Being a cat owner, I can assure you that there is nothing as repulsive as finding a white slimy worm stuck on the chair as soon as the cat gets off it. Tapeworms are intestinal parasites in cats that affect their digestive system. Classified as cestodes, these flat segmented cat worms use their hook-like mouth parts to latch on to the small intestine of your feline friends. They are whitish in color with a ribbon-like appearance, and can grow up to 60 cm in length.
Tapeworms require two hosts to complete their life cycle. While the intermediate host passes the cysticercoid around, it is in the final host, your cat, where the tapeworm develops into an adult and lays its eggs. Although there are several types of tapeworms that infect cats, the Dipylidium caninum is by far the most common tapeworm to be found in cats, followed by Taenia taeniaeformis.
The Life Cycle
Dipylidium caninum: The intermediate hosts of this tapeworm are the cat fleas. The eggs are passed in the feces which are eaten by flea larvae. This is where the egg hatches and becomes a cysticercoid. When the cat ingests these parasitic fleas from its body while grooming, the tapeworm is released. This parasite then hooks on to the intestinal wall and develops into an adult. Once it reaches maturity, segments of the worm break off and leave the body via the anus.
Taenia taeniaeformis: Taenia taeniaeformis infects cats who eat rodents containing the tapeworm larvae.
Symptoms You Should Look Out For
Tapeworms do not cause any major health problems. The common symptoms of tapeworm in cats include presence of rice-like segments around your cat's anus and in the immediate environment of your pet, which may qualify as a sign of tapeworm infestation. Other symptoms of a tapeworm infestation include: unthriftiness, depression, irritability, an unpredictable appetite, and poor coat condition. In certain rare cases, the tapeworms may cause debilitation, weight loss, and diarrhea. You might also find the cats scooting or dragging its anus along carpets. This is due to anal irritation caused by the tapeworms.
Are These Tapeworms Contagious?
Tapeworms infecting the cats are contagious to humans. However, it is quite difficult to contract the parasitic worms from cats. In fact, the only way to get a tapeworm from your cat is if you eat a flea.
What is the Treatment?
Once the veterinarian has diagnosed the problem, there are a range of treatment and preventive measures that can be used. For treating tapeworms, drugs and medications for de-worming are primarily used.
Medications: Praziquantel and Epsiprantel are frequently-used medications for treating a tapeworm infestation. However, it is vital to note that Epsiprantel cannot be given to kittens and even Praziquantel should not be administered to kittens less than 6 weeks old. The appropriate dosage is based on the weight of the animal. Other medications for providing relief include bunamidine, niclosamiden, and mebendazole.
Controlling Fleas: Controlling fleas is the cornerstone of the treatment of tapeworms. There are a range of flea control products available in the market. You need to consult the veterinarian for the type of product and whether you need to treat your yard or home for fleas. Look for the "flea growth hormone" which prevents flea larvae in your carpet from maturing into adults. While the normal flea control sprays eliminate the adult fleas, they do not kill the eggs or flea larvae. Wash your cat's bedding in hot water and make sure to spray the couch and other furniture where a flea infestation is possible.
In addition to keeping your cats free of fleas and lice, you may also need to prevent them from hunting rodents. Dispose of the cat feces immediately and appropriately. Since children are at risk of ingesting fleas when they are outdoors, it is important that strict hygiene be practiced. Remember that for dosage and treatment, pills and drugs need to be taken as per the veterinarian's advice.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.