What Are Bladder Worms?
Bladder worms are a type of parasitic worm called Capillaria. Capillaria plica and Capillaria feliscati are the worms that can cause capillariasis in cats.
The condition capillariasis is when the worm infects the cat’s urinary bladder or other parts of the cat’s urinary tract.
What Causes Bladder Worms?
Immature eggs are passed in the urine of an infected animal. They develop into first-stage larvae. Then, they need an annelid, such as an earthworm, before becoming communicable to the next cat host. The life cycle is not totally understood yet.
However, the available information suggests that the eggs have to be ingested by an earthworm to permit the first-stage larvae to hatch and become infectious to a definitive host. A cat may become infected after ingesting infected earthworms, or material contaminated with dead earthworms. Once ingested, adult worms will then develop in the urinary bladder mucosa.
Eggs can appear in the cat’s urine as early as two months after infection. When the eggs are discarded into the environment via urine, the larvae develop and the cycle continues. While occasionally diagnosed, infections of bladder worms are relatively uncommon in cats.
Signs and Symptoms
The majority of infected cats are usually older than 8 months. Often, infected cats are asymptomatic. Diagnosis of the bladder worms is usually incidental. However, in cats with a heavy infection, some symptoms may present themselves, including:
- Frequent urination
- Straining to urinate
- Painful urination
- Bloody urine
These symptoms are also common symptoms in Idiopathic Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (IFLUTD), Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), and other common urinary tract problems. Cats are prone to urinary issues. Any change in your cat’s litter box habits should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention.
How Are Bladder Worms Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of bladder worms is achieved through identification of Capillaria eggs in the urine of the infected cat. The eggs have a specific appearance and are easily recognized. They are football-shaped with a plug-like formation at each end.
Treatment for Bladder Worms
Treatment is often not recommended if the cat is not presenting any symptoms. There are no medications specifically labeled to treat bladder worms. However, if symptoms are present, fenbendazole or ivermectin may be used to treat the infection.
These medications have been reported to be effective. Several doses may be needed in order to fully eliminate the infection. In rare cases, surgical removal of the adult worms and/or an affected kidney is required to completely rid the cat of the infection.
Tips for Prevention
Keeping your cat indoors where they have no access to earthworms will prevent capillariasis, among many other conditions.
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