There are several different types of parasites that can live inside a cat including heartworms, roundworms and tapeworms. One particular worm, the bladder worm, lives in the bladder and its eggs are passed through the urine of infected cats.
Bladder worms are white with a hair-like appearance. They can grow to between 1 and 2 1/2 inches in length. If the bladder is surgically opened, they can be seen with the naked eye.
Cats can contract bladder worms through contact with infected urine or feces that have been contaminated by urine. They can also be contracted by infected earthworms, contaminated food, water or contact with other contaminated animals.
Bladder worms rarely cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they are similar to those of a urinary tract infection and may include various changes in urination such as painful or frequent urination.
A urinalysis will be done to rule out a potential urinary tract infection. Microscopic evaluation of the urine can be done to reveal the eggs of the bladder worm, which may be similar in appearance to whipworms or the Capillaria species that resides in the lungs.
Some veterinarians may suggest a dose of ivermectin to kill the bladder worms, but no single treatment approach currently exists. It is also possible to remove the worms surgically by opening the bladder.