Tapeworms are a common feline ailment that most cats will experience at least once in their lifetime. They are not life-threatening and don’t usually cause lasting harm. However, it’s essential to know how to recognize that your pet has an infection. That way, you know how to proceed with treatment.
Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that live inside of a host body and absorb nutrients from it. Flat and segmented, these parasites have hook-like anatomical features in their mouths. They use these hooks to attach to the intestinal wall.
There are several different types of tapeworms, such as Taenia and Echinococcus. The most common tapeworm in cats is the Dipylidium caninum. This species is unrelated to other intestinal parasites that commonly affect felines, such as hookworms and roundworms. The adult parasites can be anywhere between 6 and 23 inches in length.
What Are the Symptoms of Tapeworms in Cats?
So how do you know if your cat has a tapeworm infection? The only sign of an infection that is certain is the presence of proglottids.
Proglottids are tapeworm segments, about one half of an inch in length. These pieces break off from the parasite’s main body as it grows and passes through the animal’s feces.
If you want to diagnose an infection, you may notice these signs of proglottids:
- Tapeworm segments – pieces that look like grains of cooked white rice may be present in a cat’s feces or around its anus.
- Butt scooting – some felines will scoot their butts across the ground due to irritation from these tapeworm segments around the anus, so if you see this behavior, it could be a sign of infection.
- Regurgitation – sometimes, the parasite can detach from the intestinal wall and move into the animal’s stomach. In this case, the cat may regurgitate a live tapeworm, a definite infection sign.
The above symptoms are the only characteristics that can determine the presence of a parasitic infection without question.
There are some other secondary symptoms. These could always be the result of other ailments or conditions. However, they can also sometimes be an indicator that a cat has tapeworms:
- Poor appetite and diarrhea can be the result of the presence of parasites in the intestines. Other indicators include a patchy, deteriorating coat as well as weight loss of a significant amount.
- Intestinal blockages and seizures may occur in cats with particularly heavy infections.
- Haw’s syndrome is another side effect of a significant amount of tapeworms in cats. This condition causes the cat’s third eyelid to protrude.
How To Treat Tapeworms in Cats
Tapeworms can cause quite a bit of discomfort for your pets. Luckily, they are easy to treat. You can eliminate tapeworms in cats using various deworming treatments, all of which have very high success rates.
The most common of these treatments is Anthelmintic, which is available in the form of a tablet or an injection.
Anthelmintic causes the worm to die and become digested inside the intestine. As a result of this, the parasite will not release proglottids, and there will be no tapeworm segments in the animal’s stool.
Another recommended option for treatment is the medication Praziquantel. This medication is effective against all tapeworms species and is available as a tablet, injection, and even a topical cream.
Praziquantel works within hours of administering the medication. For effective treatment, the cat must receive one dose to kill the adult tapeworm and a second dose after two weeks to kill any remaining parasites.