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Recognising and Treating Tapeworm in Cats

Cat owners should check their cat’s health regularly. Cats are very good at hiding their aches and pains, which means that health problems could often go unnoticed. Here you can learn all about tapeworm in cats, how they get the worms, the symptoms, and tapeworm treatment for cats.

What is a tapeworm in a cat?

When cats are infected with tapeworm, segments of the worm break off once they are filled with eggs. You can find these segments in your cat’s stool, around the anus or in places where they sleep.

Cats usually experience few symptoms from tapeworms which means that recognising tapeworm in cats could be difficult. Tapeworms won’t cause your cat any pain, but they could experience some very unpleasant itching.

How does a cat get a tapeworm? ?

A cat gets tapeworm from another animal, most often a flea. As soon as your cat eats or licks the infested flea they could ingest a tapeworm egg, resulting in an infection. Cats can also get a tapeworm from eating prey like a bird, mouse or rat.

Direct contamination is not possible, there always has to be an intermediary host. Tapeworm in cats is unlikely to occur if they don’t have contact with any other animals.

Tapeworm symptoms in cats?

People who eat a lot without gaining weight are often jokingly asked whether they have a tapeworm. Because of this, many people believe that they will be able to recognise if their cat has tapeworms because they will eat more and not gain weight. However, this is not one of the symptoms of tapeworm in cats.

The most common symptom of tapeworm in cats is itching around their anus. Usually there aren’t any other tapeworm symptoms in cats unless they have a severe infection. They could, very rarely, experience abdominal pain or diarrhoea.

Vomiting from tapeworms is also very rare as tapeworm segments exit your cat’s body through the anus and not via the upper digestive tract. If your cat is vomiting this is most likely caused by something else and a visit to your vet might be a good idea.

If you suspect tapeworm in cats you should inspect their stool. You can see tapeworm segments of 1cm-1.5 cm long, which then quickly dry out until they look like grains of rice. You could also have your cat’s stool checked for worm eggs to confirm infection.

Tapeworm treatment for cats?

Fortunately, cats are easily treated for tapeworm infection with tablets. Cats should be treated to prevent roundworms but tapeworm treatment for cats is usually only given if they are infected. However, if cats have fleas the vet will often treat them for tapeworm because there is a good chance that they will also have tapeworms.

Depending on how much your cat goes outside, you should give your cat roundworm and tapeworm treatment for cats every two to six months in the form of a tablet. During their first year of life kittens are dewormed against roundworms more often, namely at 3,4,5 and 6 months of age. At this age, however, they are not treated to prevent tapeworm.

If you have more than one cat it is best to treat all of them against fleas and tapeworms because they are very likely to infect each other. The chances are good that if you need to treat one cat for tapeworm you will have the same problem with another cat in a few week’s time.

Preventing tapeworm in cats?

You should also take steps to prevent another infection after successful tapeworm treatment for cats. This means that you should get rid of any fleas as they could reinfect your cat within 3-5 weeks.

You can use recommended flea treatment but you also need to rid the environment of fleas. Wash all the baskets and rugs that your cat lies on and vacuum and mop your floors well. Remember that there are often some flea eggs left behind so you should clean again in about four week’s time.

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