Tapeworms are common parasites that can infect dogs and cats. There are several types of tapeworm that can affect cats, of which the most common types are Dipylidium caninum and Echinococcus granulosus.
These worms complete their life cycle in two hosts, the first host being the fleas, which are called the intermediate host. Sometimes, lice can also be an intermediate host of these parasites. On the other hand, the second or the final host of tapeworms can be your cat or dog.
More About Tapeworms
The entire body of a tapeworm is segmented, and each segment possesses its own digestive and reproductive systems. When a particular segment grows old, it is replaced by a new segment. The older segment then comes out of the body of the final host or the infected animal, through the rectum or anus along with stool.
Such older segments contain egg sacs, from where the eggs are released, which are then consumed by the flea larvae. The eggs reach an intermediate stage of their life cycle, known as cysticercoid while living inside the intermediate host like fleas and lice. So, when a healthy cat consumes such fleas, cysticercoids enter its body, and remain attached to the intestinal wall and then mature to become adult tapeworms.
Tapeworm Infestation in Cats
If not present in a very large number, tapeworms usually do not cause any major health problem in your pet. The most common symptom of a tapeworm infestation in a cat is the presence of rice-like segments in the stool, or at the rear end of the animal. These are nothing but the segments of the tapeworms that contain the egg sacs.
The presence of worms near the anus often compels the affected cat to lick this area, or drag it while moving. Other symptoms of this parasitic infestation are, poor coat condition, difficult urination, fever, depression, irritability, abdominal discomfort, and vomiting. Rarely, tapeworm infestations can also cause a loss of appetite, anemia, and weight loss.
Humans usually do not contract tapeworms from cats. Children can however, get these parasites from pets, especially if proper hygiene is not maintained.
Treating Tapeworm Infestation
A tapeworm infestation can be easily identified or diagnosed, as these worms or their segments can be easily seen in the stool of the animal, or near its rear end. This parasitic infestation is usually treated by administering deworming medications. The most commonly used medications for this purpose are, praziquantel and epsiprantel.
Sometimes, other medications, like mebendazole, bunamidine, and niclosamide are also employed for this purpose. However, medications cannot prevent a tapeworm infestation, and so, it is very important to take certain preventive measures along with treatment.
The most effective way to protect your cat from tapeworm infestations is to control fleas. Though a number of flea control products are available in the market, what is important is to choose the right one. You can talk to a veterinarian to know more about these products. You should also keep your cat away from worm-infected cats and other animals, as well as from their feces and vomit. Occasionally, cats can also get tapeworms by eating infected rodents. So, make sure that they do not eat infected rodents. Finally, be sure to check the stool of your pet from time to time, and inform a veterinarian immediately if you happen to observe any rice-like segments in it.