Tapeworms in Cats: Become an Expert

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Tapeworms in Cats

Table of Content

 

What are Tapeworms?

Tapeworms are long, flat, white parasitic worms that thrive in the intestine of your cat. They have a segmented body that looks like grains of rains attached to each other. Each segment has its own reproductive organs. These segments can break off and release eggs, which then pass through the rest of the cats digestive system and exit within its faeces.

Tapeworms cannot digest food themselves, so to survive they anchor themselves to the wall of the cats intestine. From here, they survive off of nutrients in the blood that they absorb through holes in their skin. Gross, right?

If untreated, tapeworms can survive for up to two-years inside the cats intestines. They can grow up to 30 centimetres. While most cases are not that harmful to the host, your cat, it is better to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Two main species of tapeworms infect cats:

  1. Diylidium caninum (most common) this species of tapeworm is associated with fleas
  2. Taenia taeniaeformis this species of tapeworm is associated with small mammals, birds and reptiles (prey)

How do Cats Contract Tapeworms?

There are two main ways that cats can contract tapeworms. These are explained below:

  • Ingestion of flees (intermediate host)

This method of contraction is best described in a cycle:

  1. Flea larvae consume tapeworm eggs. These eggs are found in carpets, bedding or in the wild.
  2. Once ingested, the tapeworm eggs hatch inside the fleas intestines and form cysts.
  3. The flea matures and looks to survive by sucking the blood of animals (your cat)
  4. When a flea bites your cat, it causes irritation, triggering them to lick/chew their skin and thus ingesting the flee
  5. The flea is digested inside the cat, which releases the tapeworm
  6. The tapeworm then anchors itself to your cats intestinal lining
  7. As the tapeworm grows, segments break off and are expelled through your cats faeces
  8. When released, the segments break open and release eggs into the wild (the start and the end of the cycle)
  • Eating infected prey

This method of contraction is less common than the first, and is also best explained in a cycle:

  1. The prey that your cat catches has previously ingested tapeworm eggs found in the environment
  2. These ingested eggs form cysts on the organs of the prey
  3. Your cat consumes the infected prey and cysts
  4. The ingested cysts then release tapeworms, which then anchors themselves to your cats intestinal lining
  5. As the tapeworm grows, segments break off and are expelled through your cats faeces
  6. When released, the segments break open and release eggs into the wild (the start and the end of the cycle)

What are the Symptoms of Tapeworms in Cats?

Contrary to how severe it sounds, tapeworms in cats often result in a lack of visible symptoms. However, if your cat is overridden by tapeworms, then the following signs will be displayed:

  • Vomiting (may include worm-segments)
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Anal irritation (constant grooming of anal area)
  • White, rice-like segments in stools or around the anus
  • Bloody stools

How to Diagnose Tapeworms in Cats

The stages of the diagnosis of tapeworms in cats are as follows:

  1. You, the owner, will most likely be the first to notice that your cat has tapeworms (yes, this means looking at their stools)
  2. Having noticed, the next step you should take is getting your cat down to your local vets
  3. The vet will complete a physical examination of your cats anal area for irritation, sightings of tapeworm segments and any other potential problems
  4. Next, to confirm what type of worm it is that is impacting your cat, your vet will need a faecal sample
  5. The sample is added to a thick medium (fecal flotation)
  6. After 20 30 minutes, the worm eggs will float to the surface of the medium (if any are present)
  7. The eggs will be collected and then analysed under a microscope
  8. From here, you will be given the correct treatment to get your kitty back up to scratch

How to Treat Tapeworms in Cats

There is a large variety of prescription medication that your vet will be able to provide you after a successful diagnosis. These medications come in the forms of injections, tablets and skin drops. The most common type is oral medication.

The most commonly prescribed deworming medications are anthelmintic, febantel, fenbendazole and praziquantel. Not all medicines are effective; therefore, you should consult with your local veterinary expert of which is right for your cat. As well as this, medication may need to be re-administered on a fortnightly base to tackle the immature, undeveloped tapeworm larvae that might still be festering inside your cat.

After the medication is ingested by your cat, it will kill the tapeworms, and they will be digested just like food.

There are two main side effects, which are vomiting and diarrhoea, although these are rare with modern medication.

Since we have learnt that ingestion of fleas is the primary cause of tapeworms, it makes sense, then, to keep on top of flea control. These are a wide range of flea control products available to you, and your vet will be able to supply them for you. It is advised that you use regular flea control medication on all of your cats.

As well as this, fleas can also manifest in your home. For this reason, you should also look to maintain cleanliness in your house and seek to purchase flea treatment products for your home. Do not forget to thoroughly wash, or replace, your cats bedding and toys.

In the case of your cat becoming infected with tapeworms again, you should repeat the process you took the first time. This does not mean that the medication was ineffective, just that your cat may have ingested something it shouldnt have again.

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