F3 vaccine & FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)

16wks                      F3 & FIV vaccine

20wks                     FIV vaccine

Annual boosters F3 & FIV vaccines required to maintain immunity

Introducing a new food for the first time

A new pet food should always be introduced gradually, even if your pet appears to like a new food. This will help reduce the chance of a stomach upset following a food change. Change to diet affect different animals in different ways, so it is more important to manage the change carefully. Some animals will be changing foods because it may be required to help manage a medical condition. For any of these animals it is important to follow any advice given by your vet. Appetite can be affected by disease, so speak to your vet to see whether there is any special feeding advice for your pet.

You might like to try some of the following suggestions to ease the transition between foods:

  • Gradually introduce the food over a 2 week period. Introduce approximately 10% of the new food each day, mixed in with the old food. Increase the proportions by approximately 10% each day until you reach the full amount of the new food
  • If you are using canned or wet food in pouches, warm the new food to body temperature, but no hotter. Most animals, especially cats, prefer canned food slightly warm as it can improve the smell and feel in the mouth
  • Avoid feeding chilled foods
  • You can change the texture of canned food by adding a small amount of warm water to soften it and make it easier to mix the old and new food types together
  • Keep a bowl of clean fresh water available at all times
  • Try adding warm water to dry food to soften it. Some dogs to prefer their dry food with water added. Most cats will not like water added to dry food
  • Don’t be tempted to add human food titbits to the new diet. Most animals will end up wanting the human food instead and this can develop into a bad habit long term.
  • For very fussy or finicky eaters, try hand feeding the new food as a treat. This will reinforce the positive bond between the owner, pet and the new food.
  • No animal should be starved whilst trying to introduce a new food.
  • If you are really struggling to change your pet’s food, speak to your vet or nurse to see if they have any extra behaviour tips to help you

Kitten Info: Teething & Dental Care

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Kittens have a temporary set of baby teeth which they normally lose by the time they are 5-6mths old. Gum disease is a major cause of kidney and heart valve problems in older cats therefore it is important to look after your cat’s teeth from an early age.

Cats are prone to tarter that if left to build up leads to bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay and loss of teeth. The only way to remove bad tarter is by cleaning under anaesthetic as cats can’t clean their own teeth! however, uncooked bones are great for cleaning teeth.

Recommended dental care

- Uncooked chicken necks & wings are great for cleaning teeth. Give as part of your kitten’s diet in moderation (1-2 times a week).

Wendy Hall-Jordan

Wendy Jordan

Wendy has been working at the Wynnum Bayside Veterinary Surgery for fours years as a vet nurse. She is also looks after all the practice administration as well as managing our ongoing practice facelift, the first stage of which was completed in 2012.