Does your cat have tapeworms? Do you need to know how to get rid of them? In this guide I'll show you how to determine whether your cat has tapeworms and what you need to do to treat them.
Tapeworms can be disgusting to find. When a cat has tapeworms, what happens is that segments of the tapeworm will break off and find their way out to the anus of the cat. If you catch a tapeworm segment when it has just been passed, it will look like a white tiny segment about a few mm wide and a centimeter (or less) long. When they're really fresh they may even be wiggling. However, if the tapeworm has been there for a while, it shrinks a little and can look like a sticky piece of rice. If it's been there a really long time it can fall off of the cat and look like sesame seeds.
If you see things that look like sesame seeds on the floor or bed or where your cat sleeps, then this can be a sign of tapeworms.
In my veterinary office, if I'm not sure if someone is showing me a sesame seed or an actual tapeworm segment, what I will do is soak the segment in saline for a few minutes and crush it between two microscope slides. If it's a tapeworm I'll see tapeworm eggs under the microscope.
It is important to note that a regular fecal flotation test that is run by your vet may not pick up a tapeworm infestation.
The most common way for a cat to get a tapeworm is by eating a mouse that is infected with tapeworms. In order for a cat to be infected, they need to eat what's called an "intermediate host" and that host has to be infected. A cat can't get a tapeworm from just being near another cat or even from eating a tapeworm segment that fell off another cat.
Another way that a cat can get tapeworms is by ingesting a flea that has been infected with tapeworms. This is why many cats with fleas should also be treated for tapeworms as well.
A human cannot catch tapeworms by being in contact with an infected cat. In theory, if you ate an infected mouse or flea you could get tapeworms, but this is extremely rare. I'm not sure if this has actually ever happened before.
The first thing that I would suggest if you are suspecting tapeworms is to have your veterinarian examine your cat and prescribe a medication that will help. Your vet will also have a good look for fleas as it is not always easy to determine if fleas are present. Given that many cats with tapeworms actually got the tapeworms from fleas, this is a good thing to do.
In some countries such as Canada, tapeworm medication is prescription. What this means is that you can only get tapeworm medications after seeing your veterinarian. However, in the US, you can buy tapeworm medications without a prescription.
Please know that many dewormers do NOT treat tapeworms
In most cases a single tapeworm treatment is enough. However, if I am treating a cat that is a hunter who is likely to repeatedly eat mice that contain tapeworms, I will often treat every few months to be safe. There is no medication that can be used as a tapeworm preventive.
The most common medication to use for tapeworms in cats is one that contains Praziquantel.
Here are some good medications that work well for treating tapeworms in cats. You can buy these online at Amazon.
Here are some questions that Dr. Marie has answered about Tapeworms in cats:Can I treat tapeworms with strongid?
Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.
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