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C2005-18

Dear Christopher Cat

My cat Milo often keeps me company while I work in the garden. Sometimes he snacks on earthworms, snails and other delicacies. Is it okay for him to eat these critters?

Christopher Responds

I like fresh raw meat as much as the next cat, but I shy away from such exotic fare because these creatures sometimes carry parasites.

For example, some earthworms play host to mammalian bladder worms. If Milo eats an infected earthworm, its bladder worm will migrate to Milo’s bladder, where it can cause bleeding and infection.

Bladder worms are diagnosed by finding the worm’s microscopic eggs in the pet’s urine during a urinalysis.

Similarly, some snails carry mammalian lung flukes. If Milo eats an infected snail, the fluke will migrate to his lungs, where it can cause breathing difficulties, coughing and lethargy.

The fluke’s microscopic eggs will be coughed up, swallowed and eventually excreted in Milo’s feces.

Your veterinarian can identify the fluke eggs with a microscope, so be sure to have Milo’s stool sample checked at least twice each year.

Many parasites that infect pets can be transmitted to humans through fecal contact, so be sure to wash your hands after you clean Milo’s litter box.

To prevent Milo from grazing while you garden, stow a few store-bought cat treats in your pocket for him.

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