Can Cats Get Roundworms From Dogs?

What Are Roundworms

Roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites in felines. Most cats get infected at some point in their life, usually as kittens.

The adult worms are cream, spaghetti-shaped organisms that grow to between 3 to 5 inches in length.

They live in the guts of infected cats and swim around freely feeding on nutrients.

They also reproduce to make fertilized eggs that are excreted in the faeces of infected cats.

The eggs are microscopic and do not cause disease when they are excreted.

Can cats get roundworms from dogs

However, over 3 days to 4 weeks, they develop larvae (embryos) that cause sickness. Upon ingestion by other cats, the larvae hatch from the eggs and infect the new hosts.

Infections by roundworms are typically not life treating to cats, but they can cause health problems.

These include malnourishment, thin coats, diarrhea, liver damage, and lung damage. Kittens usually become lethargic and develop distended abdomens (a potbelly appearance).

Heavy infections in kittens cause dangerous blockages in their intestines resulting in vomiting or excreting adult worms.

If the numbers of worms become too large, their abdomens can rupture, which can result in death.

Roundworms are also the most common intestinal parasites in dogs, and infections occur more often in dogs than cats.

Accordingly, any pet parent with cats that are in contact with dogs, may be concerned that roundworm infections can be transmitted between the two animals.

The probability of this occurring depends on the type of roundworm causing an infection, as there is more than one type.

Roundworm Infection In Cats And Dogs

In dogs, most roundworm infections are by a canine-specific species called Toxocara carnis, which cannot infect cats. Most infections in cats are by a feline-specific species called Toxocara cati, which cannot infect dogs.

Another species of roundworms called Toxascaris leonine, can infect both cats and dogs and can be transmitted between both animals.

Toxascaris leonine infections occur at lower frequencies in both animals. They are more common in cats than dogs, particularly in older cats.

The threat of Toxascaris leonine transmission from dogs to cats is still of concern nonetheless.

A single female worm lays over 200,000 eggs a day, and these are released into the environment. From there, they can be easily transmitted to our cats.

Roundworm Transmission By Dogs, Cats, And Other Animals

Roundworms are infective at the larval stage of their life cycle. Each female worm can lay large numbers of eggs every day. These are passed out in the stool of infected cats and dogs.

The eggs then develop infective larvae within them once they are in the environment.

In Toxocara cati eggs, this period can be between 1 to 4 weeks. In Toxascaris leonine eggs, a shorter period of 3 to 6 days occurs.

The eggs are then transmitted to new cat hosts in one of three ways.

Ingestion Of Infective Eggs From The Environment

Roundworm eggs are hardy and can withstand relentless environmental conditions. They lay dormant for years in contaminated soil or litter boxes, where they can be easily picked up and ingested by our cats.

This usually occurs during routine grooming. Once ingested, the eggs hatch, and the larvae infect the new host.

Toxascaris leonine larvae only infect the small intestines. However, Toxocara cati larvae can migrate to other organs such as the lungs and liver.

In these organs, they cause damage and persist in a dormant encysted state.

Consumption Of Carrier Hosts

Many animals that are typical cat prey are also carriers of roundworm eggs. In particular, rodents, birds, and cockroaches can get infected by roundworms and carry inactive larvae in their tissues.

If your cat eats such infected prey, the roundworm eggs are passed on to it.

Typically transmission in this manner occurs in outdoor cats that hunt and catch animals.

Flies and insects that are infected or carry the eggs on their surfaces can also transmit them to indoor cats.

Kittens Nursing On Infected Mothers

Pregnant queens that get infected late into their gestation often have migration of Toxocara cati larvae into their mammary glands.

They can pass on the infection to their kittens when they nurse them.

This does not occur with Toxascaris leonine infections, as the larvae cannot migrate from the intestines to other organs.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Roundworm Infections In Cats

Roundworm infections are diagnosed by conducting fecal examinations. These identify the tiny roundworm eggs or adult roundworms within the stool of infected pets.

The examinations can differentiate between the eggs of both types of roundworms that can infect cats.

This is important to get the correct treatment for infected cats. Roundworm infections are treated simply.

Oral deworming medication is given to eliminate adult roundworms from the intestines of infected cats.

The treatment is not effective against immature worms or encysted larvae, however.

Therefore multiple rounds of deworming are usually required as infections reemerge from dormant larvae.

Preventing Roundworm Infections

Roundworms can be tough to eliminate once a cat has been infected. Mother-to-kitten transmission is particularly difficult to prevent, even with routine deworming.

To keep our cats healthy, it is best to practice measures that avoid the spread of roundworms from dogs, other cats, and other animals.

The most important thing we can do is to keep pet living spaces clean. Faeces must be removed daily, and disinfection must be done regularly.

We can minimize pest and insect activity by using appropriate control treatments.

Additionally, we can use chemical parasite treatments to kill roundworm eggs that may be in garden areas.

Pregnant and nursing queens, along with their kittens, must be on preventative deworming treatments. These are administered by certified veterinarians, usually monthly.

Roundworms can also infect people. Subsequently, it is vital to monitor children around pets.

They should not play with infected pets or in areas with dog and cat faeces.

Additionally, gloves must be worn by anyone cleaning up after pets. Hands must also be washed thoroughly after playing with pets or caring for them.