Tapeworms are a type of parasite, also known as a cestode, which lives in the intestines of infected mammals. Cats and dogs may become infected with tapeworms if they eat animal meat that is contaminated with the worms, but in most cases they become infected with tapeworms by ingesting fleas that are carrying tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms are named so because of their long, flattened, shape which looks similar to a piece of tape.
Cats and dogs may carry tapeworms without showing any symptoms. When symptoms do occur they may include weight loss, poor coat quality, increased appetite with little weight gain, upset stomach, periodic diarrhea, lethargy, and irritability. In rare cases, or extremely severe cases, tapeworms can cause symptoms which include seizures and severe weight loss.
Tapeworms are diagnosed through a fecal test which looks for microscopic evidence of the tapeworms eggs in the feces. Tapeworms may also be diagnosed if the eggs are seen around the anus during an examination, or if pet owners notice the eggs (which look like small grains of rice) on the pet's anal area or bedding.
Treatment of tapeworm infection includes using a type of deworming medication known as praziquantel. The medication is usually in an oral tablet form and should be given once a day for two days in a row. Flea control is also an important part of completely eliminating tapeworms and preventing another infection.
Outlook for Cats with Tapeworm
The prognosis for tapeworm is excellent. Once the tapeworms have been successfully eliminated, any symptoms they have been causing will rapidly cease.