Tapeworms, also known as Cestodes, are intestinal parasites which are often caused by indigestion of foods that contain tapeworm larvae or eggs.
Without a host, they will not be able to live. An adult tapeworm can multiply by laying eggs and can actually live up to 30 years in its host. A fully-grown tapeworm can measure up to 25 inches long.
Tapeworm infection in cats can lead to several complications but the good thing is that, it is actually treatable as long as you know the proper way to deal with it.
Causes of Having Tapeworms
Tapeworm infestations are said to be most common in cats. These flatworms generally need two hosts; first is temporary or the source of infection to other animals and the second is permanent. The possible causes of having these worms are listed below:
- Contaminated Food or Water
Food and water which are not clean can contain wastes or feces from humans or animals with tapeworms.
Tapeworm eggs can be passed from one animal/person to another by their feces. These feces can pass the eggs when they get in contact with food or water or even their containers.
The animal that ingests the contaminated food or water can have tapeworms too. Once these get into your cat’s intestines, it will grow into a larva.
- Larvae Cysts in Meats
Once the egg turns into a larva, it will rapidly move out of the intestine forming cysts in the body tissues of the host.
If the cat eats uncooked or not well-cooked meat of that infected animal, the cat also ingests the larvae which will develop into an adult tapeworm when it reaches the intestine. More reasons to cook meat for your own consumption and for your cats as well!
- Fleas And Rodents
Fleas and rodents are the most common host for tapeworms. There is a huge chance that cats might ingest fleas while grooming themselves. Dipylidium caninum, most common type of tapeworm, make use of fleas as their intermediate hosts until it gets consumed by cats.
Felines are also well-known for eating rodents like mice and rats. Some rodents can be filled with cysts containing eggs of tapeworms and can wreak havoc when consumed by cats. One of the common type of tapeworms called Taenia taeniaeformis is being infected by this form of cat hunting.
Other Factors That Increase The Risks of Having Tapeworms
- Lack of proper hygiene
- Going to tapeworm endemic areas
Once tapeworms enters a cat’s body, some of it just passes through the stool and gets out of the cat’s body. But some attach themselves to the walls of cat’s intestine using their muscular structure called Rostellum, thus causing inflammation.
Signs of Tapeworm Infection
Tapeworms in cats can be unnoticeable at all. As an owner, you have to be really observant. Though, the signals get more visible when the number of tapeworms in your cat increases exponentially.
Once you notice signs, go to a veterinary clinic so they can officially diagnose the disease. The common signs are the following:
- Weight Loss And Increased Appetite
Tapeworms can really affect your cat’s health as they steal the nutrients of your pet causing it to lose weight. According to some studies, weight loss in infected animals or people can be because their bodies are fighting off against parasites.
- Frequent Vomiting
Vomiting in cats can be normal because they usually consume their foods quickly. But if you notice frequent vomiting, it can be because your cat’s stomach is irritated due to a parasite. Sometimes an infected cat might even vomit live tapeworm or grain-like eggs, which is better than having those worms stuck in its intestine.
Bloating is often normal for cats because of overeating but it is also a common sign of parasite infestation in them. A cat with a large number of tapeworms is most likely to develop a potbelly causing its tummy to look swollen.
Parasites from contaminated food or from the rodents that a cat eats usually cause diarrhea. Dehydration can happen when there is diarrhea because of the increased secretion of fluid in the intestine.
- Tapeworm Eggs In Stool
If your cat has severe tapeworm infection, you will see actual pieces of worms around its anus. As the tapeworm matures, it starts to breaks off its own segments called proglottids(filled with eggs) and it get passed through your cat’s intestine. You will then be able to see those white-grain sized particles in your pet’s stool.
How To Diagnose Tapeworm Infection?
A physical examination have to be done by a veterinarian. A stool sample will be taken from your cat and several tests will be performed to determine if there is a presence of a tapeworm. If the result is positive, the veterinarian will prescribe a dewormer for your pet.
Treatments Available For Tapeworm Infection
Treatment for tapeworm in cats can be administered orally or through injection. The medication can either paralyze the worm so it won’t be able to grip on your cat’s intestine or dissolve the worm. To kill a tapeworm, you should be able to kill its head which is called scolex.
The most common anti-worm medications are listed below:
- Praziquantel – is used to stop tapeworm eggs from growing or multiplying in your cat’s body.
- Epsiprantel – is a drug used to expel parasitic worms in a host.
- Fenbendazole – is an anthelmintic medicine prescribed by veterinarians to treat parasites in animals.
These medications poison the tapeworm but can be toxic to your pet too. So you must follow the dosage prescribed by the veterinarian. Dosage mostly depends on your cat’s weight.
It needs to be said that the deworming medicines cause side effects like vomiting or diarrhea only in 2-3% of the cases. So, if you notice any such adverse side effects, call your vet.
If you don’t give a treatment to an infected cat, it might end up having more complication like an intestinal blockage.
Home Remedies For Tapeworms
Home remedies are widely used in solving many health issues and for some reasons, they do work. Although they have been replaced now by the modern medicines, some people still prefer home remedies because they are less expensive and natural. We’d certainly advice to consult a vet, though.
- Diatomaceous Earth
If you are looking for a natural dewormer, you can use the food grade version of Diatomaceous earth. This consists of fossil remains of a major group of algae called diatoms. Absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the parasite’s exoskeletons, Diatomaceous earth causes it to be dehydrated and die.
To use Diatomaceous earth, take one teaspoon and combine it to your cat’s food daily. Unlike medical dewormers, it will not kill the worm instantly so you have to give it to your cat every day for two to three weeks.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be used as anti-parasite too and they can kill both adult and larva tapeworm. In some countries, pumpkin seeds are actually a popular dewormer. Cucurbitin, an amino acid which paralyzes the worm is present in pumpkin seeds. In using these seeds to kill a tapeworm in cats, mix one teaspoon of ground seeds to your cat’s food.
- Parsley Water
In order to kill the tapeworm naturally, you can try giving your cat parsley water every day. In making parsley water, add parsley leaves to boiling water. Wait for 5 to 10 minutes then turn off the fire. Strain the liquid, let it cool then give it to your cat.
Tapeworm Prevention in Cats
To avoid worse situations, owners must protect their cats from having tapeworms. Here are some useful tips to consider in preventing tapeworm infections:
- Always clean your cat’s bedding to remove the tapeworm eggs.
- Look for an effective flea treatment for your cats. There are many anti-flea treatments available but most of them are not really effective.
- Watch what your cat eats and don’t let it eat rodents.
- Keep your area flea-free, as fleas are the most common source of tapeworms.
- Follow your cat’s deworming schedule.
- Ask a veterinarian to give something that will boost your cat’s immunity.
- Brush your cat’s hair with flea comb at least once a week.
- As much as possible, keep your cat indoor to lessen exposure to infected cats.
- You should throw all the feces properly.
- To avoid your cat from getting infected again after a tapeworm treatment, keep the environment clean.
- Soils outside can have feces of infected animals so watch your cat and make sure it doesn’t go there.
Tapeworm prevention should be done to avoid infection in cats and even in humans. Although tapeworm infection is common, it can still be debilitating to your pet. Be a responsible owner and ensure the proper hygiene of your cat all the time.