Tapeworms in Cats: Understanding Signs, Diagnosis and Treatments

Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that infect cats. Classified as cestodes, tapeworms typically settle in the cat’s small intestine. A tapeworm anchors to the wall of the intestine using its hook-like mouth. As an adult tapeworm matures, it may reach several inches high. With it, individual segments come off the tapeworm’s body and are eliminated in the cat’s feces. When a Cestoda tapeworm invades a cat’s body, it results in a medical condition, known as cestodiasis.

Did you know flea infestation increases the risk of tapeworm infection? Fleas become the intermediate host of tapeworms in cats. Without flea infestation, a tapeworm cannot complete its life cycle. Tapeworms are common in flea-infested environments. Vigilant flea control is necessary to keep your cat free from tapeworm infestation, keeping the kitty’s coat and environment clean.

Tapeworm in Cats: How Does it Infest Cats?

Most cats suffer from tapeworm infection at some point of time in their lives. Tapeworm in cats is one of the most common internal parasites. A kitty becomes a victim of infestation when she ingests a mature flea that carries a tapeworm larva.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flea tapeworm is the most common type of tapeworm species infecting cats. Larval flea is the main mode of transmission and acts as an intermediate host. When a baby flea ingests an organic matter infected with tapeworm eggs, the tapeworm larva grows inside its body.

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Consider using: Bayer Tapeworm Cat De-Wormer.

A mature flea looks for sweeter foods and needs blood to nourish itself. It is here that the flea finds a cat to satisfy its thirst for blood. Unfortunately, a kitty scratches at its fleas and starts licking or biting at the parasitic infection site. As a result, she ends up ingesting and swallowing the parasite. The cat’s digestive fluids help free the larvae tapeworm from the flea.

The baby tapeworm then latches to an intestinal wall and grows in the feline’s intestines into an adult within 3-4 weeks. A mature tapeworm begins to shed different segments of its body filled with eggs. When a cat eliminates, the eggs emerge in the poop. The same cycle begins again – the eggs burst and end up being ingested by larval fleas.

Clinical Signs of Tapeworm Infestation

Tapeworms are usually spotted in the cat’s feces. You may see dried segments of tapeworm in the feces or anal sac, where white colored segments may be stuck under the tail. Sometimes the tapeworm segments are too small in size and difficult to spot by naked eyes. Some tapeworm species break into sesame-size segments. The tapeworm segments may have 20 tapeworm eggs. After being released into the environment, these proglottids dehydrate and harden, turning into a golden color. Then they break open.

  • An infected feline may lick their anus or bite the area in response to itching.
  • A tapeworm-infected kitty might suffer extreme weight loss.
  • A kitty may vomit an adult tapeworm.
  • You can see tapeworm segments that pass into the stool crawling on the fecal surface and may appear like grains of cooked rice.
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Diagnosis of Tapeworms in Cats

Tapeworms are not easy to diagnose with fecal examinations. As a pet parent, if you doubt that your kitty’s stool contains tapeworm, you should immediately notify your veterinarian.

A veterinarian will thoroughly examine the cat. The vet may take a fecal sample to test the presence of tapeworms. Sometimes there may be false negatives too. However, most test reports are conclusive.

Treatment for Tapeworms in Cats

Not all products available in the market are effective in treating tapeworms in cats. Your veterinarian can offer you the best advice on de-worming your pet. Anthelmintic is a highly effective de-worming medication and vets prescribe this in oral or injection form. The treatment kills the tapeworm, which may then be digested within the intestine. As a result, tapeworm segments cannot pass into the stool.

Some of the most common side effects of the medication include diarrhea and vomiting.

However, post-treatment, there is no guarantee that the cat will not suffer from tapeworm infection again, especially if she lives in a flea-infested environment. In many pets, the reemergence of infection is primarily due to poor environmental or hygiene conditions.  Free-roaming cats may require periodic treatment with tapeworm medication.

  • Good hygiene is important to prevent the transmission of this disease to humans. You can prevent tapeworm in cats by practicing vigilant flea control, ensuring that the kitty’s coat is clean.
  • Keep your abode clean of these pesky invaders.
  • Practice strict hygiene controls to prevent flea infestation.
  • It is equally crucial to properly dispose of all pet feces.
  • Make sure to implement strict hygiene practices after outdoor visits.
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Remember, humans can become infected with tapeworms, especially those living in less-than-ideal conditions. However, infection is not common in humans as a tapeworm infection requires ingestion of a flea by the host. Flea control is, therefore, critical to preventing tapeworm infection.

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