Nasty parasitic worm, common in wildlife, now infecting U.S. cats
Many cats go their whole lives without being de-wormed.
Veterinarians suggest that cats that spend time outdoors or hunt rodents should be de-wormed every 6-12 months. Also if a cat ever gets fleas,that may also be a cause for de-worming as fleas are a carrier of tapeworms. When animals chew the fleas off of themselves, they have a high chance of getting a tapeworm infestation.
Now Cornell University veterinarians have found half-foot-long worms living in their feline patients. The worms, Dracunculus insignis, have never before been seen in cats.
“First Report of Dracunculus Insignis in Two Naturally Infected Cats from the Northeastern USA,” published in the February issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, document the first proof that this raccoon parasite can infect cats.
The worms can grow to almost a foot long and must emerge from its host to lay eggs that hatch into larvae. It forms a blister-like protrusion in an extremity, such as a leg, from which it slowly emerges over the course of days to deposit its young into the water.
The cats that contracted the Dranunculus insignis worms likely ingested the parasites by drinking unfiltered water or by hunting frogs,” said Araceli Lucio-Forster, a Cornell veterinary researcher and the paper’s lead author.
It takes a year from the time a mammal ingests the worm until the females are ready to migrate to an extremity and start the cycle anew.
While the worms do little direct harm beyond creating shallow ulcers in the skin, secondary infections and painful inflammatory responses may result from the worm’s emergence from the host. There are no drugs to treat a D. insignis infection – the worms must be removed surgically.