Tapeworms are a part of life for almost all pet parents with cats. Fortunately, they are very treatable and, if you know what to look for, easy to diagnose.
What is a Tapeworm?
Tapeworms are parasitic worms anywhere from one inch to several feet long. They fasten themselves to a cat’s gut using hooks and suckers positioned on their heads. The tapeworm’s body is comprised of egg packets, which are distributed throughout the cat’s gut and passed through the feces.
How Do Cats Get Tapeworms?
The method of transmission depends upon the tapeworm itself. There are two primary species of tapeworms: Dipylidium caninum, which is transmitted through infected fleas or lice, and Taenia taeniaeformis, which infects cats when they eat infected rodents, raw meat, raw fish or carrion.
What do Tapeworms Do?
After they have attached themselves to a cat’s gut using their hooks and suckers, a tapeworm begins to take its nutrition from the cat’s body. This results in weight loss and other negative outcomes. The symptoms of tapeworm infestation include the following:
∙ Visible segments of worms in stool or near anus
∙ Scooting due to anal irritation
∙ Bloody stool
∙ Potbellied appearance caused by bloating (seen more commonly in kittens)
∙ Weight Loss
How Do I Treat a Cat With Tapeworms?
If you notice any tapeworm-like symptoms in your cat, it is wise to call the vet immediately. Although there are many over-the-counter tapeworm treatments available, many can be harmful to cats and may not work depending upon the type of medication offered. Instead of trying to treat your cat at home, take your cat to the vet to be properly evaluated and to have the effective treatment prescribed.
Can I Prevent Tapeworms?
Although it is impossible to prevent tapeworms entirely, it is very possible to reduce your cat’s risk of becoming infested. The yard, home and other pets should be kept flea-free and the cat should be placed on a parasite prevention regimen. You should discourage your cat from hunting mice, rodents and birds where possible.
Flea control is the primary way of preventing Dipylidium caninum infection.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian