Tapeworms in Cats – Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Tapeworms in Cats – Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that affect both cats and dogs. Classified as cestodes, there are two main types that can infect our feline friends – Dipylidium caninum and Taenia. In this article, we will look at how your cat can get a tapeworm, what you can do to treat the infestation and the measures that you need to ensure to prevent its recurrence.

How can a cat get a tapeworm?

Tapeworms are typically transmitted by adult fleas. Flea larvae ingest tapeworm eggs, then they grow into adults, and your cat can accidentally swallow one when he or she grooms. As the flea is digested within the pet’s intestine, the tapeworm is released, and it immediately hatches and anchors to the intestinal lining. This chain of events is most likely to happen with Dipylidium caninum.

Then, there’s Taenia, and infestations with this parasite can typically take place if you care for an outdoor cat, and he or she is in the habit of catching things like birds or mice and worse, eating them. The worst part about this is that your cat can become reinfected in a time span of just six to eight weeks after being treated for a Taenia infestation if you leave the animal to roam outdoors and feed on birds, mice, and rabbits.

A somewhat less common type of tapeworm is Echinococcus, which can be very dangerous to humans. It is often found in foxes, coyotes, and wild rodents, so your cat can also become infected if he or she eats a mouse carrying this parasite. Both Taenia and Echinococcus can be transmitted to humans, and the second causes cystic echinococcosis, with cysts developing in a host of internal organs ranging from the liver and lungs to the bones, kidneys, spleen, and even the muscles and eyes.

You are doing your cat, yourself and your family a huge favor by making sure that tapeworm infestations are prevented and treated as best and as often as possible.

How can you tell your cat has tapeworms?

The clinical signs of a tapeworm infection aren’t really obvious, and that makes it a bit challenging for pet parents to realize if there’s something going on or not. The cat is typically brought to the vet because the animal’s owner notices either tapeworm segments in the cat’s feces or crawling proglottids.

The segments look like miniature rice or cucumber seeds, and they can be noticeable around your cat’s anus. If you have a dark grey or black couch and you let your cat lounge around, you might notice them on the surface of the couch. They are white when they are fresh and become golden as they dehydrate.

Each proglottid segment contains approximately twenty tapeworm eggs, so needless to say, you have to deworm your cat as soon as possible and clean your home and the animal’s living environment so as to eliminate the cause of infection.

Treatment

Although an array of deworming products are readily available even online, you have to make sure that you give your cat the right one. Factors such as the animal’s age, weight, health state, as well as the exact type of tapeworm that has caused the infection can influence the outcome of the treatment.

The most effective (and safe) products can only be prescribed by a veterinarian. The anthelmintic medication can be given either as a tablet or as an injection, depending on which one is better tolerated by the animal.

Tapeworm medications can have a host of side effects, and that’s because the adult parasites actually die inside the intestine, and as they are digested, they produce toxins. Symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting have been reported on occasion, but they are not very common.

Giving your pet anthelmintic medication without any medical guidance can be dangerous, especially if you haven’t done it before or you don’t know how to do research on what factors to consider so that every safety measure is ensured. Keep that in mind whenever you’re considering buying deworming products without asking the advice of a medical professional.

Prevention

Flea control is the cornerstone of preventing a Dipylidium caninum infection. Most of the flea control products available nowadays are convenient and effective, but you do have to bear in mind that you should also treat your yard or house if the infestation is severe.

Even if you get rid of your cat’s fleas, if the animal keeps living in a flea-infested environment, he or she can develop another tapeworm infection over the course of just several weeks after being treated. You shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that the medication received by the cat is ineffective; more often than not, this is not the case.

As for the other type of tapeworm infection, meaning the one involving Taenia, it would be ideal if you were to take your outdoor cat indoors. Unfortunately, this is a feat that can prove to be quite challenging, and if you do not go out of your way as to restrict the moves of your cat, the animal will go outdoors using whatever means that he or she finds available.

In such situations, the only thing you can do to at least keep your peace of mind so that you don’t worry about getting a tapeworm infection yourself would be to deworm your cat regularly, especially if you know that your pet gets exposed to various infestation sources that you can’t eliminate.

You can, however, walk your cat on a leash so as to make sure that the animal never even comes close to a rodent. Keep your yard, house, or apartment clean and flea-free as best as possible, and make sure that your cat’s litter box is cleaned regularly.

Usually, following deworming procedures, you have to take in a stool sample to the vet for another check-up. Just remember – since there’s no immunity against tapeworms (you can’t use a vaccine to prevent such infections), even if your cat has received treatment, that doesn’t mean that she can’t catch a tapeworm again.

Do home remedies exist?

Sadly, using home remedies for treating tapeworms can not only be ineffective, but also dangerous. It is widely known that, to an extent, garlic has several natural anthelmintic effects, and if you want to try it out, as a human you can do that safely.

Cats and dogs should never be given garlic because it is toxic to them. It is so dangerous that it can even cause fatal anemia in kittens.

Summary

Tapeworm infections in cats can be caused by three parasites – Dipylidium caninum, Taenia, and Echinococcus. Treating tapeworms isn’t particularly difficult, but preventive measures can make it very hard (if not impossible) for your cat to become infected. Outdoor cats are at a higher risk than their indoor counterparts because they can catch fleas or eat rodents and birds infected with Taenia. There are no home remedies for treating tapeworms.

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