Tapeworm in Cats

Tapeworm is a common ailment in cats. The parasites get into the cat’s small intestines and set up residence there. The fancy medical name for tapeworm infection is cestodiasis. There are a few different species of tapeworm in cats. They include:

Treating the tapeworms early on is important because it will help to prevent humans from getting them. Typically children are most commonly affected. It is also important to treat them to prevent further damage to your cat’s health. The good news is that treatment is typically effective, and that means that your cat can make a full recovery from tapeworm. Now, let’s take a closer look into tapeworm and how to identify, treat and even prevent it in the future.

Symptoms of Tapeworm in Cats


Cestodiasis - Cat TapewormWhen tapeworms grow, they actually break off into small 1/4 to 1/2 inch segments that are then passed into the intestines and out through the fecal matter. Many times you will visibly see these segments in the cat’s feces, or even sometimes stuck to their tail. These pieces dry and look a lot like a grain of uncooked rice. Sometimes, they are too small to see, but other segments may be really large- up to a 1/2 inch in length. Just because you haven’t seen a tapeworm segment, doesn’t mean that your cat is free and clear of them. Other signs may include:

  • licking and biting around the anus
  • dragging their butt across the floor to relieve itching

If you notice these things, it may be time to take your kitty to the vet to have them checked out.

What Causes Tapeworm?

One of the questions we are often asked is what causes tapeworm in cats. The truth is, most people don’t understand how these worms make their way inside the cat’s digestive system and into the intestines in the first place. Tapeworms are actually contracted when your cat eats the tapeworm larvae. The eggs are often ingested through fleas that have been infected. Rodents, birds and fowl are also common carriers of the tapeworm eggs and it can also be passed on through them. If your cat is a scavenger, they are at a higher risk.

When to See Your Vet

So, when do you need to actually go see your veterinarian? Most people would say that you should go in at the first indication of tapeworm. Once you make the appointment and let your vet know that you suspect tapeworm, or any other type of intestinal parasite for that matter, they will tell you to come on in and have some tests run. Typically, they will do a physical exam and a fecal sample test to make sure that tapeworms are the culprit. Sometimes you will see a false negative on these tests, but it isn’t very common. If the vet thinks that tapeworms are present even with a negative result, they will recommend treating for them anyway.

Treatment Options for Tapeworm in Cats

Treating tapeworms is really not too difficult. It is an outpatient treatment, and there are two different options that your vet may recommend. Sometimes they send you with oral medications to rid the cat of the tapeworms, but other times they may recommend an injection. Talk to your vet about your best option, but remember that the best treatment is prevention. Preventing tapeworm is entirely possible. In fact, flea prevention is probably the best way to prevent.

Since most cats get tapeworm from fleas, it makes sense that keeping the fleas away would also keep the tapeworms away. Just remember, if you ever have a flea infestation you cannot rely solely on treating your cat for fleas. You also have to treat your home and the areas surrounding your home. It is also a good idea to keep your cat away from trash and dead animals because these are all breeding grounds for tapeworms.

Untreated Tapeworm in Cats

Leaving tapeworms untreated can lead to a variety of serious health concerns. Most of the time, when it is left untreated it is because the cat owner did not recognize the signs associated with it early on. If it goes on for too long, it may lead to the following:

  • diarrhea
  • blood in the stool
  • weight loss
  • coughing
  • fever
  • pneumonia

These parasites basically stick to the intestines and pull the nutrients out of the food that your cat eats. This is why most people notice weight loss. If your cat isn’t getting their nutrients, then their health is at risk. If it gets really serious, it can actually be fatal.

As you can see, tapeworm in cats is really not something that you want to play around with. It is common, and it is also common in kittens. If you haven’t dewormed your cat yet, then it may be time to do so. Then, as they get older just make sure that you keep them on an effective form of monthly flea and tick prevention to prevent future occurrences of tapeworm. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, always talk to a trusted veterinarian. They are trained professionals when it comes to caring for your cat’s health.


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