Animal Internal Parasites

 Animal Common Internal Parasites

Internal parasites attack the heart, lungs, and digestive systems. Left untreated, they can be fatal. The following table contains information about treating internal parasites. Always consult your pet agency and a licensed veterinarian before beginning medical treatment.


Coccidia are a protozoan parasite most prevalent in kittens, but occasionally found in adult cats. The diarrhea associated with coccidia is seen primarily in kittens and is the first sign of this disease. Treatment will consist of about 10 days of medication in either liquid or pill form. Coccidia can be spread to other cats but will probably not cause clinical symptoms.


Heartworms are 9-11″ long worms that live in a cat’s heart or in the arteries going to the lungs (pulmonary arteries). Although they occur commonly in dogs, most people do not consider them a problem for the cat.

However, recent studies of cats with heart and respiratory diseases have found an incidence of heartworms that is far greater than veterinarians previously thought.

One of the difficult things about diagnosing heartworms is that there are no consistent clinical signs. The most common signs are coughing and rapid breathing. However, both can be caused by several other diseases.

Other common clinical signs include weight loss and vomiting, also common in other diseases. Some cats seem to be normal, then die suddenly. This happens due to a reaction within the lungs to the young heartworms or when dead or live heartworms enter the pulmonary arteries and obstruct the flow of blood to the lungs. Consult your veterinarian.


Roundworms are a common parasite in dogs and cats and are zoonotic. They live in the stomach and intestinal tract and can reach up to 5” long. Transmission occurs by direct contact with contaminated soil, ingestion of host (beetle, rodents, etc), and from mother to offspring during lactation or in utero. Heavy infestation causes puppies and kittens to appear thin and pot-bellied. Coughing, diarrhea, and vomiting may also occur. The worms appear like white earthworms and may be seen in stool or vomit. Deworming is a common practice and good preventative. Good sanitation can be maintained by keeping stools picked up in the yard and this practice is paramount to preventing reinfestation.


There are several types and species of tapeworm, but all types have an intermediate host (fleas or rodents) in which the larvae stage develops. Transmission occurs when the animal ingests an intermediate host harboring the larvae. Typically this occurs while grooming/licking themselves or another. Symptoms may include dullness, irritability, increased appetite, dry and harsh coat, and mild diarrhea. Tapeworms will appear as flat, white, rice-like worms approximately ½” long in fresh feces or around the animal’s anal region. The veterinarian can treat; prevention requires vigorous flea control and not allowing the animal to ingest rodents.

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