Felines can suffer from a variety of intestinal parasites. Tapeworms are one of the most distressing, but also relatively uncommon. Tapeworms are long, flat worms that attach themselves to a host’s intestines, feeding off the host as they grow longer and more invasive.
There’s a misconception that only kittens get worms. In fact, cats of any age can contract tapeworms! Worms of any kind should always be treated comprehensively by your cat’s veterinarian, but what are the signs? Here are some symptoms might be suffering from tapeworms and what can be done about it.
Signs of Tapeworm in Cats
The most common sign is no sign at all! Unfortunately, tapeworms can be difficult to detect in cats (and dogs, and even humans!) which is why it’s important to have your cat thoroughly evaluated by a qualified veterinarian during a once-a-year well-check.
Weight loss is usually one of the first outward signs of tapeworms. As worms grow larger, they syphon more and more nutrients from their host. If your cat seems to be eating normally and still losing weight, she may have contracted hungry tapeworm.
Tapeworm segments around your cat’s anus or tail are one of the most visible symptoms of infestation. The worms can grow up to 24” long; as they grow, they release segments that exit the body with your cat’s bowel movements. They’re often said to resemble grains of rice.
Consistent vomiting can be an indicator of a tapeworm infestation, especially when accompanied by diarrhea or constipation.
What Can be Done About Feline Tapeworms?
The good news is, tapeworms are treatable! There are several tests available to diagnose worms relatively easily; most require a fecal sample. If your veterinarian determines your cat has a tapeworm, they’ll likely recommend a course of dewormer that will kill the tapeworm. Even after a tapeworm is gone, treat your cat’s bedding to remove any residual eggs.
The best treatment for tapeworms is actually prevention. Here’s how to help your cat avoid a few of the most common risk factors for contracting a tapeworm:
- Talk to your veterinarian about effective feline flea treatment. Fleas carry worm larvae, so if your cat licks or bites at a flea on their skin, they could inadvertently ingest a tapeworm, too.
- Keep your cat from eating other “hosts” such as rodents or birds. If another animal has a tapeworm infestation your cat can get it through contact relatively easily.
- Monitor your cat’s fecal matter on a monthly basis to check for any abnormalities. If you notice any rice grain or cucumber seed-sized specks in your cat’s poop, contact the vet for tapeworm testing.
The good news? Even if your cat has a tapeworm, it’s easily treatable! Parasites can be scary and unsettling, but the most common tapeworms in cats aren’t usually dangerous unless left untreated in perpetuity.
And don’t worry too much about “catching” your cat’s tapeworm. It is very, very rare for humans to contract tapeworms from their pets.
Does your cat need a feline flea treatment?