Parasites are a risk that cat owners will always have to consider in keeping their companions healthy. In addition to roundworms, hookworms, and other intestinal parasites, tapeworms are a less-dangerous but no-less unpleasant pest that cats may have to deal with at some point in their life. Luckily, as icky and alarming as they might be, tapeworms can be treated, and, more important, they can be effectively prevented with proper treatment.
Below, we provide some essential information about tapeworms, how they can infect your pet, and the best ways to prevent your cat from an infestation.
What is a Tapeworm?
There are various types of tapeworms that exist, but the one that most commonly affects cats is known as Dipylidium caninum. The tapeworm is notable for its long, flat body, which grows in segments (known as proglottids) starting at the neck. Tapeworms live inside the intestine by anchoring themselves to the intestinal wall and survive on nutrients from the host.
As long as tapeworms are left untreated, they will continue growing and laying eggs. Eerily enough, every individual segment of a tapeworm is capable of producing its own eggs. The eggs are passed through the intestines and shed in the host’s stool, and in some cases, the segment laying the eggs will also be shed in the stool. Tapeworm segments resemble white rice grains and are a sure sign that your pet is infected with tapeworm.
Are There Any Symptoms of Tapeworm in Cats?
More often than not, cats infected with tapeworm will not show any obvious clinical signs, like diarrhea, vomiting, or inappetence. However, there are a couple of telltale hints of a tapeworm infection, and they are:
- Scooting (dragging rear end on the floor, though this behavior is more common in dogs)
- Tapeworm eggs (resembling grains of white rice) stuck in the fur around your pet’s rear end
- Tapeworm eggs in your pet’s stool (again, they will look like grains of rice)
How Do Cats Get Infected with Tapeworms?
Tapeworm infections can happen in a couple of ways, and both are driven by fleas, which are common carriers of tapeworms:
- Catching/eating mice and other rodents infected with fleas
- Being infested with fleas and accidentally ingesting flea larvae while grooming
In most cases, tapeworm infections are only minor; they generally do not cause any harm to cats. Only in the event of a severe tapeworm infection can abnormal weight loss occur, along with possible diarrhea and vomiting.
If My Cat has Tapeworm, How Can It be Treated?
Tapeworm infections can be sufficiently treated with deworming medication. This medication can be given orally, or as an injection. When treatment is administered, it safely dissolves the tapeworms in your cat’s intestine.
How Can I Prevent Tapeworms in My Cat?
Tapeworms can best be prevented with flea control. Make sure your feline family member is being treated with a high-quality flea preventative as directed, all year round. This will protect your cat from flea infestations, which will in turn greatly reduce their risk for tapeworm.
Additionally, you want to keep your cat away from other animals that might have fleas or be infected with tapeworm. Rats and mice are known to carry fleas, and if your cat likes to hunt around outside, they could get infected if they eat a small prey animal or accidentally ingest a flea from an infected rodent.
If you have other pets, they should be kept on flea preventative year-round, as well. Anything you can do to minimize your cat’s exposure to fleas will limit their exposure to tapeworms.
Want to Know More About Protecting Your Cat from Parasites?
Parasites are an ongoing risk for your cat, so it’s important to maintain their protection by treating them with their routine parasite preventatives throughout the year. Preventing infestations from fleas, ticks, roundworms, heartworms, and other pests can dramatically reduce your cat’s chances of developing an associated illness. Parasite preventatives can also reduce or prevent the spread of parasites to you and your human family members.
To learn more about common cat parasites and how to keep them out of your pet’s life (and yours), contact West Ashley Veterinary Clinic today at (843) 571-7095 or book an appointment online! Our team will be happy to answer all your questions and provide helpful recommendations to increase your cat’s health and longevity.