Think about some long worm living inside your intestines, absorbing nutrients from the food you consume. That's what a tapeworm infestation does to Kitty. You might see broken-off segments of the tapeworm on your cat's rear end, resembling rice grains. Fortunately, ridding Kitty of these awful creatures isn't that hard.
In felines, the most common tapeworm is called Dipylidium canium, although Taenia taeniaeformis is a strong runner-up. Cats pick up the former from fleas and the latter from eating infected rodents. Adult tapeworms can grow up to several inches. By using their hook-like mouths, they attach themselves to Kitty's intestinal wall. Although severely affected cats lose weight and appear in poor condition, the most common sign of tapeworms in a cat are the segments seen in the feces or around the anus. Rarely, tapeworms end up in a cat's stomach, where they might be thrown up. There you have it -- you either find tapeworms on your cat's butt or in his vomit.
Unlike other worms, with tapeworms it usually isn't necessary for your vet to test a stool sample or look at a fecal smear under a microscope to determine what kind of parasites are inside your cat. You and your vet can usually see the tapeworm segments yourselves. Your vet can test Kitty for other parasites and prescribe a broad-spectrum dewormer. If your vet OKs the over-the-counter route just to get rid of tapeworms, you can purchase feline tapeworm anthelmintics containing praziquantel or fenbendazole. The latter is marketed under the brand name Panacur and must be given for several days, while praziquantel is given in one dose and repeated a month later. Give the pills according to the dosage instructions on the package, generally based on Kitty's weight. The tapeworms die and disintegrate inside the cat, so you shouldn't see dead worms in his stool.
Your vet can prescribe the most effective medications to rid Kitty of tapeworms. She might prescribe a dewormer such as Drontal, which contains praziquantel and pyrantel pamoate. With this combination, most other worms infecting Kitty, such as roundworms or hookworms, also get the heave-ho. Drontal can be given to kittens at least 4 weeks of age. Another prescription medication, epsiprantel, marketed under the name Cestex, works by causing tapeworms to lose their grip on Kitty's intestinal wall. It can be given to kittens ages 7 weeks and up.
Because tapeworms spread via fleas, it's important to keep Kitty up to date with flea control in order to prevent infestation. You can purchase topical monthly flea (and tick) control products over the counter. To get rid of even more parasites, ask your vet about prescribing selamectin, sold under the brand name Revolution. In addition to fleas and ticks, it gets rid of ear and mange mites, heartworms and other intestinal worms, but not tapeworms. You still need a separate medication for that. Without effective flea control, the tapeworm cycle will continue in your cat.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats
- Cat World: Tapeworms in Cats - Signs, Causes, and Treatment of Cat Tapeworm
- VetInfo: Diagnosing Tapeworms in Cats
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Tapeworm Infection in Cats
- VetInfo: Tapeworm Pills for Cats
- VetInfo: Treating Tapeworm in Cats with Fenbendazole (Panacur)
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.